500 kilometers, festively.

For years, I commuted by bike. This year, I became a cyclist. “But,” you might argue, and rightfully so, “those are the same things.” And they are, except for the being a different person part.

It is the night before Christmas, and this seems both instinctive and foolish, but then again so does almost everything else, so it’s fine. I don’t have specific expectations of finishing this.

What’s all this, then? Well, recently I lightheartedly and not at all seriously but also not kiddingly, committed myself to these three crazy-ish challenges this month: ride a metric century (100km), ride 1,250km during the whole month, and ride 500km in the eight days between December 24th and midnight, December 31st.

Three hundred miles in eight days (while working full-time) is only slightly beyond anything I’ve ever done before, at any age let alone at fifty-five. I feel I need to kick it off with some force, but not so much that I screw up at work. My plan then, is to be out the door at dawn (7am-ish) and on the path to Ojai for a quick round trip, then stop at home to rotate layers before continuing on to work … but not directly. I’ll go to the current place via some of the other places it used to be — go down past the last place, then all the way down to the place before that, then arrive at work refreshed from a bracing 48 miles. Refreshed, I tell you. And I definitely won’t walk around whimpering softly for the first hour or so.

If I follow the course set out above, I’ll arrive home at around 59 miles for the day. Since that’s so close to an even 100km, I’ll do a lap or two up and down a smooth, quiet, well-lit street to finish it off.

Oh and then after that, three more metric centuries in the next three days. I’ve even fantasized about riding my first actual century on Christmas day, but I’m not sure if that’s a constructive visualization or more of a feckless delusion. In the fantasy, I do the necessary sixty-something miles and feel fine so I keep on keeping on. After that, I imagine casually mentioning it to everyone I’ve ever known even slightly, no matter how awkward it is to work it into the conversation.

It’s a neat fantasy.

Day One

I set three alarms. For Friday.

It’s Thursday.

I woke up half an hour after I should have been out the door.

I littered the house with discarded potential outfits as I second-guessed the one I’d chosen the previous evening. I was nearly two hours behind schedule when I left.

I managed ten stressy miles in the opposite direction of work that I was already late for before I turned around. I stopped at home to regroup, then neglected to un-pause my Garmin when I left and lost a good five miles. By the time I arrived at work, hours late, I was already behind my planned mileage by half.

At this writing, it is half past eight PM and I still have twenty four miles to go. That’s twelve laps up and down the smooth, quiet, well-lit street, in the frost-warning cold and the small-craft-advisory winds. I am either preparing or procrastinating, eating malt-o-meal and drinking hard root beer. To motivate myself, I try to imagine that feeling when I finally upload my miles, but my imagination seems stuck on the fact I’m still just standing here typing this and refuses to cooperate. And at this writing, it is just past nine.

If I’d known about that Dash QOM I’d have definitely tried a little harder one time. But live segments get SO disheartening after enough exhausting laps at the end of a long day.

I stood (almost) shivering in the carport for quite some time, debating giving up before the 100 was done. I shouldn’t be this bitterly disappointed missing the day’s goal by less than six kilometers. But I am.

I titled the ride a little differently on Garmin Connect (where I have not done any connecting with anyone & only use it to send shit to Strava):

Me in private vs. me in “public”

Day Two

Perhaps the single biggest obstacle between me and the kind of distances I want to ride is my inability to get up in the morning.

So, I rolled out of the house at around noon instead of the intended early start, and it is now half past four and I haven’t even gone 50 miles yet. I decided to do Ojai, did the whole bike path this time. Probably should have turned around and headed back to flat ground to finish the day but no. No, I headed for the hills, and a strenuous exercise in humility as I gave up almost immediately and spent the entirety of the climb grimly pushing my bike up the gentle slopes. Worst part? Real cyclists riding past, asking if I was ok, then easily resuming their ascent after I assured them I was just having a little walk.

At the Ojai Valley sign, I stopped to take a break from all that embarrassing bike-pushing, and took a picture to post on Strava as if it was some sort of accomplishment, even though it clearly wasn’t. There was a couple having a fight, which I pretended my headphones prevented me from overhearing. They were at that time arguing about whether to go home and argue some more or continue arguing here or perhaps one of them should just leave the other one stranded, I think. I figured I should try to distract them so they would stop having a shitty Christmas, so I stood up, plucked one earbud out and asked if they knew how much further the road went up. It was a decent distraction, they both stopped and thought about it and concluded we were about 3/4 of the way. I squeaked with dismay at this alarming news, which I guess was an odd response as they both looked a little puzzled. “Turns out I absolutely suck at riding a bicycle up a hill,” I said by way of explanation as I climbed back on and wobbled off, hopefully leaving them feeling a little better about their situation. Sure they were arguing on Christmas, but at least they weren’t old and feeble and failing at a thing they identify themselves as on Christmas. Perspective, man.

I’m going to go lay down until I get warm and then I’m going to get back up and go do laps. Twelve is a number that comes to mind, probably because it’s well beyond what is reasonable to expect from myself.

I have issues.

9:15 PM

What if I just post my miserable disappointing forty-whatever mile ride and call it a day? What if I had a bath and a good night’s rest. What if I just continue to stand here shivering, basking in the stink of failure.

Eight laps. Not even going to berate myself about it, was a decent effort.

Day Three

2:25 PM

If the biggest obstacle between me and the kind of distances I want to ride is my inability to get up in the morning, the second biggest is being a disorganized mess. Spent hours frantically searching for paycheck and ATM card, phone was at 15%, one taillight out of batteries. Also, there’s a fire up the coast.

So I have approximately three hours to ride circles around Oxnard, then laps again I suppose. Oh but phone wasn’t on quick charger, light batteries still showing red. Say two point five hours then.

The Festive 500 is supposed to be an adventure, but not like this. Cyclist vs. inclement weather, cyclist vs. holiday craziness, yes. Cyclist vs. her own neurotic nonsense, not so much.

Say two hours then. I’ll leave at 3.

9:50 PM

40 miles, my feet were never warm and by the time I got home they were a ghostly purple. Possibly affected by the bands at the bottom of the cycling shorts I was wearing under the tights? No extra socks, couldn’t feel feet. Only brought sunglasses, it got dark. Had two 24-ounce bottles with fluids, was still thirsty.

It’s been nearly four hours and my feet just now stopped being hurting cold, in spite of using the hairdryer on them and putting on fluffy socks and calf-high shearling-lined boots and laying down with blankets. Was able to eat some rice my son made for me, and finally get up out of bed. I need to admit I’m just a little bit broken right now, and resume tomorrow.

On the bright side, the loop I did today looped right past my work, meaning I have now discovered an excellent way to add an extra 20 miles in the mornings, all quiet rural roads with broad shoulders. I will need this next week since I will fail to do the four metrics I set out to this weekend.

Ten laps would only take a little more than an hour. Why can’t I harden the fuck up and go out there and do what I said I would?

I should be hungry. I am the opposite. I have to force some cheese and crackers down and a protein drink so my body doesn’t decide to eat itself alive, muscles first. I still harbor fantasies about pulling off a good long impressive ride. Whether I will do that is less about my physical ability and more about whether I can get laundry done early in the morning and get out the door before it’s time to get back home already.

Day Four

9:07 AM

The clothes are in the dryer, the phone is on the fast charger, the protein drink and the spare water bottle are chilling in the freezer. OK so far!

4:35 PM

Day Five

10:00 PM

Was going to call it a recovery day, with just the commute(s). Why was I going to do that? There are only three more days, this is no time for rest.

Laps, then, and plenty of them.

79 km to go. Could finish it tomorrow if I wasn’t awake now at 1:47 AM.

Day Six

Was yesterday. I rode to work, and rode home.

Day Seven

If I feel this horrible, is 210 miles/week really a good goal to set against myself this coming year? I wonder this as I argue both sides: