On Sunday I rode 50 miles on my bike. In the rain. Uphill. Both ways. And it felt great! 50 miles in under four hours of pedaling time is a new personal record. Of course, pretty much everything I do on a bike these days is a "new personal record" since I'm starting from scratch.
I've still got a long way to go until the NYC to D.C Climate Ride in September, but I've already reached the point where I'm no longer questioning if I can make it. I know I can do it as long as I keep on training....which I will.
I rode bikes as a kid, obviously, but that was a long time ago. And when you're eight or ten life is much easier and your body is both more resilient and unburdened by decades of beer and bacon.
My modern relationship with two-wheeled pedal power started about ten months ago when we moved from Phoenix to Rockville.
We rented a house about 1.5 miles from the metro and I knew I didn't want to bother driving and parking (and paying for parking) every day. We had some old and very seldom used bikes so I literally dusted one off, pumped the tires, exploded a tire from over-pumping, replaced the tire, and set off on my journey to become a bicycling commuter.
It's funny now, but those first few rides were really rough. There's a little hill between my house and the metro and it took the biggest gear and some high-RPM spinning to drag my butt over the "peak". I'd get to the station in the morning or back home in the evening and my legs were jello shots without the vodka fun.
After a few months of this, we sold one of our cars and I upgraded my 50-pound old mountain hog to a fancy Trek FX 7.2 hybrid. I got a locker (really a small shed) at the metro to secure my bike from weather and miscreants and purchased all sorts of strange clothing items like "gloves" and "hats" that were never seen or sold back in Arizona.
I heard about the WABA Bike to Work Day in May and I made it my goal to participate. I wasn't exactly sure how I'd go from 3 miles a day to a 40-mile round trip so I did a couple of "test" rides on the weekend. Five miles first and then a few weeks later, ten miles around the Millennium Trail.
Still, there's a big difference between 10 miles around a trail to 40 miles on unfamiliar routes through a major urban area. So, I cheated a bit and took the metro to Bethesda and hooked up with a "convoy" of folks and rode the Capital Crescent Trail for the first time.
It went well, especially riding in since it's mostly downhill the entire way, but boy was I exhausted when I got back to Bethesda in the evening since it's uphill mostly the entire way. But that ride gave me confidence in my ability to ride long distances and the relative practicality of commuting the full way.
That was May 17, just over a month ago.
Since then, I've riden the full 40-mile round trip five times. I bought some paniers and a rack and I take advantage of the shower we have at the office. The first time I did the trip, May 29, it took me an 1hr 40min coming in and 2hr 10min coming home. I "bonked". I read about "bonking" and tweaked some things and on my most recent commute (the second in two days on June 18), I had cut 20 minutes off my in-bound ride and 40 minutes off that first return leg.
That brings us to Sunday's ride. I wanted to keep pushing myself so I set out to ride 40 miles non-stop. I ended up riding 50 thanks to a few wrong turns, but it was glorious!
The unexpected rain had me soaked the entire time (and cost me a cell phone) but the temps were kept to about 70 degrees and the ride in to D.C. on the Rock Creek Trail was amazing. I carried my bike up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and sheltered under the overhang for a quick break. I rode home on the CCT and through the back roads of North Bethesda that have become part of the my weekly commute.
The best part: I felt great after the long ride. My legs were a bit tired but the rest of the day I had great energy. The morning after I felt strong and ready to go again.
I still have a long way to go to prepare for THE BIG RIDE in September, and I expect my progress to slow down as I continue to train. But I'm no longer wondering if I can ride the full 300-mile route. Now, I'm starting to think about how fast I can get through each of the five days. #HUBRIS
Oh, and that 1.5 miles from home to the metro? Now I make that ride in six minutes (including traffic lights) and barely break a sweat.
Here's some pics for ya.