Gosh, 2020 has been a year for riding (and everything). I started the year without biking at all: The first 18 days of January fell into the recovery window of my EIAE surgery. After the doctor cleared me to ride, I promptly quit running and delightedly resumed my regular bike commuting and weekend ride schedule. I felt out of shape, but thrilled with the apparent full functioning of my left leg.
I planned to spend the year pursuing my highest level of fitness since 2016, shooting for PRs and faster overall times. I could hardly wait to try Passport 2 Pain again with two fully functional legs! In a fit of optimism, I signed up for RAMROD, even though I’d likely ride it alone. This was my year!
Then the pandemic hit.
One by one, organized rides like RAMROD and Passport 2 Pain canceled. Eventually even in-person group rides became too risky, and I found myself riding Dad and one other ride buddy, John. I put my ambitious goals on the back burner. I would focus on consistency, spending the year building back from my surgery and correcting the muscle imbalance caused by the arterial issue.
When the governor finally issued our first stay-at-home order, I immediately formed a ride routine plan: Monday and Tuesday, ride 20 to 25 miles at a commute pace; Wednesday, enjoy a longer/hillier/more vigorous ride, sometimes with intervals; Thursday, the occasional commute-equivalent ride, depending on weather and how I felt; Friday, rest; Saturday, a long ride at a tempo pace; Sunday, take a nap.
For the next nine months, my ride routine only varied because of weather — sometimes I shifted my long ride to Sunday if Saturday was rainy. A few times I did a longer ride on a weekday I took off work, again to take advantage of a break in the rain. But once the summer weather set in, I did the same routine every week.
In May I crashed. Around that time my left leg started feeling sore again. It’s not the same agonizing pain I had before, but the left side feels less as fresh than the right leg. I don’t blame the crash, which was minor, but it’s when I started noticing some difference between left and right again.
In June, Cascade Bike Club ran a virtual Bike Month, and I rode 1,000 miles; but my left leg continued to struggle. I suspect now that it’s not 100% fixed, although so far much better than pre-surgery; I just hope it stays like this and doesn’t keep getting worse. So, in response, I backed off in July and resumed my regular riding routine. And I pretty much kept with that through the rest of the year.
In July, as COVID cases had remained low for a while, we organized the only group ride of the year: a ride up and down Paradise on Mt. Rainier with fewer than 10 people (the maximum group size at the time). How great it felt to ride with our friends again, even spread out and wearing face coverings!
In late August, John got too busy to join our longer rides. Since then, a “group” ride has meant me and my Dad. Everything else is just me.
As autumn set in, I crossed an exciting milestone: 100,000 miles ridden. After that, though, I found my motivation flagging. Riding alone again, on the same roads again, with no goals, no real prospect of change, and no meaningful goals — even as a committed, disciplined athlete driven by more than a touch of anorexia brain, I started losing enthusiasm.
Our mid-December family trip to Lopez Island came at the perfect time to renew my excitement for riding. Even so, I decided to take a leaf out of the bike racer’s book and use December as a time of all tempo rides and building my base. No pressure to push hard. It’s been nice, but I’ve slowed down even more as a result.
It’s been a tough year, and I haven’t made the gains I hoped for back in January. But I take satisfaction in the huge accomplishment of consistently riding, day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, for longer I ever expected.
Leg status and pandemic permitting, perhaps next year holds more vigorous and ambitious activities. Here’s to a stronger, faster 2021!