10 May 2012

Delayed Reaction

At one of the Bike to Work Day breakfast stations last year, a volunteer called out to a crowd of hungry, thirsty cyclists:

"So, who here is riding the most miles?"

The discussion prior to the prizeless contest had been one-way mileage. Several drawings with cool prizes were being promoted, and registration forms specifically ask for one-way mileage. The volunteer had been counseling riders how to answer that question on the forms.

I was off my bike, uploading strawberry photos I'd just snapped (and uploading actual strawberries into the blood stream), so I answered loud enough to be heard: "30 miles."

My answer seemed to "win" the impromptu respect of all my fellow riders, which were mostly fellows. One turned to me and asked clarification, "You're riding 30 miles one way, or is that round trip?"

"One way. 60 miles round trip," I replied. "Or, well, 59.5. I ride around the block when I get home to bring it up to 60."

"Wow." His admiration was echoed by a host of other riders.

Then the silence was broken by another female voice.

"31.5 miles."

I turned to face the woman, as did all the other cyclists. "You win!" I cheerfully conceded. My photos had finished uploading, I'd finished chomping on strawberries, and it was time to hit the bike path again. Besides, I didn't need to charm the male cyclists. I have one of my own, and I wouldn't trade him for all the cyclists in the world. :)

Pretty in pink.  And white.As I mounted my bike, the woman asked, "Where do you ride from to get so many miles?"

I told her where I live and where I work. Her expression of suspected shock didn't really register with me until after a good night's rest. I asked about her ride. She lives close to where I work and rides to where I used to live, a commute I'm very familiar with, having pedaled those same miles for seven years, but in reverse. Yet my mind didn't make sense of the numbers. All I was thinking at that moment was getting to work on time. Well, and daydreaming/hoping I might see some wildlife before I got downtown.

"How often do you commute?" the woman asked.

"At least three times a week during summer."

"So you must really be racking up the miles," she said, her face growing visibly uncomfortable.

"I'm shooting for a thousand miles this month."

"Are you close?" she asked.

"I'm down about 10 miles as of today, but by tonight, if I can ride all the way home, I'll be 20 miles ahead."

"You've thoroughly got me beat in miles," she said. "I have never done that many miles before."

not just any race, but a SLOW raceWe parted ways. I got to work. I finished the day. I rode home. I tried to accumulate extra miles, just to make sure I would be able to pedal more than 60 the following weekend during the MS-150. I got home sore, tired, stiff, hungry yet satisfied.

I slept.

The next morning, things began to click.

I did that same commute. At least two times a week. Every week. All summer long. For seven years. Her mileage was round trip, not one-way. And she knew that. She knew, and she didn't bother to clarify. She maintained her "title" with that crowd of people she or I may never see again. At the expense of me.

I suppose she probably thought I was exaggerating when I told the crowd I pedal 30 miles one-way. I suspect she also may have wanted to impress the fellows. In her defense, she was friendly to me. She broke the ice, not me. I would have just pedaled away and not given her or the "contest" another thought.

During the next few hours of riding, my mind kept going back to that experience and the possible motivations behind what happened. I thought of my adopted kids, who sometimes stretched the truth to receive accolades because, due to their past, they were hungry for acceptance and praise. I thought of specific cases I covered as a journalist in which people falsely claimed to be titled, degreed or awarded.

my bikesHad I been more with it on Ride to Work Day, I could have made a scene and dethroned the Queen of Miles. If being Queen of Miles had been my objective. Again, riding lots of miles gives me lots of time to ponder. I was the first to respond when the question was posed, but was I really trying to take a crown? Or was I simply stating fact? Was I trying to silence the discussion? Or was I hoping someone with similar experience would speak up, uniting us as Partners in Miles?

I sincerely hope my motivation was pure, that I was seeking friendship and/or kinship in lieu of attention or admiration.

My mind goes back to something Lance Armstrong said many years ago. Regardless of what shady things he may or may not have done, I've always loved his reply when he was being hounded about doping:

"What am I on? I'm on my bike."

Hopefully, what he said is what people feel when I talk or write about cycling. It's about health. It's about goals. It's about overcoming odds.

It's about believing, "I can!"

Sunflower Ride


  1. Oh my you had me at the first photo, yummy they look, what a refreshing treat, but that last photo, what an amazing shot! I have to look at it again! What a great capture!

  2. I process slow too. Things stick in my mind way after the fact and I start to ponder it... I'm guilty of fudging the truth to look good. -Sigh- It's so hard to be truthful when you feel insecure about yourself/want the world to revolve around you. Thank goodness God is there for that.

  3. Great read. Those who count know!

  4. "The heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it?"

    So hard to unravel our own motivations, let alone the motivations of others. You may have lost a bit of transient glory there at the strawberry station, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you told the simple truth. (Not to mention the satisfaction of your stupendously awesome mileage!)

    That last photo is amazing. :) How did you do it?

  5. Thank you, everyone!

    Marigold, yes, you CAN!!! I believe in you!!!

    Sue, my friend Stacy snapped that photo of us.

  6. I am always amazed at your ride, as a young man I commuted by bike but not enough to take the crown. That sunflower photo rocks!


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