Monday, July 9, 2007

Not insanity, just stupidity

So I was dead tired on Saturday night. I stayed awake all day Saturday because I didn't want to sleep for four hours and then end up staying awake until 3 a.m.

So I was in bed before midnight, with the intention of getting up early on Sunday to beat the heat, again.

But I needed extra sleep to make up for the lack of it on Friday night. So I ended up sleeping past 10 a.m., and not getting out of bed until 11 a.m.

By the time I hit the road on Sunday it was noon, and 88 F according to

I wanted to do more than my 33-mile loop, but given how hot it was I knew that was crazy.

For the first hour I felt fine. But I could tell as I was approaching the 20-mile mark that I was running out of gas. It was hot, more humid than Saturday and I was tired from three previous days of bicycling.

There's a well at Lake Harriet I use to refill my water bottles sometimes, and I definitely needed to stop there on Sunday. At that point I had an average of 16 mph, but I knew that'd drop as I was tired and naturally I had to ride into the wind for the last nine miles home.

And man was it slow. Fortunately it had become cloudy, a precursor to the afternoon storms that were predicted, and much needed around here. I didn't care if I got rained on going home. My clothes were completely soaked from sweat anyway.

But I made it home, barely, before the rain. I beat the rain by at least 30 minutes, but I barely made it home. I was coasting at times and failing to pedal at my typical pace. I didn't care, I just kept dreaming about the ecstasy of getting home and finishing my fourth consecutive day, on a day when I was ready to collapse. I decided I wouldn’t even look at how pitiful my average had dropped during the last 13 miles, 33 miles is still 33 miles, regardless of the average, and my body felt like I was doing more than 33 on Sunday, given the conditions.

When I reached the end of my last significant uphill stretch and crossed a freeway I was about two miles from home. As I passed a church I said several times, "Thank you Jesus!"

I took Monday off, even though the humidity had subsided quite a bit. It was still hot today, and my legs really needed a rest. The past weekend wasn't my toughest, but the heat and humidity took a lot out of me, especially on Sunday, and my messy Monday schedule makes it tough to ride, regardless of the weather.

I can't kick myself enough for not getting up early on Sunday, but on the other hand it would have been easy to take the day off, so I should be slapping myself on the back. (I had plans for the evening, so my 7 p.m. weeknight schedule wasn't going to work last night.)

So why do I do it? (D Cup wants to know.) I was never very motivated to play team sports, and therefore I never did. Sure, I played football, baseball and street hockey with kids in the neighborhood when I was growing up, but I never had the drive, motivation or encouragement to pursue a team sport. I played intramural sports in college, and in the occasional broomball or softball league post college, but it was never a burning desire or something I couldn’t live without.

I ended up biking a lot during the summers when I was in high school, in part because I spent them with my dad in Wisconsin and would bike 14 miles to the nearby town for a summer job. (I would work until dark, so dad would pick me up with a bike rack on his car.)

I had tried running at times in my life and enjoyed the challenge of it. I ran during most of my college years and for a while afterward. It was when I had a knee problem one spring that I decided to clean up my old bike and start riding that summer. I'm not sure what year bicycling became a seasonal obsession, but I've been doing an organized bike ride most summers since 1997.

It has only been the past few years that I've started logging mileage. I use to log my running miles every year, so I have no idea why logging bicycling miles didn't make any sense until 2004, but that's how it is. I wish I knew how many miles I biked in 1997, simply for comparison. I didn't have a working computer on my bike for part of the summer, so that was part of my problem. I biked a regular route that summer, but I don't recall how long it took me or what the distance was.

In 2004 I biked 1,200+ miles, and after looking at my calendar I realized I was kind of lazy. I'd bike 24 miles frequently, on a route that included hills, but I blew off days far too frequently, I realized. I set out to improve in 2005 and I finished with 1,582 miles. But I still saw room for improvement. Last year I decided I could push myself to bike 2,006 miles, and despite some lackluster stretches, not entirely my fault, I made that goal by the end of October. Thanks to a handful of mild days in November I was able to rearrange my schedule to bike during a couple of weekday afternoons and add 114 miles for the month, giving me a grand total of 2,120.

Sadly I didn't get my bike in gear quite as early as I should have this year. I didn't start until May, whereas some years I have 100 miles in the books by the time I go to Vegas in late April. And my May mileage was weak, too. So I'm not exactly on a record pace this year. I think I can still top 2006, but I'll have to have a bigger August than I've had the past two years. August is a bit tough because it gets dark earlier and burnout starts to set in.

But why do I do it? Well, D Cup likes to play basketball and likes the challenge of out hustling an opponent for a loose ball. I don't play basketball, tennis or soccer, and even if I did, I'd have to find a team to play with, or find a hang out to play a pick-up game. I bicycle occasionally with my friend Margaret, but I often ride alone, and it's an activity that's well suited for that.

If I went to shoot baskets by myself, it would be hard to challenge myself to do better on a daily basis, unless I spent a lot of time shooting free throws. Bicycling and running naturally create goals, whether they be a faster time to complete a distance or a numerical total to reach for the weekend, month or year.

I don't worry about breaking personal records when I ride, but I did track the improvement in my time during the season a few years ago. I remember the first time I completed a 24.5-mile route in under 1 hour 30 minutes. (Three laps around a lake, with a handful of uphill climbs during each lap.)

Actually I don't remember that ride very well. I don't typically check the time of my ride when I'm in motion, but one day I knew I was having a fast ride, so I pushed myself during the final miles of the third lap, knowing I had come close to breaking 1:30:00 in the past. I remember finishing that ride and seeing my time, 1:30:13. I was crushed, but encouraged because I knew I would break the magic mark the next time I went out under ideal conditions. Some time after that I did break the 1:30:00 mark. I vaguely remember the pride of that accomplishment, beating the 90-minute mark by about 15 seconds, but I don't remember it as well as the agony of 1:30:13. (I think my personal best for that course ended up being about 1:26:30. I have it written down somewhere.)

So sometimes it's the numbers that push me to get out there day after day, sometimes it's the fact I'm nine miles from home and don't have another option to get back that encourages me to keep going. Once I get out there it's usually easy to keep the body moving to accomplish whatever I set out to do. The hardest part is getting on the bike. Sometimes I tend to procrastinate. No matter how badly I want to ride, some days it's a struggle to get going, even though I know the sooner I start the sooner I will be done.

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