Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Encouragement, part two

This is a follow-up to the post titled Encouragement; if you haven't read that post, some of what follows may lack context. So you may want to read Encouragement first. But if you really don't want to read that post, it said in a nutshell "Doctor tells out-of-shape Doug to exercise - Doug gets bike."

As it turned out, cycling is the sport for me. I took to it like a duck to quacking. My wife was very surprised. She said "I thought riding the bike was something you'd do grudgingly every weekend. I didn't expect you to actually like it."

Honestly, I surprised myself.  Within three or four months of getting on a bike, I was doing things I had been afraid to do. I was riding through traffic like I had a right to be there. My attitude about people improved, largely because of the polite drivers I was meeting. I even went on a group ride, though I'm about as anti-social as anyone you'd ever meet. I graduated from being an annoyance at my LBS to being a frequent and tolerated guest.

Then...well, at this point you might expect me to say "disaster struck". The fact is that I made a stupid mistake. I was approaching a stoplight in a very high gear when the light turned yellow, and I stopped quickly without downshifting. When the light turned green, I pushed down with my right leg as hard as I normally would and felt something in my hip go "ping." Though it didn't bother me at the time, within a few hours I started feeling as though someone had kicked me very hard in a sensitive area. I talked to the doctor about it (yes, at my age, you talk to the doctor about almost everything.) The upshot of it was that I should stay off the bike until I felt comfortable getting back on. This stretched to a little more than two months.

When I did get back on the bike, I stuck to higher gears. The theory was that it's better to spin a little than to hurt yourself with exertion. (No, I don't mean taking a spinning class...)

Also definitely not the kind of "spinning" I'm talking about.
I got back into it slowly. I started wearing padded shorts for rides over five miles. I made sure to downshift when coming to a halt; and if I couldn't, I made sure not to exert myself to the point of injury when starting to pedal again.

Everything since then is a blur. I've started training (yes, genuinely training, not "training") for the forty-five mile charity ride I'll be doing at the end of April. I've started taking climbs that I don't have to take, simply because I know that I'll need to able to do it in the future. And I've started planning parts of my bike rides; well, if "bring a snack and enough water to stay hydrated" can be called a plan. 

It is difficult for me to believe, but I now have goals. The hard part is admitting that I have goals; I've always thought of myself as very unambitious. A slacker. But now I'm consumed with the idea of doing some medium-distance bike traveling. With camping wild. With making my first cup of coffee in the morning over a simple camping stove.
My alternative camping stove for coffee. I'm sure there's a racktop adapter for this.

I have no doubt that I'll get there. A year ago, I thought it would be impossible for me to ride thirty-five miles on a bike; and now I know that it's not only possible, but likely. Six months ago, it was impossible for me to climb certain hills; and now I see it's only a matter of practice and persistence. As little as a month ago I was fearful of stepping too far outside my comfort zone; and now I'm planning what Alistair Humphreys calls a "microadventure."

This leads me to my first point. It's a simple variant on "If I can do it, anyone can do it." I've come to love being outdoors where formerly I was reluctant to get up off of the couch. Though I enjoy chatting with people quite a bit, I've come to enjoy a little solitude now and again. I now look forward to exercise rather than fearing it.

In the beginning of a previous post called Encouragement, I said I was writing a letter of thanks to all the people who had given me encouragement. And that that letter ended with "So thanks. Thanks a lot. Thanks for ruining my life with your support and encouragement."

And this leads me to my second point.

A year or so ago, I had no expectations beyond living a quiet sedentary life. But now I've seen what's possible. Now I'm looking further than I have before. And now I can't be satisfied with a quiet sedentary life. In fact, I am very dissatisfied with life as it is because now I have greater expectations of myself.
Please, sir, may I have another? I'm fueling up for a fifty mile ride.
And because I'm sometimes given to using hyperbole in a humorous way, I say that my life has been ruined because these greater expectations have given rise to a greater dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction that I would not have had if it had not been for the support and encouragement of those around me.
This guy has an excuse for being slothful. I don't.

I also realize that I can't attain my goals quickly. I'm ok with that. Rushing into anything is usually counterproductive. If it takes me six months to do my first campout, that's all right. If it takes me another year or so to do the two hundred mile tour I want to do, well, fine. The important thing to me now is to keep moving in the direction of more activity rather than less.
There are many things that can halt this forward activity. Injury. Illness. And the unexpected. But these things are temporary. After they're over, forward motion can begin again.


  1. What a wonderful post! I love how simply riding a bike can put a huge smile on your face and open opportunities you never thought possible.

    1. I'm glad you liked it. I hope to entertain you in the future with stories of the things I actually do, not just the things I'm thinking of. I've always enjoyed reading your posts about your bicycle trips!

    2. I wanted to share something that's stuck with me for 35 years... I once attended a bicycle repair clinic and when suggesting a cadence, especially for long miles in the saddle, the instructor advised running the song of the wicked witch riding her bike (remember that upbeat tune?) through your mind as a guide. That's 80-100 beats per minute, nice and easy on your knees. That song has saved me from injuring myself over the years and has guided me when I feel soreness coming on.

    3. Thanks @anniebikes. I don't remember the tune (which is odd, since I saw The Wizard of Oz perhaps fifteen times when I was growing up), but I'll look it up. I love easy to remember mnemonics like this. Thanks!