Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why I Ride

Very simply, I ride to live.

Some folks say they live to ride, but I ride to live.

In March 2005 I suffered a stroke. The stroke was caused by a failed heart valve. At my cardiac rehab exit interview I was asked what I was going for exercise to continue my recovery. I was not sure but knew I had to do something.

You know how things just work out? I knew I did not enjoy running and walking – that’s “work”. I decided to check out buying a bicycle. I had problems finding a sales clerk at the local department stores. It was a Sunday, a bicycle shop in the area was open – I stopped to check them out.

Bill put me on a comfort bike. I had not been on a bicycle since as a kid. What are all of these levers for on the handlebar? With tentative pedal strokes I was on my adventure. In that abbreviated season I logged nearly 800 miles.

In no time, I “out grew” that bike. Bought a hybrid. In my first riding season, I logged over 2000 miles and added a hardtail mountain bike to my stable. I sent in my dues for THOR (Trails Have Our Respect – the local dirt trail advocacy group), Soon the singletrack was calling me. I fell in love with riding in the woods on a sweet singletrack.

I started feeling great – physically and emotionally. My speed and endurance increased. Asked my doctor if we could try dropping the anti-depressant that I was on. In no time, cycling became my medication.

Sure, I have bad days, but nothing that a bicycle ride couldn't cure!

For 4 years I served as Webmaster for THOR and spent time on the South West Iowa Nature Trails board (Wabash Trace Nature Trail). In 2009 I logged over 3000 miles in my bikes, which now included a trail bike.

Every time I made a trip out of town one or two bicycles were on the car rack. I started searching new trail to explore. Singletrack, Rails-to-Trails, country roads, and bicycle paths – they are all routes to adventure.

Late 2009 I hit a speed bump in the road of recovery. A lump on my shoulder turned out to be cancer. A later biopsy confirmed that it had spread into my lungs. But I did not let this stop me. When the trips for treatments seemed to be more than I could bear, I went out for a bicycle ride. I ended up over 300 miles pedaling during 7 weeks of radiation and 11 weeks of chemo.

For a reward for seeing through the treatments, I bought a road bike. Rule #1: The authorized number of bicycles is equal to the number currently owned plus 1.

My cycling friends and cardiac rehab folks consider me as an inspiration. For me, I want to spread the word of what cycling has done for me and how it can help others.

For over 30 years, you would not see me without my pipe. Was always off for a smoke break. With the week in the hospital I decided to stop smoking. Now, I have not been able to lose weight by pedaling, but my cardiovascular system is in much better shape (my cardiologist is very pleased). My balance is greatly improved (but still can't do a track stand). My depression is basically gone.

I have learned about singletrack design and maintenance. I have cleared brush and downed trees from trails. Six years ago I learned to speak all over. Now, I feel confident enough to speak about what cycling means to me. I want to spread the word.

As I and writing this, I am in the hospital to “freeze” a tumor on the left kidney. A biopsy will decide if it was cancer. In about 6 weeks we will do the same thing all over again for a tumor on the right kidney. My cycling is giving me the drive and determination that I will tame that beast. After all, there are a lot of more bicycle trails to explore. More folks to get on the cycling bandwagon.

That is Why I Ride

1 comment:

aj said...

Tom, You are an inspiration to me and have been whether we are at a Wabash Trace Board Meeting, seeing each other at Extreme Wheels in Council Bluffs, or meeting on the trail. You will be on our prayer list and hope to hear positive reports on these new challenges. Allen Hall, Malvern