As I write this, I’m 65. As with most 65-year-olds, my skin has cracked and sagged over the years, my hair has bleached itself gay, my belly hangs out over my belt. And so on. You get the picture.
A couple of years ago, though, I pulled my old commuter bicycle out of storage, and started riding, with a plan to enter the El Tour de Tucson road race. I wasn’t thinking about “getting in shape.” More simply, and less ambitiously, it’s just that my brother, who is in shape, wanted to come to Arizona to ride the race, and suggested I give it a shot. 107 miles. I like challenges, and if it didn’t work out, I could take him out for a nice dinner when he came for the race.
I had six months to get ready. My first few rides were five miles long. Emphasis on long. My legs ached and my lungs burned. I stuck with it because (once my lungs stopped burning) I liked it. It wasn’t at all like working out. It was more like getting out. Out of the house, out of the office. Out of the routine, out of my own head, out of all the other busyness of life, work, other people.
I’m a guy (one of millions) who’s never stayed with an exercise program longer than three or four months. I’ve always started and stopped, started and stopped. But nearly two years after that first five mile ride, I’m still at it. Yesterday, I completed a 72 mile race that included a climb up through a mountain pass. My shortest race so far has been 53 miles. I’ve done the annual El Tour de Tucson twice. Not that I’m fast, you understand. I have no illusions that I’ll ever win, even in my age group–some of the codgers in these races are astonishingly fast. Fine. I tell everyone that my goal is always to finish in front of whoever is last. So far, so good. And so far, as well, my belly hangs a little less than it did. I can climb stairs again, even two at a time. I’m overweight, but no longer even close to obese.
Still, it’s not about the racing, for me. Having an event to work toward is simply a way to focus on the riding, and the event itself feels like my reward. It’s not about the competition, though I enjoy competition. It’s not about “getting in shape,” or looking better, or being healthy. All these benefits are great, but they didn’t motivate me before (or not enough to get me in gear), and they don’t motivate me now (or not enough to keep me going). No, the riding is about something else, something that is harder to express, something deeper.
That’s why I’d like to do this blog. To explore that something.
So, clip in, and join me.