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Monday, November 22, 2010

MIDDLE-AGE TREAD

So there's this group of friends of mine who were really close for many years but we've since been scattered to the four winds and haven't gotten together in a long time. We used to get together once a year, but eventually everyone got married and had kids and got real jobs with limited vacation time and it all just sort of broke down. So what are a bunch of 40-somethings, some of who are growing a bit thick in the middle, supposed to do?

A during the Labor Day break, two members of the old posse were sitting around mulling over just this problem when they hit on the idea of a long-distance bicycle ride down the Pacific Coast... or at least part of it. This idea turned out to be a stroke of genius for a few reasons.

First, it combined the notion of fitness with hanging out with friends. Second, it was immediately titled the "Mid-Life Crisis Bike Trip." This meant most of us were given immediate sign-off on the project by our significant-others. After all, who wants to say no to fitness? And the "mid-life crisis" label subtly implies that the alternative to this trip is buying a sports car and having an affair. By comparison, a bike trip with some friends is nothing.

Now we're deep in the planning phase, with routes being mapped out and people looking at new bikes and Lycra shorts being eyed suspiciously in the store. And I must say, I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. Before I got a driver's licence, I rode a lot. When I was 14, I even bicycled from Rochester to Niagara Falls, Canada with another 14-year-old friend (I've no idea how I got permission to do such a thing).

I've started training and it's become quite apparent I'm not 14, or 24, or even 34. During my epic teenage ride, I literally hopped onto a bike and rode it to Canada. No training. Not even any stretching was required. I think I wore a pair of jeans. Now it's more complicated. Arms and legs actually get sore and various important bodily regions can become numb if you sit the wrong way. I also get tired and thirsty sometimes after a ride. I don't ever remember feeling that when I was 14.

Bikes have gotten more complicated, too. The last time I really looked for a bike was in 1998. I've tuned up that bike and am riding it now to get back into shape. But I think I may need something a little better suited for the job, and there are a mind-numbing number of options and geometry and carbon forks and computerized shifting and other things like SRAM that I don't even know what they are but everybody seems to think you need.

Plenty of time to work that out, I guess. The important thing is that I get my lard-ass on a bike and start riding more. I'll need to be in much better shape if I'm going to pull this off. Mentally, too. The thing that perhaps frightens me most about this project is the prospect of being alone with my thoughts for 8 hours every day for an entire week. I actually don't like that. It's kind of like meditation, and that just drags ugly sludge up from the recesses of your mind.

My early test rides have gone better than I would have imagined, after having two blowouts on my first two attempts. I actually did a 20 mile ride in about 90 minutes and felt pretty good when it was over. So there may be hope for me yet. I'll keep you posted as the planning and training progresses.

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