I’ve mentioned on here before that I’ve been struggling to get back into shape after a freak cycling accident last year. But actually, I’ve been working on making two comebacks at the same time.
You see, even though I’ve been a serious rider for some time, there was a period a few years back when I barely rode at all.
First, because my bike was tied up as evidence in a court case for over a year after being hit by a car. Then my father-in-law suffered a stroke, and he needed my help more than I needed to ride. And once he passed away, it was my wife and mother-in-law who needed me.
That lasted until the day I stepped on the scale, and discovered I was carrying 220 pounds on my formerly trim 6’ frame. And I could no longer pass off that ever-expanding waistline as part of the normal aging process.
So out came the bike once again.
I set three goals for myself. First, to ride as well as I did back in my 30s, when I rode 50 miles a day, rain or shine — or sometimes snow, for that matter. Second, to get my weight back down to 175 pounds. And finally, to reduce get my waistline to 32”, as opposed to the way it was at the time, straining the elastic waistbands on my size 36 pants to near the breaking point.
It took a lot of hard work, but by this time last summer, I was riding as well as I ever had. By early September, my weight was down to 175, and I was just one inch away from those 32” pants.
Then last September 12th, I went out for a quick ride. And never made it back home.
Once I got out of the hospital, I was confined to home for nearly a month, and couldn’t exercise — at all — for the next 3-1/2 months. So I sat home and tried not to feel sorry for myself.
And I ate.
By the time the doctors said I could get back on my bike, my weight was back up to 195. I can’t tell you what my waist size was, because I only wore sweats; I couldn’t get pants over that huge lump on my hip.
I started riding again on January 2nd. At first, all I could manage was an easy ride to the beach and back, and maybe a feeble workout at the gym. By March, I was riding twice a week, combined with hitting the gym a couple times a week.
Once spring got here, I added another day of riding — this time working hills once a week. I found a course near my home that took me through Westwood and the UCLA campus, giving me 6 steep hills, as much as a mile long, over the first 4 miles.
That was the one day I dreaded every week. It was pure torture just trying to get up those hills. I often found myself inching up in my granny gears, and having to stop to rest on the way up — then stopping again at the top to catch my breath and let my pounding heart slow down to something resembling normal.
But slowly, after a few months, it started to seem like it got just a little easier each week.
Then this past Thursday, I finally made it up all six hills without stopping, standing on the pedals or shifting down to a lower gear. Or having to pause to catch my breath.
Also, this weekend, I stepped on the scale and found I was back down to 174 pounds. So just on a whim, when we were out shopping, I picked out a pair of size 32 pants and tried them on.
And they fit. A little snug, perhaps, but they fit.
I still have more work to do. I can look in the mirror now, and see that if I can lose another 4 or 5 pounds, I might actually have abs for the first time in a couple decades. And I’m not ready to ride Mandeville Canyon yet, or tag along on a fast ride with the elite riders.
But I’ll get there.
And meanwhile, this is a damn good feeling, and I’m going to enjoy it for awhile.
Our own Outdoor Urbanite bikes to the free Thursday concerts on the pier; this week’s show sounds like a winner. CNN finally covers the Mandeville Canyon brake check — only six weeks after it happened. The Christian Science Monitor discusses the new trend towards ciclovias — limiting certain streets on weekends to pedestrian and bike traffic. Even in Redding, cyclists ask drivers to be on the lookout. San Diego gears up to Bike the Bay; if you’ve never circled the San Diego Bay by bike, it’s a great ride, even for beginners. LAist turns into biking paparazzo when Woody hits the streets of Beverly Hills, while Miley Cyrus and family ride the streets of Toluca Lake. And finally, a trio of stories from my old pre-Katrina stomping grounds, as a biker describes an idiotic close encounter with a cyclist while driving; Louisiana decides the roads aren’t safe enough for an increase cyclists (having driven them, I can say many aren’t safe for cars, either); and the Times-Picayune lists local cycling getaways, in case anyone’s traveling to the Big Easy. But bring lots of bug spray.