Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How I Found Freedom In Spinning My Wheels

The feeling of absolute freedom is exhilarating. I can hear the wind whipping by my ears, feel it flowing over my body. It is probably the closest I can say it would feel like to fly. This feeling makes me feel fast and agile. I can see tons of beautiful countryside in a short time while still being able to take it all in: The sights, the smalls, the sounds. It is a time of reflection and meditation. I time to center myself. It is one of the few times I feel truly alive!

             These are all the feelings I experience each and every time I step out of my house and on to my bike. This feeling of freedom is one that I hadn't anticipated being an adult. When we are children, having a bike meant being able to explore the world, or at least to the end of the block which felt like a day’s long trek in the wilderness.  Now as a thirty year old adult, I am surprised that those same feelings of freedom and adventure come rushing back each and every time I step out my front door and clip into  my bike.

               Biking was not originally something I intended to fall in love with. For me, it was a means to an end. My ultimate goal was to be a triathlete. I loved swimming and hated running, but I had no idea how I stood on biking. After having my gastric bypass surgery, the first thing I did was start swimming because it was the safest and offered the smallest amount of pressure on my knees and joints as I began my weight loss journey. It worked out really well and was something I was familiar with. As time wore on I became more bored with the swimming and began yearning for a new challenge, a chance to take those next steps towards being an Ironman. Biking was the next logical step. Running was going to be too hard on my knees and joints at the weight I currently was, but biking is an excellent exercise to strengthen your legs and provide an amazing cardiovascular workout without putting undue strain on those problem areas. There are many more health benefits of riding, but too many to detail in this post. For me, it was time to expand my routine; it was time for a bike.

I seem a little excited lol.
               That is where I found myself one afternoon in May when I walked into Montgomery Cyclery in Cincinnati, Ohio, and met Rachel. I walked in having done a little bit of research into what I wanted but it was a little out of my current budget at around $800. I explained to Rachel everything I had wanted to do an asked which bike she thought would work for my needs. She directed me to the grey beauty that would eventually become my bike, a Giant Defy 5. She was very helpful explaining the ins and outs of cycling, what I should be looking to buy, and how much I should plan on spending starting out.

               I would love to tell you I walked out with my bike that day, but I did not. I went back numerous times, looking at that bike, hoping, dreaming. I was working my tail off at a full time job and a part time job to earn the extra money to afford the bike. I am sure the bike shop manager Rich and Rachel, who both seemed to be there every time I walked in with a hundred questions, was ready to strangle me for being so annoying.  In June, I had finally earned enough to put the bike into layaway and I rushed over. I can almost see the sigh of relief when I walked in ready to be fit for the Grey Wonder.

My first ride ever on the Grey Wonder
               In July I finally walked in with the rest of the payment for the bike and all of the other equipment I needed. I needed more than just a bike you see. Biking is not an expensive hobby once you get past the initial costs, but I needed a helmet, shoes, riding pants to keep everything from rubbing wrong, an air pump, a pack for repair tools, and the tools themselves. After spending about three hours going over and painstakingly picking out each item, I left the shop with my new bike and the name of a man who would introduce me to the world of cycling. ERIC!

               Rich, the bike shop manager, knew my story as I had probably told it to him 100 times over. When I walked out of the shop the day I finally bought my bike, with absolutely no clue what I was doing, he gave me Eric’s contact info and said he would help me figure it all out. Rich told me how Eric had lost a ton of weight while cycling and was a great resource for a guy trying to lose weight and get in shape using biking. About two weeks later I finally met Eric for my first ride on the road.
               When I first was thinking about starting to bike, I was planning on just riding in the park. I wanted somewhere safe, away from traffic. I didn't realize that first meeting I would be riding on the road outright. There is a really fun ride in Cincinnati that a lot of riders use. They all park at the William Henry Harrison Tomb monument and ride a road that snakes along the Ohio River for miles. It was this road I found myself on one warm Saturday morning.  On this morning I didn't realize I would fall in love. I would fall hard for cycling.

               Eric has been an amazing mentor showing me the ins and outs of cycling and road etiquette. He has been an invaluable resource and tool for figuring out how my bike works. That first day I met him he even gave me a large cycling jersey that would fit me. Cycling jerseys are expensive, but he said he was too small for it and he would give it to me in the hopes that once I got too small I would pass it on to someone who deserved it as well. I have still not found that person, but I am actively looking. I wish I could say I still ride regularly with Eric; however work schedules and other commitments have made it difficult for us to get together. I wish we had more time to ride together. I miss my friend.
Bike MS 2014 - I rode 30 miles that day. It was a personal record.
               Since I got my bike I have completed two road races. One was 30 miles and the other 38. I continue to push and train with the hopes of getting my first century (100 mile ride) done in the next 6 months. This is all in preparation to start my triathlon experience next summer as I compete in the Cincinnati Triathlon.

               I didn't expect to fall in love with cycling like I have, but the staff and owner of Montgomery Cyclery have made it easy. They are always there to answer questions, shoot the breeze, or fix any odd ball problem I may think I have with my bike. I still go in regularly with the typical, “My bike is making a funny noise,” complaint. Every time, though I am even beginning to annoy myself at this point, they graciously drop what they are doing to help. I still see Rachel pretty regularly and keep her updated on my progress. She even convinced me to give a mountain bike a try which, for those that have not tried it, is like giving crack to an addict. I have found a whole new obsession within biking, but that is another story and another post.

               For those out there trying to lose weight and get healthy, I strongly recommend biking as a way to not put pressure on your knees and joints, but to give yourself an amazing cardio workout. I hope that if you opt to give cycling a try, that you find the same joy, pleasure, and unmatched freedom that I feel each and every time I clip in and start to trek. Every ride is an adventure. Every turn of the peddle a new possibility; exploring new areas of the country while searching the very depths of my soul.