Everyone I know has said it at least a few times, for a variety of wants: “It’s time to get serious about my…”
It’s an all purpose lament that could be brought about by a desire to get in shape, lose weight, save money, change jobs, finish a project, work on a hobby or anything else that we feel the need to accomplish. I’ve told myself that I’ll get serious about a number of things, and as I have, life has interrupted me.
No sooner did I get cleared to ride again after my surgery than I had a family tragedy. My father passed away at 83. This was expected, but such news is never welcome. So it was that my time to get back into shape was delayed. Still, when life calmed down I got back on my bicycle in a sincere effort to get back into shape. What I discovered was a pleasant surprise. In the run up to surgery, I discovered that I’m diabetic. That was a shock, but managing it has had a welcome effect: I lost 20 pounds.
My first event after I’d come back, for which I had virtually NO preparation, was the Patuxent Rural Legacy Ride. It had been 5 weeks since I’d been on the bike for more than a few short miles.
I wouldn’t have missed that ride for anything, because I love the event, but I was worried about fitness, and I was prepared to ride 40 miles instead of the full 64 simply because I wasn’t sure what I was actually capable of, and even 40 sounded tough. I thought I’d see how I felt. To my surprise, I felt good. I rode the entire 64 miles and enjoyed myself.
It seems that two things were actually working in my favor. The first was the weight loss. 20 Pounds is more than the weight of a modern bicycle. I haven’t lost all that much strength, so climbing hills was actually not as much of a chore as I might have thought. The second thing was base mileage. When you ride consistently, you build up a fitness base. This begins to erode when you have to take time away from your exercise, but it doesn’t completely go away, and building back up isn’t quite as hard as building that base in the first place. My base miles were still in evidence, so the transition from inactive to riding more serious mileage wasn’t quite as difficult as I thought it would be.
June and July went by without any serious training headaches. I was slowly building back up, and feeling positive. Meanwhile some of my friends, who also have had difficult years, were feeling the strain. Where I had lost weight to compensate for my lack of training, they had gained weight due to injuries or circumstance, and were struggling to get back to the fitness level that they had last year.
With a cycling trip to Maine coming up in September, as well as other events in the fall, they felt it was time to get serious too. So it was that we made an effort to get miles under our wheels. The big test came last weekend on a trip from my friend’s residence in Chevy Chase, across the Potomac into Virginia, (meeting another friend on the way) and cycling up the Washington and Old Dominion trail to Purcellville. A round trip of 105 miles. I don’t usually enjoy the W&OD trail. As a former rail bed, it’s largely straight, and it’s used by a lot of people and can be quite crowded, which is often difficult. However this time it wasn’t too bad, and we kept a steady pace. We all ended up feeling better than we thought we would. It ended up being a good ride. Unsupported rides are often interesting – you stop when you need to. This ride was a straight out and back trip – since the trail is straight, it wasn’t the kind of ride I most enjoy, but I did need the miles, and the company was excellent.
At this point, the effect of our getting serious about our mileage has been a test of our fitness and some positive feedback. In a few weeks, we’ll be riding events we love, and using the time we have until then to get serious about our preparation is starting to give us results.