Category Archives: training

OK, check that one off the (non-existent) list

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.


The Pity Burger (and other signs of benevolence in the universe)

Last week I went on a training ride, a very long, 100-mile training ride. It didn’t go well. It was my first serious ride after being laid up with the flu for a week, and I think I got ahead of myself. But whatever. Up until this point, I had felt great (well, “great” is a relative term, which in this case means “feeling less severe pain than I feared”) on every tough ride I’ve tried.

Until last week, my training had been going really well. I’ve been getting stronger, faster, all that six-million-dollar man stuff. Sunday, I got schooled. I rode from my house in north Seattle to Puyallup, which for those of you, (probably the one of you), who is not from here, is a long way. With long stretches of nothing. Energy-sucking nothing.

Once in awhile, when I’m out on the trail, I run across a cyclist or two who is clearly struggling. I try to offer a word of encouragement as I zip on by. I never know whether that’s actually encouraging, or whether the guy I’m passing is like, “thanks buddy, screw you.” I choose to believe the former.

This time, it was me. About 75 miles in, I was deeply questioning the point of all this, in a kind of oxygen-deprived, red-faced, nihilistic festival of self-pity. It must have been pretty evident too, because a couple in an Acura pulled up next to me, rolled down the window and said, “Hey man, you need a burger? It’s healthy!” Yes, I was in such miserable shape that complete strangers were offering to give me their drive-thru food. The Pity Burger.

I politely declined, and at first my mental reaction was something like, “What, do I look like a charity case out here? Am I really that pathetic?” But I realize that reaction was entirely wrong-headed. Now I choose to interpret the offer as a benevolent sign from the universe.

I.e., when you are on your last dregs of energy and hope, someone, even someone completely unknown to you, might offer to give you a Pity Burger. And if this ever happens to me again, I will take it.

My aforementioned goal is to get from Seattle to Portland in one day. This ride is six days away now. After my 100-mile debacle, I had begun to have serious doubts. But how can I not make it, when the universe is going to drop cheeseburgers on me?

That, my friends, is special sauce. Portland or bust, baby.


200 miles in one day?

OK, it’s not about getting to work anymore. I’ve set myself a new goal, getting from Seattle to Portland in one day. It’s about 205 miles, and the ride takes place this July. Most people do this ride in two days, but quite a few do it one. I was planning to do it in two as well, but lately this idea has just taken over my brain, like a fungus. I can’t get rid of it. So I’m going for it.

For some people that’s not a huge distance, for others it’s inconceivable. Since the longest I’ve ever ridden is about 90 miles, and here’s the important statistic — it was 20 years ago — this is not an insignificant personal goal. But hey, if I were sure I could make it, then it wouldn’t be that much of a goal, right?

All my commuting has gotten me into fairly decent shape. But there’s a big difference between commuting and focused training, which is what I’m going to have to do to hit my target. I’ve been ramping up my mileage every week, with the exception of that one week about three weeks ago when for some inexplicable reason I was like a wet noodle sliding off my bike, and couldn’t ride my way out of a paper bag. We all have bad weeks, I suppose.

Last week was a great week, and this week I’m going for an even better one.

My big concern are my knees, which are always kind of cranky and stiff. I have arthritis, which doesn’t really bother me as along as I don’t try to bend them. But you sort of have to do that to go forward on a bike. So I decided to get some help, and consulted with a physical therapist, and I’m getting a personal trainer as well. The trainer thinks it’s possible. Not easy, but possible.

I’m not a young guy anymore, and if I’m going to do this I need all the help I can get.

So stay tuned, the next few weeks are going to be a chronicle of this quixotic quest. We are upping the game.

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