Thursday, April 26, 2007

10 Things Thursday…

OK. We’re off by a month and a couple of days, but I just didn’t have the chance to post this on Tuesday.

I am planning a cycling trip from Wayfarer House in Western Massachusetts to Lock Haven, PA in July. I'm adding it to my list of goals for the year as a reward for finishing grad school. By then, if the universe is kind and I can get my thesis written, I’ll have earned my M.Ed from the university there. I’ve been engaged in this online M.Ed program there and I’ve loved it, but I find it a little disconcerting that I’ve never actually set foot on the campus of the school. I decided it would be a great reward for 3 years of hard mental labor to bike there. The trip is somewhere around 400 miles, and I’ll do it with my road bike and a backpack for the first few days. Then, if I’ve survived that long, Wifeness and the girls will meet me on the road in the van and they’ll spot me the rest of the way. I’ll ride, they’ll go explore the area, meet me for lunch or something and we’ll all meet up at a B&B for the evening. Once I've made it, we'll take our time going home by touring through Pennsylvania.

It’s been a wicked damn long while since I’ve done a trip like this, so I’ve been training since Christmas to be fit enough to make this happen. I’m doing pretty well, though I have a ways to go before I feel I’m truly ready.

I got a nice 40 mile ride in this past weekend, and managed another 20 mile hilly ride on Tuesday. The weather has been phenomenal the last few days (even yesterday's rain didn't keep my softball crew from playing), and being outdoors on my bike has been a wonderful treat! This week, then, I give you 10 reasons why I love distance cycling so much!

1. The experience of riding is interactive. You can smell and hear things around you that you simply can’t from a car, and you are much more in touch with your environment. You feel the minute changes in the weather, altitude and road conditions as you go, but you see them faster than you would if you walked.

2. Riding is interpersonal. You can actually say hello to someone and stop and chat. When you stop to rest or get food or simply look around, someone always wants to know where you’re coming from and where you’re going. It’s a great way to meet wonderful people and, very often, these same people will help you along your journey by offering travel advice about what roads are easiest, and sometimes even feeding and boarding you when you desperately need it. I have great stories of this from past rides, and it is one of the things that makes me keep wanting to do this kind of thing.

3. Actually going somewhere far on your own effort is empowering. I rode to Vermont the other day! I took myself there with my legs (and the help of some very trusty equipment), and I brought myself back home again. How cool is that?

4. There is something very peaceful about the zen of pedaling a long, straight stretch of road. You feel your legs pumping, and the sound of the spinning chain is just audible over the rhythm of your breath. The wind passes over you smoothly, like a fan, and it carries with it the aromas of countryside and fresh outdoors. The sun feels warm on your face and arms. The next thing you know, you’re miles down the road and you’ve reached a perfect state of oneness with the bike and the road. Ommmm….

5. You know that, if you can climb that hill (and you can!), you can do anything!

6. You know that, while climbing that hill, you will test yourself physically, but that the toughest battle is in your head. If you win that, you will see the top from the saddle of your bike.

7. You know that, once you’ve beaten the hill, the reward is getting to go down the other side like a bat out of hell. There is nothing—nothing—like hitting 50mph on a road bike! WHEEEEEEEE!!!

8. The investment in equipment is not always cheap initially, but is longlasting, and easy to upgrade over time. My road bike cost me less than $1,000 new (it was last year’s model, knocked down from $1,200). That was Christalmighty, was it really? 15 years ago, and I have ridden it well over 3,000 miles in that time. It has survived two accidents—including a major frame-bending collision with a lime green Porsche—but still rides as smoothly now as it did when I rode it home from the bike shop that first day. I recently replaced my pedals and shoes (cost: $250), but my prior pair lasted me nearly the entire 15 years I’ve had the bike. Ditto my mileage and cadence computer (cost: $35), and my aero bars (cost: $75). I’ve probably purchased a total of another $500 worth of clothing and equipment since I bought this bike. All together, I figure the cost to do this thing I love comes to around $180 per year to date. That’s ±$10/month; ±$2.50/wk; ±33¢/day. My coffee habit costs me as much!

9. Riding is great exercise, and the kind you can adjust to your ability, mood and time constraints at the time. Do you feel like a real workout? Take on the toughest hill you can find or push yourself to go just that little bit faster. Feel like relaxing and taking in the countryside? Sit up, look around, pedal slowly. You’ll still feel it at the end, and it will feel good!

10. I can ride, even when I can’t run or play soccer, or even be outside at all. I have a trainer that I can attach my road bike to that allows me to pedal indoors. During the winter, my bike lives up in my office in the attic. During the warmer weather, when it’s downstairs, I can still hook the trainer up to it in the living room (if the house is empty) or out in the front hall. I can even throw a movie into my laptop and set it up in front of me, to keep me entertained while I crunch miles. I can also listen to Red Sox games on the radio or watch regular television. I love that, even when it’s crappy weather out, I can still get to work out a little without having to join the gym. I recently cycled 20 trainer miles (which are harder that road miles because it gives more resistance) while previewing a movie for my Spanish class. It's like multitasking!

1 comment:

stay-at-home mommy said...

Oh man, I'm tired just reading that! I was with you until you started talking about hills. Then I had images of myself rolling backwards and hitting a tree or something. Good for you - sounds like you've been working hard! Just don't accept lodging and food from a crazy psychopath, okay?

Also, just as an aside, how do you embed links in your text like that?