Tuesday, February 1, 2011

10 Years of Birthday Rides

Last year, I told you about Me 2.0, also called the Fat Version. RandoGirl married the demo version, which was pretty and very functional. The current version of me is a "Thin Client."

Ha-ha-ha. That's computer nerd humor. We kill ourselves with it.

Anyway, if you've stopped laughing now ... go ahead, I'll wait ... there.

So, after nine months of dieting in 2000, I was down from over 300 to around 250 pounds. It was kind of like pregnancy, but in reverse, and slower, and there was no baby, and it didn't hurt as much or mess up my hormones or blood sugar or make me throw up and pee all of the time. Okay, it was nothing like having a baby. Forget I said that. Me 3.0 is obviously still stupid.

Anyway, in September of that year RandoGirl and I had an anniversary, and for a present she bought me a bicycle. It was a Novarra hybrid from REI, and was the first bike that I had owned in at least 10 years.

I hear a lot of negatives about hybrids. People say that they're not good on the road and they're not good on the dirt, and so what good are they? But I think that they give a lot of people that first step in to biking, or (as in my case) back in to biking. They may not be perfect for anything other than the multi-use trail at the beach, but they're better than nothing. And who knows if I would have kept off my weight with nothing?

The fall of 2000, I rode that hybrid around our neighborhood in Atlanta a lot. I found some ways to avoid the busy roads (of which Atlanta has a lot), and slowly widened my scope. I rediscovered the joy and intimacy of venturing out into a beautiful world on a bicycle.

That January, I was down to about 235 pounds. My birthday that year fell on a Saturday, and the weather was exceptionally fine, so I decided to go ride part of the Silver Comet Trail just north of town.

Now, if you've never heard of the Silver Comet, it runs from the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna all the way to the Alabama border. There, it becomes the Chief Ladiga Trail, and continues almost to Piedmont, AL. If you do the whole length, from end to end and back, you almost do a 300K.

It didn't go as far back in 2000, petering out just past 30 miles in Rockmart, GA. But it was a nice, flat, traffic-free ride through the suburbs and into farm country then, and it sounded like a great way to spend my birthday.

I loaded the bike into the back of our station wagon early that morning, getting to the trail about 8 am. It was a little chilly, so I kept my jacket on. Of course, back then I would not have even considered wearing biking shorts or a jersey -- those were for racing cyclists -- so I was in jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes.

About 10 am I stopped at a little store near where the trail crossed a busier road. I had gone 20 miles, and was thinking that I should probably head back. That's when it occurred to me that I could go one more mile, and then head back for a grand total of 42 miles -- the same number of miles as my age that day.

So I rode another mile and started back.

By mile 30, I was wondering how those racing cyclists could do it. Didn't their underwear chafe? Weren't their t-shirts soaked in sweat? Did they have a better way of tying their jacket around their waist? Didn't their blue jeans rub the insides of their thighs raw?

By mile 40, I kept promising myself I would never do this again. What was I thinking? Nobody can ride 42 miles.

By mile 42, I was so glad to see my car that I just opened the hatch and laid down inside. I even thought about leaving that bike there. Let it rust. Or maybe somebody else would eventually come along and torture their butt on it.

After a few minutes, I gently loaded the Novarra into the back of the station wagon, gave it a little pat, and told it, "Good job, boy. Well done. Thanks for the ride."

Of course, I still didn't get on it again for a month.

My next birthday, I rode 50 miles on that bike. The birthday after that, we lived in Florida and it was easy for me to do 88 miles. I had a blue Cannondale then, and bike shorts and jerseys and everything. Ever since that birthday, I've ridden twice my age on the weekend before or after my birthday.

This year, I rode a 200K on the Saturday before and after my birthday. They were both long 200Ks, too -- 130 miles -- and the one this past Saturday was on my steel single-speed commuter bike. Maybe I'm finding new ways to torture myself ... proving to my feeble brain that I must still be alive, since I hurt so much. Possibly, I'm trying to prove something to my friends, my family, or myself.

But ultimately, I'm hitting a goal every year that I set back when I first began to re-discover that there's a beautiful world out there. You just have to get off your fat butt and find it.


  1. I always enjoy these post. I too had a challenge on my birthday's of the past. It would involve running the red loop at the park under 50 or lifting a certain amount of weight. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who likes to see where they stack up. By the way, I would never believe you weighed in at 300lbs at one time. Great job you are an inspiration. Keep up the blogging.

  2. It will be interesting when you hit 75! I am so proud of you!

  3. Yeah, but will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I'm 75 ... and coming home from a 150-mile bike ride?

  4. We'll still love you... even when you're 105, and beyond.