Don's biking blog - Introduction
Don’s Bike Blog: May 31, 2006
How exactly, does one decide to cycle across the country? I certainly cannot speak for others, but for me it evolved over time, so slowly that it seems as if I never actually decided to do it. What at one time seemed nothing more than an intriguing notion morphed into an action plan sometime during 2005. Having completed the 500-mile FANY ride across New York state the past two years provided some confidence that perhaps I could stretch 500 miles into 3,600, although that is quite a leap of faith, one I try not to think about too much.
Whether that confidence is well-founded will be determined over seven weeks from mid-June until early August. Like many others that attempt endurance challenges, one of the allures is the fact that I might, in fact, not be able to do it. That small seed of doubt is a powerful source of motivation. After all, if it is a certainty you will succeed, why bother investing the energy and effort? It would be easier to watch a travelogue on television, or at least take a bus tour.
All of that being said, how difficult is it to do an extended cycling tour? More to the point, how difficult will it be for me, now past the half-century mark? There will be some tough days, undoubtedly. It is just not reasonable to expect to feel great for 51 straight days (in light of the fact that I will be doing the ride free of performance enhancing substances; illegal ones anyway). No matter how doable any particular day may appear, it is the cumulative effort that will present the biggest challenge, both mentally and physically. The day-to-day recovery will be a key aspect of a trek of this magnitude. In that way, it differs greatly from a one-day event, even one as long as a 100-mile run or Ironman triathlon (both of which I’ve done) in which you only need get to the finish line that day (or in the case of the 100-mile, the next day). Most people who attempt long day-after-day endurance treks suggest that after a few weeks, your body “clicks in,” to the point where your physiology has adjusted to whatever physical stress you subject it to.
All that being said, I don’t want to get so caught up in the challenge of the trek that I miss out on truly seeing the country as I cover it, state by state, coast to coast. Surely there will be a fair amount of sameness and tedium, but I’m truly looking forward to touring places in the USA I have never visited, starting with the Pacific Northwest. I choose this “Northern Tier” route in part because it includes many historic areas along the way (the Grand Tetons, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore), and also because it might offer (potentially) more cooler days than riding through the heartland would offer. The third reason is that the timing of this ride fits best into my work schedule, which alas, I will not totally be able to leave behind.
Training for the trek has presented another interesting test. You don’t want to do so much as to burn out before the start, but you also need to get the body properly conditioned. Anyone who cycles knows that when ramping up your mileage, there are areas that need be “toughened up.” It’s not just the cardiovascular, but also chafing, blisters, getting the skin accustomed to hours in the sun, and just plain getting used to sitting on a bike for hours on end.
For most of the winter, which was fairly mild by Boston’s standards, I ran outside and inside (on a treadmill), and cycled outside (only five rides in all of January and February) and inside (on a trainer and spinning bike). In early March I headed outside on the bike for good, despite the fact that the mercury struggled to reach 40 for much of that month. I completed a 50-mile ride in mid-March (when it soared to 50 degrees F) and by April was up to 150 to 180 miles per week. In late April I completed a two-day, 218-mile ride from Boston to New York (see the link to an article on the home page). In all, since March I have covered about 2,000 miles on the bike. I think I know every pothole and every hill on the three routes I ride most often.
So as the calendar turns to June, the goal will be to stay fresh and well rested, while tying up loose ends here at home and solving the logical puzzle of getting to Astoria, Oregon—both myself and my bike. More on that in my next blog entry. This much is for sure: the decision to do the ride has been made now!