Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Easy Like a Sunday Morning 

Ride for Heart

5:00 AM: an alarm trickles down my ear canal. Drunkenly, I swipe it away. Ten minutes later the backup alarm hums. At this point I fight off the bedsheets and dismiss that one too. I’m standing on the other side of the bedroom with no idea how I got there. I grab the cycling shorts I’ve laid out about four hours previously, and apply generous amounts of chamois cream to the padding of the shorts like mayonnaise to a large county fair winning sandwich. Slipping the shorts on feels like wearing a soiled diaper. It’s 5:15 am on a Sunday morning and this is how I feel. Then a shirt, then “knee” warmers (which are sort of 3/4 length leg warmers), then socks which I’ve chosen for their warmth. I decide against wearing too much more because despite the 4ºC temperature outside, I will be riding about 90 km in the charity Ride for Heart and Stroke and I’d rather err on the light side. This will prove my undoing. I should’ve layered up. Always layer up.

Somehow I’m drinking coffee. A bowl of cereal I’ve warmed in the microwave is all I have time to eat. After a quick tire check, I pocket a bike pump and decide to switch to a waterproof jacket – it is a steady rain after all. By 6:10 am I’m on the bike rolling down Richmond street. The start point of the ride is close to my office which is usually a 25-30 minute ride but at 6AM on a Sunday, with nothing but green lights ahead me, I’m there in 15 minutes.
“There was no cake at all.”
My last bike ride of note was 75km on a perfect California day which did in fact include some pretty demanding hills. By comparison this 75 km should have been a cake walk. A promenade with a pastry. A stroll with a strudel. A jaunt with a jingle-berry pie. But this ride was happening about an hour earlier than my earliest eye blink, and only about 16 hours after an 8-hour cross-Atlantic flight. It was not a cake walk. There was no cake at all.

In the 3-1/2 hours or so I was peddling away, the rain never fully stopped and I doubt the temperature went above 7ºC. Yet every time I wondered should I just take the next exit and call it a day – which I could have done several times as the route essentially passed my neighbourhood several times – I thought, “no, people gave me money, good people gave me good money.” Plus, there is a kid or an old lady passing me and they seem fine. By the end, I could not feel my hands, nor my feet and the damp cold had seeped into my lower back and oddly I had some “never before experienced” sharp pains in my knees and hips. When the ride was over I did not hang around for the festivities but took a solitary soggy bagel and chewed it as I rode home.
“When you do a 2540 calorie workout, it's a cheat day.”
The worst feeling was the shock of just how out of shape I was. I was as much morally broken as physically. Once home I took a hot shower, a hot coffee and reheated pasta then I dissolved into my bed, under a blanket and slept. Then I ate. When you do a 2540 calorie workout, it's a cheat day. There was pasta, and bagels, chips, and yogurt and ice cream and cookies. I have to admit, I fully expected to be too stiff to stand when I finally had rested and sated my hunger but surprisingly I felt fine. I think all the discomfort I felt was from the deeply soaked cold and not really lack of fitness. Once I had warmed up and napped, all the pain and fatigue went away. When I think of it, I had only had about 8 hours of sleep combined over the previous two nights due to the travel and early rises of both my travel day (when I also had to get up at 5am) and for the Ride.

In that sense I learned what I already knew: I’m no good to anybody before 8am, and I’m no good to do anything without sleep and a full breakfast. It was at least nice to know that I know myself but it was aggravating to be reminded so rudely.

In that end, I’m glad I did the ride – it’s a unique chance to ride a bike on some major Toronto highways – and I’m grateful to everyone who donated. After Mom’s surgery this year, it felt like it was due to exactly this kind of fundraising that led to research that made heart surgery almost routine.

That said, it would’ve been a whole lot easier if I had bothered to exercise even a modicum in the last six months. This should be a warning to all – it is easier to stay in shape, than get in shape, but the easiest thing of all is to get out of shape.



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