Sunday, July 17, 2005

Botanical Gardens Ride; A fork in the road

Hui Hwa and I decided to ride to the Botanical Gardens on Sunday. Round trip it is only about 50 miles, so I didn't consider it a long ride. I didn't wear my cycling gloves or clipless shoes since it was just a short ride. I also wasn't as concientious about sunscreen as I should be. I was hoping to even out some of my weird biking tan lines (for the wedding in two weeks)--and did a little too good of a job. Before the ride my backed looked like an ice cream sunday--the caramel of my upper back atop the smooth vanilla ice cream of my lower back: the result of biking in tanktops and sundresses. I wore a backless top, exposing this vanilla skin to the first rays of sun this summer. Now I am a strawberry ice cream/caramel sunday.

As we rode back from the gardens, I remembered doing this same ride with Hui Hwa back in November. At that point, I believe it was the longest single-day ride of my life, and I was slightly nervous about it. After completing the ride in November, I was super-happy, and decided that I wanted to spend more of my weekends taking long rides, because I felt so good and healthy afterwards. I had been hearing about Hui Hwa and John's bikepacking trips for a while and the ride to the Gardens convinced me that this was how I wanted my weekends to be: outdoors and active.

Earlier that week my boyfriend dumped me and I spent time evaluating that relationship and how it affected me. I realized that I gave up too much when we dated. He was very lazy and much of our time with him was spent lazing around his condo. Basically I conformed to his lazy lifestyle. [I did require that he buy and ride a bike in order to date me, and I believe he still bikes to work daily--so he did become less lazy, too.] I knew damn well that even though I had been considering going on this ride to the Gardens, I would not have done it if he and I were still dating. So besides planning to take long rides in the summer, I also vowed "no more lazy boyfriends!" I didn't want to get sucked into another indoor, TV-watching, lazy relationship with a couch potato again.

At the time of this November ride, I was also getting really nervous about my first BikeWinter commuting experience. I hoped, but doubted, that I would be able to bike commute all winter long. Most winter bike commuters take a few years to bike year round by slowly developing their stamina and tolerance for the cold.
How odd to remember all of this. I feel I've done a good job living up to these goals. I'm not sure, but I think since the middle of May, every weekend but one has included a 50-100 mile ride. The 100 mile days take up time, but I feel fine doing them and have no doubts that I will finish. (Chicagoland is flat--hilly terrain would of course be more challenging). My endurance and milage have increased dramatically since November. I biked to work every day in winter--cold, snow, sleet--I just kept pedalling. I also knocked out my first two centuries in the cold in a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday. A month later I moved my apartment, alone, by bicycle. The two boys I have dated since then are bikers--and dates have involved fast bike rides.

So while it seems funny to have once been slightly concerned about a 50 mile ride, I am pretty proud of sticking with my plans. That weekend was a turning point in my life because I conciously determined what path would make me happy and simply pointed my handlebars in that direction and kept pedalling. I should try this in more areas of my life.

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