Thursday, July 11, 2013

How/Why Did I Start Mountain Biking?

Morning weigh-in: 188.5, 12.5% BF
My right calf was really sore after Tuesday's run, so yesterday was a rest day: after work I got a little further along on that big program I was writing -- remember that? I almost forgot what it was I was doing -- then I took a nap, and then Anne and I installed the bedroom air conditioner -- the hot weather finally broke us, and last night was our best night's sleep in probably a month... This morning was a 4 mile run, and tonight I may do the towpath.
Here Is My Story: I saw several interesting questions recently on the Mountain Bike Review Forums, with some cool answers in reply, so I thought I'd play along here... The first two questions were: when and how did you get into mountain biking, and what was your first race?
I started bicycling in March of 1992. I'd been living in Easton for a bit over a year at that point, and working in my "career" job, my first job after college, since 1990. I'd never been active, and I became less so in college, and even less so after I moved out on my own and started working, but I never thought of myself as "out of shape," even when I was pretty much shaped like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Until one day...
I was on a site visit with my 65-year-old boss, out to a power plant that had just come offline a few days before, so it was still pretty warm. I had to climb inside some enclosed space to take some measurements, up and down ladders and through crawlspaces etc, and I was pretty hot and exhausted when I was done. I was sort of fantasizing that my boss would be waiting with a soda and a "good job" when I got out, but when I did get out I found that he'd been swinging around the furnace, hundreds of feet up, in a bosun's chair -- a job that was, if anything, more strenuous than anything I'd been doing. I realized then that it was me and not the activity, and my lack of fitness was actually becoming a threat to my health, to say nothing of being an impediment to my work.
So that's the set-up. While I was worrying about all that I noticed my upstairs neighbors going out on bike rides, and I asked them what it was all about. Steve and Jane were a few years older than me (we're talking 32 years old to my 28), and were somewhat like yuppie mentors, and it came out that they liked to ride the local bike paths on their hybrid bikes. They had an extra one, and one day they invited me on a ride... I remember it was probably early March, I was wearing jeans and we rode out to the locktender's house on the north side of the Lehigh bike paths, and I remember keeping up, and even sort of sprinting on the small hills back up to Southside, and I thought "This is fun! I can do this!"
I borrowed that bike a few more times, then I decided that I needed my own bike, so I went to Genesis, the main bike store in Easton. Steve and Jane told me to get a hybrid, since you really didn't need more than that to ride the bike paths, but while I was in the store I started looking at the "real" mountain bikes, and how they seemed so much more sturdy and well made than the hybrids, and I finally settled on my first bike, a 1992 Giant Iguana, which I still have, and which I rode just this Sunday.
That spring and summer I rode and rode and rode, starting with Steve and Jane but eventually farther afield and without them, on all the bike paths near Easton, and along the Delaware Towpath to Reigelsville, and the Lehigh Towpath to just before Freemansburg -- the Lehigh Towpath was a very different thing back then, being mostly what I later learned was called "singletrack," and it was probably a good thing I had a real mountain bike. In the early spring I found out about the migrating Canada geese (and I still remember a dream I had -- in color -- involving the geese), and I saw more and more of the slow unfolding of the natural world all around me as I rode.
I lost 30 pounds that summer: I went from 185 pounds to 155, it completely changed the way I looked, and after that I was hooked.
Next up: my first mountain bike race.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Monthly Diary Entry Sez

Morning weigh-in: 189#, 12.5% BF
The weigh-ins are back, at least for as long as there's good news...
Did a short ride last night, about 15 miles on the towpath (to the new boat launch and back), didn't go nuts with dinner, and did a three mile run this morning. There may be some suppression weight loss in there, but it's better than the opposite -- like Sunday morning, after our party and a weekend of chores instead of exercise, when the scale said I was 192 pounds.
Party: Yes we had our "wedding party" this past Saturday, mostly in the afternoon though I don't think the last guests left until after midnight. We spent Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday morning getting ready -- this included gardening, mowing and straightening up the house, hitting the Allentown Farmer's Market for meat on Friday, getting more wood for the oven, firing it up Friday evening, and getting up before dawn on Saturday to get a huge amount of ribs, pork shanks and brisket slow-cooking for later. We also had a keg of homebrew, a case each of cider and blueberry ale, the fixings for mint juleps and gin-and-tonics, and the usual soft drinks plus well over 200 pounds of ice. Add 60 guests or so, stir, and it was quite a bash.
Training: Needless to say, in all this prep-and-party, and also with all the brutally hot weather we've had, last week was a bit light on the exercise, but otherwise the training is going well: we're up to Week 4 of a 12-week training regimen to prepare for the VIA Half Marathon, and I think I'm starting to see results: last night I was riding faster than usual, with less percieved effort, and this morning's run was a bit faster than other recent runs. (I'm not worried about speed, as long as walkers don't pass me in the half-marathon I'll be fine. My big goal is to have the endurance I'll need -- I've ridden hard for 15 hours straight, but this race is triple my longest run.) Anyway, tonight is probably another towpath ride if the thunderstorms hold off.