The self-challenge: Ride More

Cherry City Park, 20 Sept 2020. Olympus XA2, Kodak ColorPlus 200

It’s October. The chances for me to pull off even a minor bicycle tour before the end of the year are getting slim. I’ve been wanting to do a Willamette Valley ride for a bit, ever since it seemed okay to pull off something in these pandemic times. Then came the fires, the extremely bad air quality, and some rain. My plan to do it in September evaporated. Yes, there’s still some nice days ahead, but the days themselves are getting short. Plus I’m going to be out of town a couple times in the next few weeks, and when I’m not, I need to light a fire under my ass and get some stuff done before the holidays. So, I’m okay with pushing the tour into 2021. Maybe I’ll still get in a bike camping trip, but that depends.*

There’s another reason why I’m okay for postponing a bike tour: I’m out of shape. It’s no secret that I haven’t been riding my bike as much as I should. The whole dumpster fire known as 2020 is more conducive for lying in a fetal position than going outside. So my base fitness has plummeted. I’ve definitely felt it when I’ve done a thirty-or-so mile ride, so I don’t know how I’d pull off a string of days at 40 to 60 miles each.

I know there’s some people out there who would get ready for a bike tour by riding more before it, building up to the mileage they’d be doing. I never did that. I just relied on my basic core fitness from bike commuting and riding everywhere. I might take it easy on the first day or two until I worked myself into the stamina of pulling off 60 mile days. But that core fitness has left me. I don’t have a job to commute to anymore, since whatever work I have can be done at home. This is great for pandemic times, and probably would be okay if I was a “workout at home” type. But my working out has strictly come from cycling.

It’s of course ironic: Three years ago, I had a twelve-mile roundtrip bicycle commute from my house in Woodlawn (NE) to the Hawthorne Hostel (SE.) I resented the job I had to go to. Having to be at work at 8 AM definitely didn’t help**. Then I’d return to a lonely house that I increasingly resented. The route became stale, only getting exciting when I had a chance to mix it up when I had an afternoon shift. But in the end I wasn’t necessarily wishing for a more exciting bike commute, I was wishing for a shorter bike commute. When I started to go out with Emee in 2017, I ended up staying at her house a bunch on mornings I had to work at the hostel, as it was half the distance. Then I quit the hostel, moved in with Emee, and had no bike commute.

Now there are times wish I had a twelve-mile roundtrip bike commute again, though not that Woodlawn-to-Hawthorne circuit I did for almost five years. (I can get nostalgic about other bike commutes, though.) Or at least have a regular excuse to bike. Sure, I can just “go on a bike ride” anytime I wish, but I have to motivate myself to do it. (See above about dumpster fires and fetal positions.) There’s something about obligation forcing you to do something. Sure, I’d probably resent it eventually,*** but I’d still have that base fitness level to tackle longer rides.

So now I have to push myself. Thankfully the Three Speed October Challenge has been getting me out there. I’ve taken a ride pretty much every day. I need to keep this up into winter, as the shorter damper days will be tough at first. But if I can just push myself enough and not let up, I think I can do it. And if the day is too wet, I can always take a long walk…

Montavilla, 20 Sept 2020. Minolta Hi-Matic 7S, Arista EDU 200

*Late October is pretty much the limit for me, though I’ve gone out on Christmas when it’s with other people. I’ve never bike camped in November, maybe this’ll be the year?

**As such, I usually got to work around 8:15.

***Years ago I was in conversation I knew about her bike commute of ten miles (one way). I commented that it seemed like a long commute, but she appreciated it because at ten miles it truly felt like a “bike ride”. And eventually I got what she was saying. My three mile ride from Emee’s to the hostel felt like nothing, my six mile ride from Woodlawn felt like a chore, too short yet too long. Maybe if I had a longer ride I’d have a better mental outlook for the work day? (Answer to myself: Probably not.)

2 thoughts on “The self-challenge: Ride More

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  1. Funny, I’ve been scheming a blog post along these lines too. Well, not exactly, but on the theme of self-motivation when there’s no actual required commute;) I’ve been chipping away at a totally arbitrary weekly mileage goal for myself, based on my baseline mileage when I was commuting to Vancouver–and even though it’s totally contrived, it makes me happy because it’s kind of an excuse to “have” to do what I know I want to do deep in my heart anyway (that is, ride my bike;)

    Lemme know if you need motivation help;) My friend is also working on a random bike goal (for her, always using her bike to get groceries), and it’s been nice for us both to check in about how it’s going.

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