8.14.2008

Olympic dreams? Special Olympics, maybe.

Maybe it had something to do with the Olympics, watching those athletes perform physical feats. I was inspired. And I was crazy. 

I had a brilliant idea. Riding my bike to work would save gas, the planet, and my ass. Actually, the hope is that it would help me lose my ass. Or at least the part of it that is fat. And losing my fat ass (and any other fat that has accumulated on my body) would make me healthier, thus saving my self. 

I've been working toward this for months. I've gone through every excuse in the book:
  • My bike is old. So I had it tuned up and checked over, and after some new tires, it was given a clean bill of health. 
  • The seat was too low. So I raised it. 
  • I needed a way to carry my stuff to work. So I bought a rack that goes over the rear wheel. 
  • I didn't know where I could store my bike at work. So I asked, and I found out there's a bike rack at the other entrance. 
  • I didn't have a lock. So I bought one. 
  • I didn't know which route to take. So I tried a few routes with the car and figured out the shortest one (about 3.5 miles, in case you're wondering). 
But every morning, I found reasons why I couldn't ride my bike that day. I got up too late, I'd tell myself. I have a lot to carry today. It might rain. It's supposed to be 80+ degrees this afternoon.

And then it occurred to me: I wasn't going to do it unless I just did it. If I continued to wait for the perfect conditions, I would never do it. 

So, yesterday, I decided to do it. Maybe. I almost talked myself out of it. I checked the weather forecast and saw that there was a 30% chance of rain and it was supposed to be hotter today than Tuesday. I thought maybe I'd wait until Friday. It's supposed to be cooler and dry. Yes, definitely on Friday.

By the time I finished my cereal, the little Nike ad in my head was telling me: just do it. 

When I left the house, I had an out-of-body experience. No, I didn't trade my body for the sleek, sweaty-but-sexy beanpoles from the athletic shoe ads. I wish. But I did feel like I was watching a completely separate person. I didn't really believe she was going to get on her bike and ride away. And even then, I had my doubts. She'll turn around. I know she will. She'll come to her freakin' senses. Was she crazy? Was she really going to ride her bike all the way to work? 

Then, before I knew it, I was past the point of no return.

It wasn't pretty, let me tell you. What they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike is true. But that doesn't guarantee you'll be very graceful at it. I've added a lot of extra weight since the last time I rode a bike. And I've lost a lot of flexibility too. Note to self: next time, buy a women's bike. Back when I bought this bike 15 years ago, it wasn't so hard getting on a men's bike. Now, I have to lean it down as far as I can and try to swing my leg up and over the back tire and the seat. You should see me attempting this feat. Sometimes I lose my balance and do a sideways hop to get out of the way as the bike crashes to the ground. 

On second thought, no you shouldn't see me. Because if I knew anyone was watching, especially just for the sake of amusement, I'd never ride again. 

So anyway, after several attempts, I finally mounted my bike (that sounds dirty, doesn't it? it isn't. get your minds out of the gutter!). It took several more attempts to actually propel myself in a forward motion without tipping over. Once I got going, though, I felt a little smug. Okay, a lot smug. "Look at me!" I thought. "I'm so healthy! In your face, car-drivers! You overpriced-gas-buying, pollution-spreading fat asses!" (I could say things like that because I was on a bike and therefore not a fat ass. Plus, it was in my head, so nobody heard me.) 

Then I reached the bridge. Did you know there's a hill there? A mammoth hill. Think: mountain. I didn't know that. It caught me off-guard. By the time I reached Mankato city limits, I was panting. Not a good sign. At least it would be flat the rest of the way. Not. There was another mammoth hill just before Madison Avenue. Funny, I never noticed that before. I tried climbing it, but I'm no Lance Armstrong. I finally got off the bike to walk.

The bike dismount is just as painful and comedic as getting on the bike. It's the same routine, just in reverse. I hoped to God nobody was watching.

So I walked the bike across busy Madison Ave, and I couldn't bring myself to get back on. I was dying. I was sweaty. I was panting. My legs felt like a strange combination of Jell-o and lead weights. I weighed my options. Maybe I could call Troy and have him pick me up and bring me to work. But he'd probably mistake my heavy breathing for a prank call and hang up. (At least, I hope he'd hang up! I don't want my hubby taking sex calls from random women.) So I slowly pushed my bike forward. 

By this time, I was no longer feeling very self-righteous. All those in-your-face thoughts vanished. Instead, the only thing running through my head was, "Never again. Never again. Never again."

I rode/walked my bike to the last great hurdle: Good Counsel Hill. Unlike Bridge Mountain and Madison Ave. Peak, I knew about this hill. And I had no intention of biking up to the top. I had planned all along to push my bike up the "old hill," the road on the other side of the hill that has been closed to traffic for years, far away from the main road where my coworkers could drive past and laugh at my sorry ass trying to get up the hill. But I hadn't counted on being out of breath and dying before I even set foot on the hill. 

So I started up. Really slowly. Seriously slowly. And I stopped to catch my breath. A lot. I started counting the steps. Seventy-five more steps, then I'll stop. OK, now 50 steps. Then 25. Then 12. And with each step, I chanted, "One less step. One less step." 

Kyle's been watching the Little Engine that Could a lot lately, so of course I got that annoying song stuck in my head--"There's no mountain that we can't climb. There's no tomorrow that we can't make it over..." Or something like that.

During one of my many breaks, I did consciously stop to take a look around me. The trees and bushes were a million shades of green. Sunlight beamed through the early morning mist. Birds sang. Everything smelled fresh and alive. 

Except for me. I smelled neither fresh nor alive.

Finally, 50 minutes after leaving home, I made it to my desk. I was sweaty, out-of-breath, and red-faced. But I was there. And I didn't get up again for at least another hour.

By quitting time, it looked like it was going to rain. So I had Troy come and pick me up.

Now here's the craziest part. After a few hours, I recovered. And I'm not sore today at all. (We'll see, though. Maybe it will hit me tomorrow.) And now I'm thinking maybe I will do it again. It can only get easier, right? That which doesn't kill us, yada yada yada, right? 

I do need to make a change in my life. If I want to be happier, healthier, and truly get the most out of this life I've been given, I need to do something drastic. Here's hoping this wasn't the last bike ride for me.

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