Today is my birthday.
It was 10 years ago today that I climbed onto my brand-new bike -- a Raleigh SC-30 "comfort" model, a birthday present from Jeff -- and started pedaling on a dead-flat bike path, following behind Jeff's Trek hybrid. I had not been on a bicycle in more than 20 years.
I was 47 years old, about 220 lbs, and woefully out of shape.
Needless to say, I didn't get very far. I managed not even 4 miles, feeling queasier with every revolution of the wheels. When I could not pedal any more, I stopped, told Jeff to go get the car, and come back and pick me up. As I waited, my stomach grew more and more upset, and I grew more and more scared. I thought I might be having a heart attack.
So, I went to the ER. They took me immediately, and ran some simple tests.
Thankfully, I was not having a coronary. I was merely so horribly unfit that I was experiencing lactic acid build-up in my stomach, and that was causing my queasiness. Relieved (well, sort of), I went home and celebrated what was left of my birthday - I actually don't remember what the rest of the day was like.
Some people, I suppose, after having such an experience, might just give up entirely on the idea of biking. Fortunately, I didn't. I kept at it. As I was starting, literally, from Ground Zero, it took a considerable amount of time for me to rebuild my cardiovascular system to even be able to climb very tiny hills. There is a very small rise, on a sidewalk half a mile from my house. It's the route I biked nearly every day, in the weeks and months following my birthday voyage. I could not pedal up it, not even in the lowest of my 24 gears. I walked it, every time, for weeks on end. I felt embarassed about it, but I tried not to show it.
Eventually, of course, I conquered it. The day I was able to go up a somewhat steeper hill in my neighborhood - in rock-bottom Granny gear, of course - I was so jubilant you would have thought I'd won the Tour de France. As time passed, I got comfortable about doing six and eight -mile rides . . . they wore me out at first, but after a while they became routine. I extended my range, doing longer rides. One weekend, I managed two 20-mile rides, Saturday and Sunday. My knees felt a bit wrecked, but I was pleased at my progress.
My first real organized ride was the Covered Bridges ride in Lancaster, PA, the same one I still ride, every year, when the weather is good. I did 16 miles, including what was at the time, to me, a hors categorie climb. I stopped midway, but made it. I was, no doubt, one of the slowest riders that day . . . but that's OK. I eventually speeded up.
From there to here, where I am today: it's been a fun 10 years. Along the way, I shed nearly 90 pounds, got into weightlifting, and overall, improved my health, fitness, and energy level. I've biked well over 20,000 miles - with only one crash, and that on a bike path, not on the road - in all sorts of weather. I've biked in the US, Canada, and Europe, on both roads and trails.
The SC-30 is history, of course; I gave it to a friend. My next bike still hangs in the garage; I use it sometimes. It's a Terry Trixie, bought in 2002, a road bike with straight handlebars and a step-through ("girl") frame. I've outfitted her with a permanent rack that can accommodate a market basket or bag. I also have a Trek mountain bike, and of course, my 1974 Panasonic, my Dad's gift to me so many years ago.
My current ride, of course, is my beloved custom Serotta titanium racing bike. Now 5 years old, well over 10,000 miles on her - she's still a sweet ride.
Did I go out today? Of course! My usual predawn ride . . . storms passed through last night, but it was dry enough I could hit the street without too much risk of flatting. My usual Starbucks location was dark . . . they are having management problems, so I went to my second-favorite and grabbed a mocha and banana. I love my morning weekday rides; they are oftentimes the high point of my day, especially if my workday turns out sucky. I also love long weekend rides - I have not ridden as much nor as far this year because of Jeff's accident . . . when riding with him, I go slower and do less distance. But he's now 9 months out from the incident, and his legs are now recovering quite well. We are planning to do his first post-trauma metric century in a couple of weeks, the Amish Covered Bridges, in Dover, DE.
It's been a great 10 years. I'm looking forward to the next 30.