Friday, September 2, 2011

Forty-seven miles tomorrow, and the "Cycle of Anxiety."

I'm feeling good. Rested. Legs are tight, but I'm still stretching, and I have reason to hope that they won't give me trouble. The bad knee is quiescent.

Casey Parks put a story in the Oregonian (see "Related Links" on the right-hand edge of your screen) that sums up what I'm trying to do here much better than I've been able to, in all these posts. I hope you have time to read it. She's a gifted writer. She tends to put me in a better light than I deserve, but she catches the essence of what I'm involved in: taking what steps I can to stem the encroaching frailty associated with advanced age.

Tomorrow, I expect to do the 20 mile loop shown above followed by a 7 mile loop and then the 20-miler again. That will make it 7 more miles than last Tuesday. I plan to take a short break after each loop, but be back on my bike in time to maintain a 10 mph average. The weather looks good, starting off cool, and only getting up to the high seventies by noon. I hope I remember to put on sun block, because it's going to be a bright one.

I've become aware of what I think of as a "Cycle of Anxiety." I think of what's ahead of me, the task of riding longer and harder than I ever have, not knowing whether I'll meet my goals or not, not knowing whether I'll have that ghastly feeling of the body simply refusing to respond to what I'm asking of it. High anxiety, and it often hits me as I'm riding. But then -- so far, at least -- a remarkable thing happens: I start realizing I'm not feeling so bad after all, and I'm actually feeling stronger halfway through the ride than I did at the beginning. To be followed quickly by a sensation of impending exhaustion, during which I wonder if I'm dehydrated, or need more fuel, or simply have used up all those mysterious reserves which often lurk beneath a surface of panic. Then a warm glow may creep over my legs, for no reason at all, calling to mind that elusive "second wind" which so often seems like no more than a myth until it suddenly arrives, miracle-like.

That's a very sketchy description, but I hope it gets across the way anxiety comes in cycles, alternating with sensations of well-being and empowerment. And what's interesting to me is that every swoop in this roller-coaster comes as a surprise. I can never seem to tell five minutes ahead of time how I'm about to feel.

I'm telling you this to help me remember it tomorrow. I've ridden 47 miles before, but never at the pace I intend to keep up tomorrow. So, yes, I'm anxious. But I'm also excited, because I hope to find that I've gotten stronger, so that -- overall -- I'll ride these 47 miles as easily as I did the 40 last Tuesday. That would be mighty fine. That's what I want to remember during those periods of anxiety tomorrow.


  1. Hugh, I sent you an email asking you to contact me about our Bike club, Butts On Bikes getting together with you on your 80th birthday ride.

    Mark Hashizume,

  2. Mark, I really appreciate your supportiveness, but I need to be by myself on my training rides and on the Big Day, as well. Strange as it may seem, I am concentrating almost the entire time I am riing, checking the signals my body is sending me, the odometer, my watch, the traffic... I'd say my mind wanders from the task at hand less than 5% of the time. I'm quite worried about the distractions that having company would bring. And I'm not at all confident in my ability to handle distractions. I appreciate your offer, nevertheless, recognizing it as well-meaning; I take it as a high compliment. Thank you, and here's hoping that we can get together some day after the pressure is off!