What about me? I'm a Libra, height/weight proportional, I like long walks on the... oh, wait.
I have been bicycling since Feb 2008. Well, of course I biked a lot as a kid, and had a road bike while I was in the Navy and for a while after I got out, but I'll be darned if I ever rode more then a few hundred miles each year.
I actually got back into bicycling once before, while I was in the U.S. Navy. I purchased my first real bike while on leave between Adak, Alaska and Yokusuka, Japan. I don't remember the type, but it was a nice touring bike. I rode it while on leave, then boxed it up and took it with me to Japan but sadly it never arrived. I got another bike while in Japan, I think it was a Bridgestone. I definitely remember the Shimano Biopace and being real happy when I finally got a set of those new-fangled clipless pedals (this probably would have been '87).
One day while I was still in the Navy in Japan we had a base-wide 'sports day' with competitions in all sorts of different sports. One of those competitions was a bike race. I had only been riding a few months but figured I'd do pretty good since most of the competition had the svelte physique that comes from years of Sumo training. I even shaved my legs. Seriously. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I had never even read a single copy of Velo News yet, but I knew enough to shave my legs. pffft...
Reluctantly crouched at the starting line, engines pumping and thumping in time(1)
The race started and we blasted down the main street of the base. The first turn of the course was a right to go up a hill, and I took it too wide and crashed into the gutter. I didn't hurt myself or break anything on the bike, but by the time I got back to the pack (no, I would not use the word 'peleton' for this group; the word peleton implies a sophistication which was sadly lacking) it was down the road and my race was over. Such was the totality of my racing career.
That bike was later stolen (detecting a pattern here?) and insurance got me a Specialized Allez. This was the carbon-tubed model with aluminum lugs, this might have been around 1990. It was probably too much bike for me, although it did get me from Zig-Zag up to Timberline Lodge one summer. The best part of that ride? Passing a tour bus on the way down.
I later sold the Specialized and used the money to buy a mountain bike. This was a time in Portland's dark history when it wasn't as pleasant to ride on the roads as it is now. In fact, it was kind of hard to go an entire ride without some mouth-breathing nuckle-dragging Fox News-watching wahoo causing problems. But I'm not bitter. I thought that since the roads weren't that hospitable, maybe the dirt would be fun. I took up trail riding a little bit and maybe I'm lazy but whew, that's a lot of work.
I wound up putting the bike away while I focused on work and school. I graduated from Portland State University in December 2006 so that freed up some time and with gas prices inching their way up during Spring 2008 I decided that I would ride my bike to and from work.
My first commute was in Feb 2008, I don't recall exactly when I got up; it was 4:30 in the morning or some other god-awful o'dark thirty. I didn't have lights on my bike and I didn't know exactly where I was going. I just hopped on the Springwater Corridor trail and headed downtown. My goal was the Barbur Boulevard Transit Center, where I would put the bike on a bus and head the rest of the way into work (at least I had enough sense to know I was incapable of doing the entire distance in one swell foop).
I got lost a couple of times, and there's a stretch of the Springwater Corridor that is in a little valley and doesn't have any lights so I could barely see the path in the pitch black, then I finally made it over the Ross Island Bridge but I didn't realize that the route went up through the cemetery. I wound up trying to ride up Taylors Ferry from Macadam which wasn't going to happen given my lack of fitness. It's pitch black and raining, there's no shoulder other than the gravel, and I'm pushing my bike up the hill with morning rush-hour traffic whizzing by me, not that I have lights or even any reflectors to help them see me. Great. I made it to work, and then made it home somehow that afternoon. By the time I got back home and in the door, my legs were rubbery-numb with exhaustion: I had difficulty controlling them enough to walk up a few steps from the garage to inside the house, even though I had ridden less than 30 miles.
I fucking loved it.
The next time I commuted, I was wondering what the fuzzy-frosty stuff on the road was until my bike almost slid out from underneath me. Oh, that's what it was.
It took me over a year, but I finally worked up the strength and endurance to do the entire commute by bike (about 50 miles round-trip). On days that I didn't commute, I would occasionally do a lunch time ride with a group of strong riders at work.
I felt a little stronger and did a few organized rides including a few centuries. I enjoyed the challenge of the more difficult rides, but wasn't really aware of the Ultracycling scene yet. I was looking for people to ride with and finally wound up at the Meetup.com site for Northwest Butts on Bikes (NWBOB). I would attend some of the longer and more difficult rides. I was talking to the ride leader that did most of these types or rides, Kevin Van Dyck, and found out about the Furnace Creek 508, Race Across Oregon, and the whole Ultracycling scene in general.
This appealed to me for some reason. Even though I don't have a history of competition behind me, I think my base physiology is conducive to success in endurance events. I'm pretty sure I don't have the fast twitch anaerobic capability that is required in cyclocross or criteriums.
I also would like to think that I have what it takes as far as the mental side of endurance racing goes. There is a certain amount of mental fortitude and stubbornness required in this sport. Some rides I’ve finished have been entirely on mental power; there certainly wasn't anything left in my legs. On other rides, the boredom has been almost worse than the fatigue. I’ve found that it really helps to start focusing on my form when this happens. I start concentrating on performing good pedal strokes, relaxing the upper body & neck, maintaining cadence and heart rate. Focusing on these takes my mind off the X hours that I still have to go. If that doesn't work, I change the display on my GPS so it doesn't show distance.
The other aspect I'm interested in exploring is my competitive side. I have never considered myself a competitive person; indeed, I'm probably more of a quitter. While remaining an honorable and ethical sportsman, I am looking forward to exceeding my comfort zone regarding competition. I also know that I need to get out and ride with people that are a lot better than me, I have a tendency to think I'm better than I really am.
I've certainly got my work cut out for me. Since I started riding consistently and seriously, I've just barely cracked 10,000 miles total. If all goes as planned, I will equal if not exceed that distance this year.
(1) Lyrics from The Distance by Cake, please don't sue me.