Valencia, 40 Miles, and A Summer Goal

If it sounds as if I’ve been talking a bit too much about biking this summer, it isn’t because I’m riding for a professional team or anything. As the summer has going on, I’ve had a rekindling of my passions towards riding. And with a goal to ride from one end of Charlotte to the other, I knew that eventually, pieces of my life would change to appreciate a lot more about life in between those two wheels.

This past Saturday, I met my goal.

A Bit of Back Story
A few years ago, while still quite getting my ways about me here, I entered the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course that my (then) church was offering. Finally listening to my parent’s wisdom about finances, I got some help, and that program – and the folks that I completed it with – helped a bro out in terms of getting on track financially. An outgrowth of this was the setting of a goal towards purchasing a new bicycle.

May of last year I purchased that bike – the Trek Valencia (if you are getting a ‘page not found’ it would because this model is discontinued for 2011, confirmed via Twitter) – a hybrid bicycle in their Urban series. I purchased it first as a means of correcting physical issues relating to a bicycle that I own, but has too small a frame. Secondly, I wanted to become more of a bicycle commuter (at the time, my daily commute was 16mi per day). I never got to the point of communiting very often, but I did ride to my heart’s content.

When late Winter rolled around this year, I made a goal to ride to a friend’s residence on the other side of Charlotte. By car, this was something that would take me about 20-25 minutes depending on traffic. And usually, I’d need the grace of lights, or no traffic on the highway route. By bicycle, I’d need a lot more time, and build up a lot more physical strength.

The Plan
As the weather got warmer, I began a routine of riding three to four days per week. Most days, my riding wouldn’t go over 10mi. But, one day, I’d just ride. It would be something crazy like riding from downtown Matthews to downtown Charlotte and back (20-25mi), or doing a long biking trip where I’d get lost in areas around Charlotte that it is usually a lot harder to stop and see the beautiful houses.

Upon leaving my last job to do MMM full-time, I increased my riding moments to making sure that I got on the bike at least five days a week. I also made notes to ride to the coffeeshop’s in the area (there are a number of them within a 4mi radius). It helped also that I signed the petition at People for Bikes – pretty much making it plain that I would do shorter trips by bike more often.

So, I rode a lot. I got to know the guys at the bike shop that I purchased my bike from – and even a bit on how to care for my bike (since I’ve forgotten the basics). I even did a Sunday ride. 30 miles. Dang near killed myself keeping up with them (and fell behind big time 2/3way through). But, I learned something, I could do this.

A Thought Delayed
A few weeks this summer, I thought that I’d be ready to do that ride. But, something always came up. Either I was booked for something, it would rain, or I’d simply physically be too tired.

There was one Saturday a few weeks ago where I felt it earlier in the week that I’d be good. And so I did a few distance rides and got ready – only to have a few events and meeting come up. I needed to wait.

This past week, it was almost as if I knew that I was running out of time and it had to be soon. The goal was to do it before the summer was out, and Labor Day is that “unofficial end of Summer” so I needed to get a move on. I went to the beach last Sunday, and in coming back, I knew that unless the weather got in the way, I’d be doing it this weekend.

Prep, Rest, Ride
I prepared for the ride as I would normally ride during the week. I took Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as riding days to the coffeeshop. I made sure that I’d do the ride home at a faster pace as I needed to keep my fast-twitch muscles ready to go.

Thursday or Friday would be the distance day. I would need to do 20-25miles, and then rest if I were going to be fresh enough for the ride. Thursday was the day, I did a loop through nearly all of East Charlotte, non-stop. After coming home on Thursday, I knew that I was ready.

Thursday also highlighted something that I would need to be more aware of, road conditions. It wasn’t the weather, but literally the debris on the road that would be a problem. Already this week I had replaced the rear inner tube. And how on Thursday, I needed to replace the front. I couldn’t have any issues going into this ride, and I hoped that a misplace piece of metal on the road wouldn’t detour this moment.

Friday became a rest day from riding. I loaded up on liquids and fuel. I did some stretching and massaging of joints. And I mentally got set. Saturday would be it.

Saturday. I awoke and made final checks to my bike and materials. I would travel light – CamelBack and waterbottle, wallet, mobile and wireless headset. I dressed for a fall with thick shorts and my “Horsepower” shirt. I was ready.

I left my place and 86min later was on the other side of Charlotte. I road this first stretch from the SE corner of Charlotte to the NW corner, riding through downtown Charlotte in the process. I kept a slow pace (avg speed about 14mph). I wasn’t trying to kill myself, but defintely felt stronger once I made it past a previous distance milestone. All was well, and I pulled up to my friend’s place at noon – her daughter looking funnily at me because she never saw me ride my bike before.

30min after I got there, I got back on my bike to go home. I knew from the granola bars and Gatorade that I had that I could afford to push the pace a bit. And after some deliberation, I took a slightly alternate route. I needed to make sure that I stayed moving, and going completly into downtown didn’t afford that.

With 20mi of me leaving there I was in the Plaza Midwood section of the city. I had not expected to be riding downhill, but it surely helped the pace a ton. The temperature was about 86F with a nice breeze and so it felt as if I could keep my speed for a long time. I needed to be wise though, the second leg had me to go to Matthews for the Matthew’s Alive Festival – my friend whom I visited had family at a booth there, and it was only right that I’d say hi.

I arrived there, and in about 20-30min too my leave. Both leg were just under 20miles in distance. I had about five miles until I would get home, and then I could rest and refuel.

I entered my home with the Sports Tracker application on my mobile detailing the stats:
– 42.95 miles ridden
– Time: 2:56:59
– Avg Speed: 14.6mph
– Max Speed: 32.3mph

I sat on the floor of my apartment, looking at those numbers in awe. No, I had not done it all at once. Nor had I did something that many others don’t do on a regular weekend here (seriously, there are a ton of bicyclists here). I did what it was that I had set out to do, and broke my own perceptions of what’s possible in this body.

The After Effects
I’ve spent the past day and a half thinking about that ride. Mending my body (nothing broken, just preventive massaging and stretching) and debating my position on a number of things in my life.

There’s a lot that we set before ourselves that seems hard, and even impossible if looking at the environment. For me, Charlotte isn’t the best of riding cities. People, road conditions, and even my own attitude are just some of the many elements that work against riding. I even had the moment during my ride where two miles into it I forgot my water bottle – turned around to get it and debated if it was a good day. Sometimes, life just seems a good bit hard.

But, we make goals. Goals which at some points seem attainable, and at others seem impossible. But, we have a decision. We can break off making those goals a bit at a time. Or, we can let life pass us by, with others making and attaining goals of their own.

I saw parts of Charlotte that I had not seen before. Not because I’d not been on those roads, but because I moved too fast. I needed to be at 14.6mph to see the impact the economy has had on businesses here, to see the people who survived a car accident, to see the men/women living and dying here. I needed to see myself be patient with me – not try and break off the ride as fast as possible, but take each step carefully and become a better person not because I think I’m able, but because I’m built for certain tasks.

I needed to know that it was possible that Charlotte could become a biking town. That some roads were just a simple street cleaning or repaving away from being Charlotte’s green cred card.

I need to know that even biking for some people won’t alleveate the issues around how this city is designed. There aren’t enough livable communites here yet for biking to work all over. Cars are needed for now, but they aren’t always going to be the only option.

And Now, I Rest
Tomorrow is Labor Day. We celebrate those who worked to bring forth this country. Those whose labor was hard, and many times was only seen through the lens of “make enough to eat today.” I rode on the wheels designed by the decendents of those laborers, the hands of those laborers. And like them, I see the place for work, and the place for rest.

I made my goal. I met it. And on the way learned something new about myself. Now, I’ll rest until the next goal is to be met.