The other day my wife and I were talking about the notion of the “bucket list.” And she said, “I don’t get it. If you don’t want to do something before you die, then you really don’t want to do it.”
Which I thought was an excellent point. In any case, I don’t have a bucket list. I generally take things one at a time. This year, I wanted to ride my bike from Seattle to Portland in one day. 205 miles. I’ve been working for this since January. Planning ride calendars, working out the right ride food and drink, coordinating busy schedules, seeking out a bunch of help, from among others, a physical therapist, a bike fitter, a personal trainer and of course, family and friends. The last 10 weeks or so I really upped the game, extending my miles, pushing myself until I bonked several times, doing strength and flexibility training every week.
And it all came good Saturday evening, when I crossed the finish line and saw my wife and kids waiting for me with Hooray Dad! signs and huge smiles. This was a Top Five moment, for sure.
It was a long day: started at 5:15 a.m., finished about 7:30 p.m., which is a long time to be on anything, never mind pedaling a bike. But I felt great. Certainly there were some low points: the part where I had to let the faster guys in my group go, the one flat tire, the part where we had to leave some of our guys behind. When my stomach finally said “will you stop sending down this crap?” after about the 10th packet of GU.
But the lows weren’t that bad at all. And the highs were great. Zipping out of Seattle with the paceline, practically flying through the morning air. Whooshing through the forest on the trail between Yelm and Tenino in a pack of about 30 riders, the closest thing to the Tour de France I’ll ever experience. Every time I told myself to stop worrying, look up and enjoy the sometimes spectacular views. Rainier looming overhead, Mt. St. Helens, and then Mt. Hood. Crossing the bridge over the Willamette River into the heart of Portland, during the “golden hour” of sunlight. And that moment when I realized I was going to finish the way I wanted to, feeling strong, and still in daylight.
It was definitely worth the work. Yes, it was a selfish endeavor, but the family and plenty of friends really pulled for me. And I hope the kids got a good lesson on achieving a tough goal.
Here’s what I learned too. You don’t have to accept the idea that something like arthritis is slowly going to take away your mobility and strength. When I started all this, I thought I could do it, but I also thought I was going to wreck my knees in the process. Instead, they feel better than they have in years. So does the rest of me. You can fight back. You can find new sources of strength. I made it to Portland in a day. But I’m just starting to realize what else I gained. My three-year-old asked me, “Daddy, did you win?”
Yes. We did.