Today I spent a couple hours on the bike in the sun, climbing hills, sweating, and making my legs burn. It was great.
Before I get into that, I need to backtrack just a bit. See, I’m getting old.
This is not self-pity or false modesty. It’s just the truth. And age hasn’t really been kind to me. I used to have a lot of hair on my head. Now I have a lot of head under my hair. My face is pretty well thrashed, and my body looks decidedly non-athletic.
But I refuse to go gently into that good night. I have a small daughter that not only do I want to live for, I want to be able to play with and keep up with as much as possible. I also want quality of life. I don’t want to be sick all the time or feeling generally out of sorts. I may not seek out mirrors for what’s above the neck, but I can certainly do my best to not hate the rest. I notice that as people age, those who use their bodies fare better in terms of quality of life. Do they live longer? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m pretty sure they enjoy life more while they do. So I pedal, and pedal. And then pedal more.
If the above paragraph sounds judgmental, it’s not at all meant to be. It doesn’t bother me when others aren’t in shape, or have different priorities. I yo-yo up and down in weight myself, and I fully recognize that not everyone can or wants to spend time on a bike, in running shoes, or in a gym. I don’t value people based on whether or not they can ride 100 miles, do a hundred pull-ups, or run a marathon. Personally, I’ve never run a marathon and never want to. To look at me, you’d probably never guess I cycle a lot.
The past couple of years though, I’ve been putting quite a bit of time in on my road bike. I rode my first century last year, and followed it up with another a couple of months later. This year I rode the first event again in August and am going to repeat the second ride as well in just a couple of weeks. Last month I put in over 500 miles on the bike. Not much for hardcore riders, but for a normal guy with a job, a family, and the desire not to desert my wife and daughter for many hours every single weekend like some guys do, it’s quite a bit.
Sometimes I feel selfish with my cycling. Sometimes I worry about getting hit by a car. It happens around here from time to time. But I also think about how impossible it would be to stay in shape without biking. I can gain weight just walking past food. I can’t seem to stay in decent shape just from running, and it hurts the legs. I’m old. Did I mention that? So I do all I can to minimize my risk by avoiding roads that are accidents waiting to happen, and by being alert and thinking ahead as much as possible. Because, as stated, I do want to be alive and healthy for my daughter.
I’m not a beast on the bike. The other day I was riding along with nothing weighing me down but me, my bike, and a couple water bottles. I wasn’t racing, but I was riding hard. Harder than the guy behind me commuting home on his bike with a massive backpack that looked like it weighed at least thirty pounds. Ok, he was younger, and lean like a racer, but it still clearly reminded me of my place in the spectrum of things. But I still enjoy it. And, as the saying goes, I’m faster than everyone camping out on their couches.
Today’s ride wasn’t very long – 36 miles, but with several wonderful miles of hill climbing followed by sweeping descents and more climbing again. My favorite section is a short steep downhill that runs right into a low gear, leg burning climb that seems to last for a mile. I’m pretty sure it’s only a half mile at the most though. 48 to 5. That’s the fun of it there, zooming down the hill at just under 50 mph and then in the space of about 20 feet being slowed to around 5 mph on the subsequent uphill grade.
I love zooming down hills fast enough to break the speed limit on twisty country roads. Even more, I love good days like today when I can climb the hills with my legs burning and still feel like I can push hard and use a higher gear than I did last time I rode these inclines.
It’s never going to match the kind of fun playing with my daughter or listening to her read books to herself in her bed at night can provide, but it’s still not a bad way to spend a couple hours.