Tomorrow afternoon I’m going to ride across the 10,000 mile mark in a calendar year for the first time. For context, the world record for cycling mileage in a year is 86,000 miles, set by Amanda Coker in 2017. Still, I’m proud of my 10,000 mile effort.
Chances are you know a handful of people who have run marathons. Chances are also, you don’t know anyone who’s ridden a bike 10,000 miles in a calendar year. Although I don’t plan to match this effort in 2021, if retirement and I meet at a reasonable age, I would like to try for 15,000 miles in a year. That remains to be seen.
To to close out my blogging year, I thought it would be fun to share 10 truths of my 10,000 miles in 2020. I hope you enjoy it.
Truth 1: COVID-19
Although 10,000 miles in a calendar year has been on my radar since 2016, the COVID-19 pandemic gave me some wiggle room. I didn’t change my riding habits due to the pandemic, but it did force me to scale back my work schedule. Working less provided me with more time to prep for rides and to recover from them. The ability to nap more frequently contributed to achieving this goal.
Truth 2: Nocturnal Calories
From a metabolic perspective, my rides usually caught up with me 10 to 15 hours after completion. It wasn’t unusual for me to wakeup during my sleep and consume upwards of 1,500 calories, usually in-between midnight and 3am. Most often it was sleeves of Saltine crackers, tablespoons of peanut butter, and sugary candies like jellybeans, gummy bears, and candy orange slices.
And tortillas — I often woke up at 2am, ate an entire bag of flour tortillas, and went right back to sleep.
Truth 3: My 2-Wheeled Children
I wouldn’t have achieved this without a variety of bikes to ride. When the calendar year began, I owned 14 bikes. The ‘stable’ as I call it, now contains 16. I had the option of riding a different bike every day for two weeks. This was significant.
Each bike has a different geometry, placing my body in different riding postures and positions. Each bike also has its unique characteristics for riding in different conditions, on different surfaces, and each brings a different feel to every ride. Combining different bikes with varied routes kept it fresh from day-to-day.
Truth 4: Goodbye Muscle Mass
The only negative in pursuing this achievement was my inability to put good effort into my strength training workouts. For 46 years, recreational bodybuilding has been the methadone of my existence. This year it had to take a back seat. In truth, I was never able to reconcile the internal struggle which prioritized cycling over lifting. At times, it tore me apart.
Still, I got into the weight room 3 to 4 times a week, but my output was a fraction of what it’s been in recent years, and my body suffered noticeable losses in muscle mass and strength. As I scale back my mileage in 2021, I intend to reprioritize the weight room.
Truth 5: Chip On My Shoulder
I rode over 350 times in 2020, missing just a handful of days. Each ride averaged 28.5 miles. I rode in the rain, the cold, after sleepless nights, on days when I was in a foul mood, and very often I rode after dark on a well-lit bike.
The rides I’ll member most though, were the rides in the rain, in the cold, after sleepless nights, in the dark, and when I was in a foul mood. I’ll remember them because to go out in those conditions means I had something to prove.
I grew up surrounded by people who doubted me. Teachers, friends, employers, and even family members often expected the worst for me, or expected nothing at all. I invited those low expectations by bring a screwup for much of my youth, but that ain’t me no more.
Perhaps because of that, when I set out to do something today, I make sure it gets done — and I make sure anyone who ever doubted me about anything knows about it.
Truth 6: Time Not Effort
If somebody is in reasonable cycling condition, riding 28.5 miles daily isn’t a big deal. Although I had a handful of difficult rides during the year, those were mostly the result of heavy winds, lack of sleep, or just being mentally rushed to get it done and get back to work.
The most challenging aspect of riding 10,000 miles was managing the time to get it in daily. Each ride takes roughly 2 hours. Beyond that, there’s the preparation of the bike, my clothing, and my back bag — I pack it differently each day, according to the bike I take and the weather conditions. My 2 hour rides were roughly a 2 and 1/2 hour chunk out of each day.
Truth 7: I’m Still Fat
You’d think a guy who rides a bike 28.5 miles nearly every day and still finds the weight room a few nights a week would be reasonably lean. I’m not pushing maximum density, but you wouldn’t want to see me with my shirt off — it’s not a sight for kids.
In hindsight, I rationalized that I could get away with eating a lot of empty calories since I was riding daily — a bite of this here and there, an extra spoonful (or 6) of peanut butter at night, and the occasional box of vanilla wafers add up. If I had cut my nighttime calories in half, I probably would’ve leaned-out more.
Truth 8: I Now Own Tools
I never set out to be a good bike mechanic, and I’m still not. That said, I knew if I was going to do this, I’d have to take ownership of all my repairs since the nearest bike shop is 25 away. With the help of instructional videos on YouTube, The Global Cycling Network in particular, and a little more patience than what I inherited from my father, I managed to make every repair needed in 2020.
Truth 9: Pushed By Ignorance And Hatred
For as much as I was running toward the goal of 10,000 miles in a calendar year, I was also running away from something — people, or maybe just the worst traits of some people.
A few years back I created the hashtag #keepsmefromkillingpeople on Instagram and WordPress. The fact that I created it, underscores my frustration with so much of the ignorance and hatred being pushed by so many in the social media era.
Deep in the rhythm of my ride, and as my thoughts turn past memories of people and places that have touched me, I’m able to let go of the ignorance and hatred that pelts me daily.
Truth 10: Just My ‘Magination
I don’t read fiction — there’s plenty of it already in my head. Each day a friend, a celebrity I’ve never met, a significant figure from history, or even my dad rides beside me. I just imagined them on another bike to my left. We make small talk. We solve the problems of the world. We discuss physics, fitness, or write poetry and songs. There’s even been conversations about forgiving Bill Buckner.
There’s a dozen or more people who pop in and out of my head in a week of riding. Most of them are people I have interactions with in everyday life, either in person or on social media. Sometimes, those imaginary conversations are the most meaningful ones I have.
Many will remember 2020 as a year of negativity — of social corrosion and political division, global pandemic notwithstanding. I don’t want to minimize the tragedy of the pandemic or any damage to our political and social structures. When I’m 90 years old though, and can’t remember my middle name, I’ll remember that in 2020 I rode a bike 10,000 miles. Beyond that, I’ll remember that I had more fun doing this than any other physical pursuit — and I actually achieved it. In a lot of ways, 2020 was the best year of my life — so far.
This is what I think about when I ride…
This Year By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 16
Flat Tires: 27
Seat time : 656 hours 50 minutes
Average Speed: 15.1
Calories Burned: 565,000
Total Miles: 10,008
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me this year. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Style Council — of course. Enjoy…