October 6, 2002
Personal Best

miles to go: 454.25

It isn't always about imploding thigh muscles. I want you to know that.

I know it probably sounds that way. I complain about bike riding far more than I ever praise it. But then again, I would probably be complaining if it were Pilates or Pritikin or middle-aged pregnancy: any weird gruelingpersonal best (so far) physical transformation, drawn out over long months of extreme challenge with only tiny increments of progress here and there, spotlighted within the public arena of an Internet journal. That's what I do: I complain about this stuff in the privacy of my own head, while I'm out there in the middle of all of this hideous suffering and torment ... and then I come home and write about it, usually in my private journal so *I* am the only one who is forced to re-live it, but occasionally here on *FootNotes,* too, for the rest of you to endure.

But it isn't always about pain. It's important to me that you understand that.

Sometimes it's about fun, and about freedom, and about flying down the other side of The Monster Hill without dragging on the brakes, except maybe for a little bit on the bumpy parts. Sometimes it's about pushing myself to do just a microscopic bit more than I did last week, and the amazing sense of accomplishment I feel when I come home and upgrade the numbers on my website. Sometimes it's about all of the key elements *clicking* -- the weather, the trail conditions, my energy level, my mood, my 'riding ensemble du jour' -- and everything spontaneously coming together into one glorious Super Ride. Sometimes it's about achieving your Personal Best, on a day when you would have been perfectly content to settle for your Personal Pretty-Darned-OK.

That's what yesterday was all about.

I rode fifty miles yesterday. I don't mean that David and I rode forty miles on the Iron Horse Trail in the morning, and then came home later and tacked another ten onto the total by puttering around the abandoned Navy Base after dinner. (Which is how I always assumed I would achieve my first fifty.) I'm talking about fifty continuous miles ... start-to-finish, beginning-to-end, with only minor refueling/rehydrating stops along the way. For the locals: we rode the Iron Horse Trail from Rudgear Road in Walnut Creek to the Pleasanton BART Station and back again, then the Canal Trail to Treat Boulevard in Concord, then back up the Iron Horse to Alamo and back, then another quick anal-retentive fifth of a mile up the Iron Horse, to round it out to exactly fifty miles.

Fifty miles -- in case you're not a math genius like *I* am -- is half of a hundred miles. Or half of a century, as they say in groovy cycling lingo. It's the distance from Seattle to Olympia. It's the distance from Alameda to Santa Rosa. It's the distance from my laundry room in TicTac to the refrigerated wine section of Trailer Town Grocery ... a hundred times and back.

It's one hell of a long way, in other words.

This glorious achievement didn't come without a price. I had to miss JournalCon this weekend, even though it was held right here in my own backyard. We couldn't afford to sacrifice the riding time. I'm so far behind on personal tasks -- e-mail, housework, laundry, exfoliation -- that I'm starting to feel like I'll never catch up. Plus I'm experiencing some minor physical glitches as a result of yesterday's megaride. We were having lunch at Hubcaps in Walnut Creek, half an hour after the ride ended, when I suddenly realized that my left hand had pretty much stopped functioning. I reached across the table to grab a fork and I couldn't pick it up. The ring and pinky fingers on that hand simply refused to cooperate. This morning they're still mostly unresponsive: I can't pinch my thumb and fingers together. Obviously I've done some damage to the ulnar nerve again. Plus I'm sunburned in a couple of interesting new places -- the backs of my legs and the tips of my ears -- and I was so exhausted last night that I fell asleep during the opening credits of "Cops" ... before they'd even gotten around to arresting the first shirtless nimrod of the evening.

But here it is, 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, and I'm getting ready to go out and do it all over again.

As soon as David wakes up -- I'm letting him sleep an extra half hour, while I sit here in front of the computer, in the dark and quiet of early morning, and enjoy a second cup of coffee -- we're going to hop on our bikes and head out for our weekly Sunday morning Bay Farm Island ride. It won't be another fifty-miler. I don't have it in me, frankly ... and even if I did have it in me, we don't have enough time anyway. David has to pick up the kids at noon, and I've got a full afternoon of aimless web-surfing and long drooling naps on my personal *To Do* List.

I'll be happy with a twenty, though.

And sometime in the near future -- probably not next weekend, because I've learned that once I've pushed myself beyond the extreme limits of physical endurance, I need to pull back and recover a little before I try it again -- but maybe the weekend after that or the weekend after that -- I'll go out and ride another fifty. Except that I won't stop at fifty: I'll push ahead on The Iron Horse Trail, another half a mile or so, before I turn around and head back to the car, and I'll come home with a 51.

That's what's so cool about a personal best. Once you've gotten used to the idea that you have it in you -- once you've finished recovering from it and gloating over it and driving everybody bullgoose loony with your annoying incessant nonstop bragging about it ...

... you've always got a personal better, out there waiting for you.

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happy birthday tomorrow, dad!