Yesterday I rode the intermediate-distance (63 miles) option [the other two being short, at 36 miles, and long, at 104 miles] in the Owls Head Butte Century ride, which was sponsored and supported by the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association (GABA). The ride started in Marana, proceeded northwest along the I-10 frontage road for about 13 miles, and then turned east onto Park Link Drive. From that turn it was about 18 miles to AZ 79, where we turned around and retraced our route back to the start/finish line.

It was a great day for cycling – cloudy, so no bright sun to blind (or burn) you; warm enough that multiple layers weren’t necessary all day; and cool enough that you didn’t melt into a puddle along the route. GABA’s SAG (Support and Gear, for you non-cyclists out there) stops were abundantly stocked with oranges, bananas, strawberries, PBJ sandwiches, cookies, and more. I completed the ride (including SAG stops) in about 5 1/4 hours, with an actual riding time of 4:20:54 (gotta love those super-accurate bicycle computers!). My average speed was 14.74 MPH and my max was 26.27 MPH. Some of that max was attributable to the fact that the third “leg” of the route, from AZ 79 back to the I-10 frontage road, was a steady downhill. Even with the headwind (there’s ALWAYS a headwind), I was averaging about 17 MPH. The extra speed came when a group of riders passed Tony Market (my riding buddy) and me, and I decided to tag along. I knew Tony wouldn’t have any trouble keeping up because he’s a much better rider than I am, but I wanted to take advantage of the “drafting” effect – and boy, did I ever! We tailed the paceline for about 5 miles or so, mostly at 22 – 23 MPH, but with occasional bursts up to 25 or 26. Eventually, the speed became too much for me to keep up with, so we dropped off, but it was definitely fun while it lasted!

But that’s not the main point of this post. What I really want to write about is my development as a cyclist.

When Toni and I first met, one of the outdoor activities she introduced me to was “serious cycling.” I had ridden a bike while growing up, of course, and when my own children were small I had a bike so we could all ride together (after they all outgrew the bike trailer and had their own bikes). But that went away for many years, until Toni. She actually bought me the bicycle I still ride, and that has about 8,000 miles on it. I (almost) always enjoyed the rides we took, but it was as much the riding *with her* that I liked as the riding itself. It was through her that I entered (and completed) several years of El Tour de Tucson and Tour DaVita (TDV). Since her death in 2012 I have completed one additional El Tour (the nasty, cold, wet, rainy one in 2013) and two TDVs.

In 2013 I continued my recreational riding, although most of it was in training for TDV and El Tour. Last year, not so much. I think that, as part of my grief process, I just sort of needed a year of … nothing. I didn’t get much accomplished around the house (lots of little “honey-do list” kinds of things), although I managed to keep the yard maintained and my laundry done. But many of the other activities I had kept up, or started, in 2013, I just … didn’t do them last year.

This year, in response to my “do-nothing” year in 2013, I decided I *had* to exercise so that I could get my weight down from 205 to 190. So in January (as I posted on 1/2/15) I started an exercise program. Part of that program has been riding my bicycle. I have always had my best weight-loss results from long rides, because apparently my metabolism stays elevated for a day or more afterward, which helps me burn off the extra weight.

So Saturday night, as I was getting ready for bed, I was thinking about all this, and I realized that I’m more comfortable in my current cycling role than I have been previously. I decided it was because this year, for the first time, I’m riding on my own terms. Instead of riding because Toni wants to, or because I need to train for [whatever], or because I’ve been invited to go with Tony, or whatever other reason, I’ve been riding because *I* want to. I go in the afternoon, when it’s warm; I ride the distance I want to ride; I get to choose the route I take; and I get to go at my own pace. Tony frequently rides with me, but not always. When I mentioned all this to him during our ride yesterday, he said, “That’s why I’ve been letting you invite me.” I guess he saw it before I did.

The result of all this is that I actually *like* riding my bicycle, for its own sake, and will probably continue. I have decided to ride regularly with a group called Velo\Vets, and will continue my solo rides and rides with Tony. I expect to be in *much* better cycling shape for this year’s TDV than I was last year, and I may ride in this year’s El Tour (I skipped it last year because I hadn’t been riding much). But basically, these days I’m riding for my enjoyment and not because of any external (Toni, Tony, or training) stimulus. And I think that’s the best reason to do anything.

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