Ten Truths Of 10,000 Miles…

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 

Climbing: 430,000’

Average Speed: 15.1

Calories Burned: 565,000

Raviolis:706

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…

Coffee And Carpet Tacks…

I’ll set the scene…

It’s 430am. Fresh out of the shower, and despite only five broken hours of sleep, my body slowly comes to life. I sit on the sofa breathing in the fragrance of Don Francisco‘s vanilla coffee, which sits on the table beside me in a cup from the 2016 Rose Bowl. I grab it with my left hand, raise it to mouth, and take the first sip.

Ahhhhh…

The metamorphosis begins — the sleepy caterpillar emerges from the cocoon of the night and in less than 20-minutes becomes a functional human being. The first sip of coffee awakens my senses and sends a gentle pulse through my body. It’s the most pure moment of my day.

On the table beside my coffee cup is a small dish of carpet tacks. As the first taste of coffee fades, but before I take a second sip, I grab a small handful of the carpet tacks and put them in my mouth. I begin chewing them. There’s a shock as the steel tacks collide with the enamel on my teeth. Pain manifests as the sharp tips pierce my tongue and the roof of my mouth. The lingering flavor of coffee gives way to the taste of blood.

I force myself to chew them, despite the shock and pain. Every closure of my jaws sends a jolt through my body and I’m more awake but less alive as I force myself to continue chewing. I want to spit them out, but I’m addicted to the pain. Of course I don’t really chew a handful of carpet tacks each morning. I log onto Facebook, but it’s a fair comparison.

For all the pleasure and awakening that my shower and coffee provide me each morning, that mood is killed as immediately as I see the first signs of hatred, argument, and ignorance being tossed around on Facebook. Still, I wake up and do it again, day after day. Something’s gotta give. Maybe.

For over a decade, the coffee and the carpet tacks have gone together. I’ve seen them as interconnected — can’t have one without the other. That said, the carpet tacks weren’t always steel or sharp. They weren’t even carpet tacks. In the beginning, they were more like coffee grounds from the bottom of the cup — a little bit course and bitter, but an easy inconvenience to bypass.

Somewhere, between 2010 and 2016, people’s attitudes towards one another began to change. By mid 2015, I was chewing carpet tacks every morning, in equal portion to the coffee I was sipping. And maybe I’m not really talking about coffee either. Maybe that too is a metaphor for the positive friendships and interactions I’ve come to appreciate each morning on Facebook.

There’s Bill and Ron up in Barsdale, Pete in Brisbane, Lara in Vacaville, Dawn in Valley Center, and Judy in upstate New York, to name a few. There’s Tim in Steamboat and another Tim in Utrecht. Mike in Virginia. There are many others. It’s been like a virtual coffee house, where humor, greetings, and casual pats on the back are exchanged. Information, photographs, and music are shared, and a camaraderie exists that rival a coffee shop, a pub, or the cardio theater in any gym.

But then there’s the carpet tacks.

Anyone who knows me understands the struggles I’ve had negotiating this duality for the past few years. A large part of me says to just walk away — forget Facebook and all the negativity. I should invest that time in anything more productive. For a long time I’ve resisted that desire, always seeing the positive side of Facebook as being greater than negative. Recently though, if I’m being honest, the negative side has grown to monstrous proportions.
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I’ve begun to throw it out there that I intend to delete my Facebook page, and may do so as soon as this week. Every time I think about it though, I think about the value of those relationships — those people in other places, near and far, that enhance my days and enrich my life for what they bring to the table each morning and each evening.

That’s where my real struggle is — throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

As I write this, and as a pedal through my community each day, I spend much of my time considering whether or not Facebook should be a part of my future. I value those relationships, but have so much disdain for all the ugliness, ignorance, and hatred I must wade through to get to the good stuff.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Of course the obvious solution is to limit my time on Facebook and amend my connections. Perhaps I’ll give this a try, but the more likely solution is to just walk away. If I do walk away, I’ll continue to write for this blog weekly, and possibly more frequently. I’ll keep you posted.

This is what I think about when a ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
195 miles
8,600’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
11,044 calories
12 hours 58 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. 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 Otis Gibbs. Enjoy…

Self-Reckoning…

Fun ride last night. Not as fast as I was hoping due to the wind, but it was a good test of Bella‘s new wheel-set. They performed well and $500 later, they’re a legit upgrade. Eventually these wheels will get passed on to another bike, and she’ll be fitted with her first carbon rims, but I have some financial catchin’ up to do first.

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In his book, Upheaval (2019), author Jared Diamond suggests honest self-appraisal is the single most important mechanism for a nation in crisis to successfully resurrect itself. Since the leadership of my nation is making no attempt to do this, I’m sort of taking it on myself. I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking at my social weaknesses and examining how I can improve on them.

I don’t care who you are and what your worldview is, there will never be a better time than right now for some honest self-appraisal.
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First on the list for me has been taking inventory of my prejudices. It’s not been an easy exercise. It’s important though, that I this considering the current social climate. It’s not just my racial prejudices I’ve been exploring either, but those that have to do with physical appearance, age, geography, and all the demographic lines we use to separate ourselves from them, politics included.

In exploring my prejudices, or any weakness for that matter, it’s important not to rationalize my prejudices away. No excuses. I won’t minimize them either, by disguising them as biases, or for being so-called evolutionary defenses that occur naturally in my species. Simply put, my prejudices have been learned behaviors since my earliest days and have been practiced and consistently reaffirmed without much regard for their impact on the people I’ve judged so freely.

One exercise I’ve been using has been to hit the pause button on my brain frequently throughout each day and when engaged with others. Whether it’s with a service employee, a client, a neighbor, but in particular with passing strangers, it’s amazing how quick I am to judge anyone based on their appearance, and how willing I am to not second-guess myself in those snap judgments.
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We’re marching for a lot of things these days — BLM, LBGT rights, proper context and subsequent application of our questionable past, environmental concerns and so-on. I haven’t participated in any of these marches.

My march though, and the one I’m encouraging everyone to take, is a march on the road to honest self-appraisal. It’s a nasty road with lots of hazards and, at least in my case, and a very long one. It’s also a place our leaders are never going to take us.

This is what I think about when I ride…

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Bella
29 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.6 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Girlfriend, by Matthew Sweet

It Ain’t Easy…

A light schedule gave me the opportunity to ride to the coast yesterday. Coastal rides take longer because I don’t start from my house. I throw my bike in my car and drive about 20 minutes to a trailhead where I can take a bike-path directly to the water’s edge.

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It’s a fun ride, but I probably won’t do it again anytime soon. It’s more time-consuming than the rides which begin from my driveway. Also, the bike path is crowded these days — too much for my comfort.

I’m exhausted lately — to a point where I feel like something has to give. I’ve added a lot of values into my life over the last few years. As I’ve added these values, I’ve removed exactly none. By values, I mean all the things I do each day — taking pictures, reading, writing, riding bikes, walking, lifting weights, and gardening. These enrich my life a great deal. Combined though, they occupy as much as 5-6 hours of every day. And let’s not forget social media, and yes, I consider social media a valuable aspect of my life.

It’s like being me is a full-time job.

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You know what I don’t do…? I don’t sleep a lot. I don’t clean house as much as I should. I don’t check in with friends the way I once. I dedicate most of my non-working time to just being me. Seems like a selfish endeavor, yet I have no desire to budge.

These things I do — these values are important to me because I thrive on stimulation, activity, and consistency. I also live with doses of sadness and depression intermingled into each day, sometimes from out of nowhere. Pandering to my values helps helps keep the sadness and depression at bay.

I’ll come full circle — I’m exhausted. I should probably change some of these values, cut back on them, or at the very least, rearrange them. It’s something I think about each day when I ride. All things in moderation right…?

If I were to change one thing in my life, that I’m certain would have an immediate impact on my time management and fatigue level, I would let go of all social media with the exception of my blog, http://www.thespokeandword.net. I don’t think I’ll do that anytime soon, but ya know, maybe I will.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
28 miles
700’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Goldin Browne, by Kid Congo

Unique Among Billions…

In 2003, I accompanied my daughter and her mother on an Alaska cruise. Our daughter was 13. One of the shore excursions we signed up for involved taking a helicopter to a glacier for a short hike. Her mother, not fond of flying, decided to stay behind. It would be just my daughter and I for the adventure.

Just after breakfast that morning, my daughter and I walked from the ship to the helipad, buckled ourselves in with four other passengers, and enjoyed the ride of our lives in-between jagged mountains, over striking canyons and crevasses, eventually landing on a mountain glacier near Skagway.

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The designated section of the glacier had been opened up for hiking only a few weeks before. The docent in charge pointed out the boundaries and made it clear we were not to go beyond them. After receiving our instructions, we were free to hike independently in the designated area for 30 minutes.

Almost immediately after we began walking, I nudged my daughter and guided us just beyond the designated boundary. For a moment, she and I stood in a spot that might have been previously untouched by human feet — at least not modern human feet. Back on the helicopter, I couldn’t but help feel a sense of profound individuality for standing on what might have been an untouched spot.

Depending on how you define human being, we have been around for roughly 500,000 years. In that time, approximately 100 billion of us have lived.

As a kid growing up in the era of Muhammad Ali, Evel Knievel, and Bruce Jenner, I always had the desire to do things nobody had ever done — or to be better at something than anyone else. Still, I never excelled at anything, despite my desire. I couldn’t sing worth a damn. I never made it past the local level in bodybuilding competition. I could be fast, but not that fast. I had many interests and a lot of passion, but not much discipline in my pursuits.
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A few weeks ago I ran out of Shot Bloks — an energy snack I eat at the midpoint of each bicycle ride. Out of Shot Bloks and looking for a substitute before a ride, I grabbed two frozen ravioli squares from the freezer, put them in a Ziploc bag, and placed them in the shoulder bag I ride with.

When I got to the halfway point of my ride at the Old Bonsall Bridge, I put one of the raviolis in my mouth, and as I reached for a water bottle, set the other ravioli on the seat of my bike for a moment. As I took a swig of water, I looked down to see a bicycle seat with a ravioli on it and I thought to myself… I’m probably the first person in human history to set a ravioli on a bicycle seat, so I photographed it.

I don’t know where it comes from, but my whole life I’ve lived with an innate need to be unique — to do something no person has ever done before, yet I’ve come up short for nearly 60 years. I’ll never run the fastest hundred meters on earth, I’ll never sing at the Grand Ole Opry, star in Hollywood movie, or win the Pulitzer Prize.

For the last couple of weeks though, I’ve been placing raviolis on my bicycle seats at the halfway point of each ride and photographing them against pretty backdrops. I can’t imagine anyone else, among the billions who’ve ever lived, has done this, but I could be wrong.

This is what I think about when a ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
201 miles
9,100’ climbing
15.6 mph avg
11,500 calories
12 hours 51 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. 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 Stonehoney. Enjoy…