Saturday, March 24, 2018

Riding Goals: 100 miles per week is good.

I want to ride bicycles more. I want to pack up some camping gear, ride a loaded bicycle, and sleep on a piece of dirt near some trees. That is my exact goal for the spring, summer, and fall of 2018. The best way to prepare physically is to ride a bicycle. The only way to prepare mentally is to remember that you can't.

To prepare for upcoming bicycle trips, I have set a goal of riding 100 miles per week. It's a nice round number. Not too challenging, which could lead to giving up, and not too easy, because the goal is to get back into shape. The goal is to get ready enough for loaded touring that minor injury doesn't get in the way of maximum enjoyment. Bicycle trips are infinitely more enjoyable when your legs feel ready for anything. I'm not quite there, but I have been there, and I'm making a return.

A hundred miles. It can be 15 miles a day, or 20 miles with two rest days. If you miss a few days, you can catch up with a 50 mile ride on Sunday. Obviously, I can ride more - 100mi is set as the minimum. I keep track on the Strava app, because it tracks your weekly mileage, and that minimizes the amount of thinking and remembering required of me. I open the app before a ride, hit record, and put my phone in a pocket inside the milk crate on my bicycle. (I no longer use my front pocket, because my sweaty leg dialed my former weed dealer about fifty times one weekend in 2016, and she kindly requested that I get my shit together.)

Sun visor car organizer velcro'd inside crate.

Motivation is a real issue with a lot of us humans. I feel especially challenged in this regard. My friend Ian once defined ADHD in gloriously simple terms: "You don't wanna do that shit you don't wanna do." Shrug. Exactly. That is the battleground I fight on every single day. In order to tip the odds in my favor, I use a multiple-pronged attack:

  1. Don't make basic tasks any more complicated than absolutely necessary.
  2. Take a Modafinil pill on days when you need to do a task.
  3. Make goals measurable and reachable by breaking them down into parts.
I have found that I am more likely to reach goals when the progress is easy to track. I have discovered that spreadsheets work well, because I like to see small numbers slowly become larger. Setting a goal to ride 5,000 miles in a year is daunting. 100 miles per week is reasonable, and I am more likely to stay on track. I know how it feels to blast up hills confidently on a loaded touring bicycle, and I am looking forward to feeling that way again. An average of fifteen miles per day does not seem overwhelming. Fifteen miles per day is a small price to pay when the reward is feeling like a total badass who is impervious to disaster.

I need future goals, or I will never take present action. I am not the type of person who goes out for an aimless ride without any Particular Purpose. Some people are, but I am not. Once I start pedaling and I get warmed up, bicycling is fun. I love bicycles! Thus, I need to manufacture a fake Particular Purpose to trick myself into riding. Any errand within easy range is a reason to get on my bicycle without question. Post office? Groceries? Friends house? Those are Particular Purposes. And now my weekly goal of 100 miles gives me a Particular Purpose to ride today, even though the temperature is 42 degrees, and I haven't seen the sun for almost 48 hours.

I visited my friend Lael when I was driving east from California to Texas. She was coaching at a gravel camp, which is where people ride bicycles for up to a hundred miles per day on gravel roads in Arizona, while eating really good food. Lael is also doing things like bicycling up a mountain with 6700ft of climbing in only 30 miles. Every day for a week. For fun. We sat on a patio drinking coffee as the sun went down. She had a beaming smile. She told me about her upcoming plans, all of them involve bicycles, and she radiated excitement. I love bicycles too! But I felt like I was hiding some secret damage. I had let alcohol turn me into an addled and insecure creampuff version of my better self. I didn't want to, but I allowed it to happen. I'm not ready to climb that mountain, but I can surely ride fifteen miles today.

And here I go...

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