The Sunday Morning Ride
I first started riding with the bike shop crew on Sunday morning back in March or April. I am not quite sure… It was cold, colder than I typically like, but I rode.
It was the perfect ride for me, 25 miles or so at a moderate pace of 14-16 miles per hour. I struggled terribly with the hills but I could keep up on the flats. I showed up nearly every week for the rides and I did my level best and over time I improved. I still struggled with the hills but I wasn’t walking them and I was keeping up for the most part. I combined this with solo or club rides on Saturday and I built myself back to riding shape after losing most of last year’s cycling season to the knee injury.
I started working at the bike shop in June and that made doing the Sunday Shop Ride even more of a routine as I would work at the shop afterwards any way.
It never occurred to me at the time that I might someday lead these rides. I was asked to lead it one weekend when the others who had been leading it were busy on other rides or activities and I was available. I had a great time. A hilly 25 miles and a great group made it a fun time.
Now I lead it most Sundays.
The group has dwindled slightly. Some of the riders have graduated to the earlier ride. That ride is for the faster riders wanting to do a longer distance ride.
On Sundays I ride from my home to the shop, about 16-18 miles depending on the route I follow, and then I do the shop ride, typically 25-30 miles. I get in my miles and I have a great time. Yesterday I got in 47 miles that way. Nice… It is fun for me and I really feel good about it.
This Sunday past I discovered something. I can ride hills now. I am still not fast but it is not the struggle it was. They are not killing me. Yesterday as I climbed Jacksonville Road, a class 4 hill, I had to turn around to help a rider who was experiencing bike issues. Essentially I climbed Jacksonville Road one and a half times. I climbed it strongly both times.
I am not the strong rider I was in my twenties. I never will be again. I am fifty-two now and there are some concessions to age. I am in overall better shape than I was then. I was riding between 225 and 230 pounds and I am now 200 and my numbers would indicate that I am fit. I have a lower at rest heart rate and I recover faster.
The point is that hard work and dedication pays off. I was not in good shape two years ago. This we all know. 300 pounds on anyone but an NFL lineman is not going to be in shape. Now after shedding the weight and riding the bike and walking the track and hiking the hills I am in shape. I am fit.
And I am leading the Sunday Ride.
Sunday gives me the best of all worlds. I ride solo on the way to the shop. On that ride I push myself hard. I try to reach personal best times on segments along the way. I hit a level of concentration while riding that it actually frees my mind. I am so focused on the ride, the rhythm, the cadence that I am free of all other concerns for just that time. I reach a point on my best solo rides where I am tuned in so keenly to all around me that I have no sense of anything outside of the ride. I see every car, every pedestrian, every ripple, pothole and bump on the road. Nothing outside of the ride intrudes. I am simply flying along.
After the solo ride I reach the shop and team up with the group. We go off and I am now the lead goose. I am focused on my riders, their pace, their needs. There is a camaraderie in the ride that of course a solo ride cannot have.
The two rides, one right after the other, are all the reasons I ride.
I think the reason diets fail is they have a beginning and an end. That is, we “Start a Diet“. When we reach our goal we think the job is done and go back to the bad habits and patterns that got us in to the mess to begin with.
I never went on a DIET.
I just started to eat less.
And Move more (I am still addicted to my FITBIT… I get panicked if I forget it at home… SIlly I know…)
Then I changed what I eat.
But it is still not a DIET.
I changed my diet. I never went on a DIET.
For me it has been about moving forward. Always moving forward. From day one of this trip of mine it has been about real and permanent change. It was never about reaching a set goal. I always have said the goal was to get under 210 pounds and STAY under 210 pounds. Always moving forward, never sitting in one place. If I set the goal as JUST get under 210 pounds I might have slipped back in to the bad habits.
Moving forward, never sitting still. Never set an end point….
As I changed physically over the course of the weight loss and fitness gain I questioned who I was. I wondered about the single-minded pursuit I had undertaken and I wondered just who I was if I wasn’t a fat man anymore. I was uncertain, and quite frightened by the unanswered questions.
If I demurred from certain activities I could do so because I was fat and out of shape and in this I had a built-in excuse. I could hide from the potential for failure by never getting in the game. If I didn’t hike with friends I could avoid not keeping up, not having anything to say in conversation, not being GOOD at whatever we might encounter. Being fat was the built-in excuse.
I was hiding but I didn’t realize it. I was out there. I was gregarious. I had myself deluded that I was OK with it all.
I don’t understand it all. I understand some of it.
My friends always seemed so much more at ease with life than I ever felt. I always felt like a pretender. When I was an actor I always thought the others were better, more confident, more together. I felt like a fake, like someone playing at it while others were REAL.
I felt this way in many aspects of my life. I thought everyone was more together than I was.
I had to put those perceptions in focus and move beyond them. I came to realize over time that other probably felt the same. Some may have even thought I had it together and they were the ones who were lost…
It is an on-going process. I am learning. It is slow.
As I started to lose the weight and I started to get fit I started to look deeper and deeper within myself and I saw some things I liked. I saw some things I didn’t like but on the balance, I came to realize, I had something to offer.
I started to find me.
I am not there. I am not sure who I am quite yet and it is altogether possible that I never will, and that few ever, do fully understand themselves. I am finding that I like parts of me that I had crushed down before.
Mostly I think I have come to understand that I am at the heart of it all a person worth having as a friend.
I am a better person now.
All of the introspection, the delving deep, the exploring has resulted in a better understanding of all that I am and I am trying to be.
I am finding LIFE.