Print Story Happy (early) birthday to me
By toxicfur (Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 02:23:15 PM EST) (all tags)
It started with the real beginning of summer here in the Boston area, and with ana getting a bike. For ana's birthday celebration, we biked down Memorial Drive and across to Kendall Square for a movie and dinner, and then biked back through Cambridge to my house.

"This feels really good," I said to myself.

I hadn't been biking much. I used to bike every day to the T stop when it was just over a mile each way. But here in Cambridge, the T stop is a 10 minute walk, and it takes longer to get my bike out and then find a space to lock it up than it does to walk. So biking had become something I did when I needed to be at the campus that's just a couple of miles away, or even less frequently, when I decided to bike instead of walk the mile to Harvard Square.

The next weekend, I took my Trek 7.3FX on the Minuteman Trail, a 22 mile round-trip rail trail from Cambridge to Bedford. It's lovely, and in parts, it kind of feels like biking through a forest. At the end of the ride, I felt fantastic.

The week before had been rough. Hell, the month before had been rough. Work gets steadily busier and busier, taking the time and energy I want for working on my personal writing project. I wasn't sleeping well. I had nightmares nearly every night -- those dreams that don't frighten me so much as frustrate me and leave me as tired in the morning as I was when I went to bed.

I'd started taking Ativan again, just so I could sleep through the night. I was cranky at work, and cranky when I got home again. At one point, I confessed to my therapist that I just wanted a six-month sabbatical so I could finish my book and not have to worry about my job anymore, at least for a while. I just needed a break. A nice, long working vacation.

But during the bike ride -- after the first 5 miles of feeling like hell and wondering why I was stupid enough to consider biking 25 miles (counting the distance between my house and the beginning of the trail) -- a switch flipped in my head, and I felt fantastic. All the bullshit that swirled around my brain, taking up space and generally causing me worry and despair was just gone. I felt strong. I felt capable. I was -- dare I say it -- really happy. It was like a drug that didn't leave me fuzzy-headed.  It lasted for a couple of days, too. Magic. Funny how exercise works that way.

At the end of the trip, I felt like I could just keep pedaling forever. That afternoon, I went to the local bike shop for new handlebar grips (I was tired of the stock ones twisting around under my hands), and test drove road bikes. None of the ones in stock had the components I wanted (I didn't want anything less than Tiagra shifters, for instance), but I got to figure out what size bike I needed, and the woman helping me ordered three different bikes for me to try out.

On Wednesday, I went back to try out the nicer bikes. Riding even the lowest end of the three was such a different experience than riding my commuter bike. It's like the bike could read my mind. I ended up bringing this one home (compact crank, if that doesn't show up in the link).

It was a lot of money to spend, but I justified it by telling myself that it's an early birthday present, that I just have a couple of years before I turn 40, and I really ought to be in better shape, and anyway, if I can feel that good after a ride, then I ought to be doing it more often. Maybe I could find a recreational cycling club and meet some more people. Maybe I could commute to work.

This weekend, I put right at 40 miles on the bike. I did the Minuteman Trail again yesterday, and really pushed myself. It's a lot easier to push myself on the road bike than on the commuter bike. My quads and lower back were a bit sore (not to mention my neck -- I finally understand in a very small way the Radiolab story I listened to some years ago about these truly insane people who participate in a bike race across the US, and who have to duct tape their heads up so they can continue to see the road in front of them), and I was tired after, but I still felt pretty damned good.

Today, I did a test run to work and back. There's a short(er) way -- about 5 miles -- from my house to my job in Boston that's through the middle of Cambridge, or there's a long(er) way -- about 6.5 miles -- largely on a bike trail along the Charles River. I picked the longer way, and it was a lovely ride. I was worried that I'd feel about this ride the way I do when I start the Minuteman trail -- the first 5 miles are rough, with my muscles complaining and my mental state being all what the fuck is this -- and on the way to work, by the time I got past that feeling, I'd be there.

It wasn't like that this time, though. Maybe because my muscles were already loosened up from yesterday's ride (only going out once a week or so isn't enough). Maybe because I knew that I could just take it slow and not push myself today. Maybe because it was a route I'd never taken before, so the novelty of it tricked me into enjoying it. It was fantastic, though, and I can make it to work by bike in less time than it takes me on the subway, and if these endorphins keep flowing into my brain, everyone will be happier for it.

Me with new bike, reflected in the glass of my building, after getting to Chinatown this morning

A few things: First, I really wish that walkers, runners, and roller bladers had some consciousness of the world around them. I had to slam on brakes to keep from running over a man who was walking backwards across the trail while talking to someone and not at all looking where he was going. I also had a roller blader almost kick me with his skate even after I'd called out that I was on his left. Second, biking equipment makes more sense to me now. Cycling shorts and jerseys are amazingly comfortable. Who knew? They had the somewhat surprising side effect of having other people (cars, pedestrians who were paying attention, and other cyclists) take me more seriously. And SPD pedals and cleats? I kind of understood the theory of them -- you're more efficient when your feet are stuck to the pedals in some way. But until I started using them regularly, I didn't understand just quite how miraculous they are.

Now I just need to get myself to the eye doctor so I can get some sunglasses and some new regular glasses that don't fall down my face when I sweat.

So, yeah. Happy with the purchase. I'm planning to bike to work tomorrow and Tuesday, and then I'll have (I hope) a few days off. A few days out of the office, at least, and I'll put some more miles on it then, too. And maybe I'll even have the mental space to get some work done on my book while I'm at it.

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Happy (early) birthday to me | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Welcome to the biker club of husi. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 03:27:36 PM EST
Good exercise is, for me, the best meditation.

I bet most of the unaware walkers,skaters, and other riders, are wearing earbuds for their ithingies.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Probably 2/3 of them, yes. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:28:48 PM EST
The other third were in apparently life-or-death conversation with their walking/running/rollerblading friend that they couldn't hear me calling out. That was the situation with the guy walking in front of me (backwards).
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Well by Herring (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 06:35:44 PM EST
Cycling shorts and jerseys are amazingly comfortable. Who knew?

We don't wear them just for the look.

Recently I've found it harder and harder to drag myself out on the bike but when I do I always think "Damn, this is fantastic!". I really need to start ramping up my mileage again and enter a few TTs.

Actually TTs don't feel that fantastic - there's that sensation of "FUUUUUCK .... HUUUURTSSSSS" and wondering why you don't just stop but the endorphin buzz afterwards is as good as any drug I've tried. Except maybe morphine.

Good luck with the biking to work. I need to start doing that again.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

40K TT was a world of hurt by miker2 (4.00 / 2) #4 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:09:38 AM EST
over an hour of lungs and legs burning and drooling all over myself because I couldn't even muster enough air to swallow. 

Ah, sociopathy. How warm, how comforting, thy sweet embrace. - MNS
[ Parent ]
This description... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:24:27 AM EST
makes me think you TT people are even more insane than I already did. I don't think it's something I'll be trying, like, ever. I do see Herring's point about it feeling really good when it's over, though.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
TT tips by Herring (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 11:24:30 AM EST
If your legs hurt, change down. If your lungs hurt, change up. If your legs and lungs hurt, carry on.

40k is close to 25 miles which is a nice distance. I find 10s to short and all eyeballs-out.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
that's how I always feel during races by garlic (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 12:05:38 PM EST
"why the fuck did I sign up to do this?" but then afterwards that mostly fades. mostly.

[ Parent ]
wavy arms by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:19:28 AM EST

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Whoot!! by FlightTest (4.00 / 1) #7 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 11:08:34 AM EST
Nice bike.  I definitely know the feeling of  "I felt like I could just keep pedaling forever."  And yes, do try to find a local recreational bike club, it makes a huge difference.  

Welcome to the club!! 

when I was in yellowstone and utah last week by garlic (4.00 / 1) #10 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 12:08:20 PM EST
I was very impressed with the bikers we saw on the road. In yellowstone, they had front and back paniers, and were bike camping. Yellowstone is gigantic and hilly, and the main loop road is something like 40 miles of hills from one main point to the next. In Utah, the hills were very big, and their were bikers going up all of them.

sunglasses by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 01:32:54 PM EST
Suck it up and buy the Oakley ones.  We finally did (Oakley prescription sunglasses) and OMG it makes an insane difference!  My glasses stay on my face no matter how hot and sweaty I get (which is pretty sweaty).  They don't slide off my nose, either.  WHy didn't I get a pair sooner!!

clock feels the same way about his.

From the brief period of time... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 01:36:27 PM EST
I wore contacts, I have a pair of non-prescription Oakleys. Best. Sunglasses. Ever. I kind of wondered if I could get prescription lenses for those, or if I'm going to have to buy a new pair of frames. Regardless, I wholeheartedly agree. Now I just have to find an eye doctor and make an appointment...
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Awesomesauce. by littlestar (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 11:07:14 AM EST
You look very cute in your little  biker outfit. :)  

Thank you! by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #14 Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 11:37:23 AM EST
The biking has been a lot of fun so far, though after two days of commuting to work this week, my quads and glutes are tired...
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Happy (early) birthday to me | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback