The cycling philosophy.

By the end of August, I should be clearing my 80,000th cycled mile as well as my 2,100th session as a cyclist.

The unconventionality and style that I run with is so different from what people would could consider normal.. and you know, I’m okay with that. Because from the beginning this was never supposed to come off as “normal”. The oddities that I run with for cycling is what got it attention and got me on the map as a cyclist locally to the point clubs have reached out to me directly. I still decline all offers because I don’t need a club to showcase my abilities and also if I gave up my independence I would no longer be able to operate how I want to.

My philosophy involves unconventional training. Hell, to get my foot work down and achieve on point reaction time I maze my way through kids playing in neighborhoods and ride between moving cars and parked cars to perfect my accuracy.

My philosophy of cycling also involves the theory of “nothing gained, nothing lost”. Simply meaning I am not looking to gain muscle anymore (my thighs are over the 25 inch mark — all muscle,  making every pair of pants I own look like skinny jeans). I am also not looking to lose weight. At my ultimate lowest, I had weighed 115 pounds. This meant that I had in fact lost 150 pounds at one time. I currently weigh 175 pounds and that deceives a lot of people because I still wear a few of the shirts I wore when I weighed 60 pounds less.

But, because there’s not a look for a gain or a loss, it takes the pressure off of everything and lets me go out for those 42 miles a day and ride without stress and in peace.

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Disconnect.

Tuesday, 1:24 am.

Recently, I feel like my entire life has been in disconnect. Things haven’t felt the same.

I haven’t wanted to talk to many people recently. In the last few weeks since school got out I have only communicated with two or three people on a daily basis. My texts have been dry except for the last few days where we were planning something.

Something feels off in my life and I can’t put my finger on it exactly but I think depression is a factor. I haven’t gone out much with the exception of this weekend where I was constantly out.

Sometimes I question things late at night and think about if they are really worth it anymore.

This girl I’ve been talking to and gotten close with knows I’ve dealt with depression for most of my life and has been very supportive as well as given me space when I’ve wanted to be alone. She understands me and she’s absolutely wonderful.

Weak.

I feel weak. I feel powerless. I feel numb.

I’m almost certain anorexia has come back and I feel like I’m losing control a little bit. I try to keep myself as together and composed as possible but I know I’m struggling deep down.

I still can ride but I feel very weak afterwards and nap for a while when I come back.

I’ve grown difficulty eating again and trying to match the daily 4,000+ calories I need and it’s why I’m failing. My hair is also falling out and thinning. Why do I do these things to myself?

A familiar face and another thing I hear while cycling.

I have a familiar face. A very familar face locally. My eyes typically hidden by tinted sunglasses because my eyes are ridiculously sensitive to light because of something that happened when I was a teenager. My hair is kind of a mess because it gets blown around by the wind. Sometimes it’s tied back by a rubber band taken from the morning paper. All of that paired with a flannel shirt partially buttoned creates my image that I’ve grown with over the years.

It’s how I present myself for three seasons of the year. The summer has an overhaul and I dominantly appear in tank tops and compression shorts.

But, people who’ve gotten to talk to me over the years and gotten pieces of my playbook that gave me success have said many things to me over the years.

One thing I hear a lot (besides “I’ve been watching for years”) is “I want to be like you”. It’s one of those things where I don’t know how to react because a) I’m just me and b) I only found success because I rebelled against the social norms of cycling in any way I could. That rebellion put me on the map and it gave me my own personal platform where I could vocally talk about things I believed in or didn’t believe in.

Some of that rebellion includes:

– Refusing to join multiple clubs that requested me to join them.

– Keeping as much independence with cycling as I could. Previously, I allowed suggestions on how I could improve but I no longer accept them.

– Minimally dressing like a cyclist. The only cycling gear I own now are tights.

– Stripping the cyclist mentality from my life. That snotty arrogance is so unnecessary and as I grew older, I permanently got rid of it.

– Riding more “acoustic” and “informal” as I grew older. I no longer look like a cyclist, the spandex body suits are gone, and I tried to strip down any part of me that could come off as intimidating to approach. I also no longer have an exact schedule outside of the night sessions. When I have options for timing throughout the day, I look at when I have a space to go out and feel when my legs are the strongest on a particular day.

I truly made cycling mine. I wanted cycling to feel approachable for anyone of any age and be able to make it their own. I partially dress the way I do to prove a point. That point is that you don’t need those $100 bicycle shoes or that $75 cycling jersey to become a “cyclist”. All you need is a bike, some time, and a goal in mind. As long as you’ve got those three things, you can become a cyclist. If that’s what people want to be like, then that’s alright with me. I know it’s been successful and cycling has become more accessible to the average person around here. I know this because it’s more than a coincidence that I’ve seen dozens of people with Trek bicycles that resemble the three that I own and the fact that it’s the only brand of bicycle I see. If bringing cycling to the community is my lasting memory, so be it. It’s making for a healthier community and I couldn’t be happier about the outcome.

 

“I’ve been watching you for years”.

“I’ve been watching you for years” seems like a creepy little greeting that sounds like I’ve got a bunch of stalkers but, it’s actually a good thing.. sort of.

It’s a statement I’ve heard for quite a while. I hear it because I’ve been cycling in the very same place for eight years and my schedule becomes familiar to people who see me regularly. Even with the recent transition to focusing on night sessions, the change has been recognized by a lot of people and they have been helping me out in small ways with things like exterior illumination.

I see many of the same faces day after day but have not talked to some of those faces before. If I’m ever seen stopped at the intersection of East and Moore, I at times get approached while I’m chugging a bottle of water. By the time I get to that point, I’m pretty gross looking. I typically do that between the 28th and 30th mile of the day. Although, sometimes I don’t stop at all if it’s not that hot.

It’s this time of year that I get the most attention from people. Because the weather is nice out, people who aren’t yet committed to a fitness (or are picking up their New Years resolution) begin to really come out in numbers. Even people who are just starting out start to come out now because we are in that small window of nice weather. I can’t blame them though. I debuted cycling in mid-May many years ago and refused to start riding before March 1st for the first few campaigns until I converted to being a year round cyclist. The weather for exercising is kinda crappy most of the time until like April at earliest.

Enter: a woman who moved to the area late last year. She caught my attention very early during the cycling session yesterday. She lives nearby and I’ve seen her drive past many times before. Her car is kind of different looking and I would recognize it anywhere. But it was the first time I had ever talked to her. She told me that she had heard about me when she first moved in and tried to find me for a few weeks until she eventually did (she was searching at the wrong times). It was the first time I had ever seen her on a bicycle and that was why she caught my attention. She asked if she could ride with me in the opposite direction so that it didn’t feel like I was lapping her. I was cool with it and am always down with people coming on a neighborhood ride along.

She lasted about four miles and told me she was in pain. Her facial expression looked like it too. She felt bad that she couldn’t do the things I pull off on a daily basis. Then, I told her not to feel bad because I had to spend years working up to what I do. I spent months during my first campaign doing less than twelve miles a day because I would get tired easily and feel pain because I was riding a bike I was way too big for.

And, that’s always important for me to tell people if they start trying to follow things I’ve done over the years. The first thing is “You won’t be able to ride a lot without pain at first” (I still feel some pain at first years later). The second thing is “You will eventually fall off your bike”. I’ve fallen off fourteen times over the years and I will probably fall again at some point. It’s all about growing and learning from what you screwed up. Everything I’ve been able to achieve with cycling comes out of something that I had screwed up in the past. We will all make our mistakes and errors in our lifetimes. It is up to us to learn from them instead of dwell on them.

Modern hippie.

The one thing that my dad and my boss can agree on is that I come off as a modern hippie and I agree with them.

I’ve been free spirited most of my adult life and abandoned the super serious persona that I had growing up. That part of my life is long gone and I’m glad it’s gone. I never had fun during that time in my life and it sucked.

I was having this talk with my boss a few days ago and he was like “you remind me of a modern hippie in a good way”. He talked about my personality and attitude and said that it was a welcomed addition to the office. He also talked about how other departments kept getting uptight interns who would never joke around or try to be funny and that it would bring the environment down. He asked me to stay the way I am because it meshes well with the rest of the sector.

My dad also concurs with what he said and sees that very much. He knows more about me than I ever post here or talk about. So between what he knows personally and what I display here, he says that I remind him very much of the guys he went to college with in the late ’60s into the early ’70s. The only difference is that I actually have a professional job and don’t bum around.

I embrace the modern hippie vibe. It makes me happy and it makes other people happy. That’s the best anyone could ever ask for.

Pottsville.

I woke up around 7:30 to get out to ride before 8 so that I could get to Pottsville early enough in the afternoon. 8 am cycling sessions are very much old parts of my cycling past. I typically don’t go out until 9:30 or 10 on the weekends anymore just because I don’t feel like riding sooner than that. I sleep in a lot more than I had in the past. I heard my parents go out so I thought I might as well get up. I was kind of tired and felt a little hungover. I was watching episodes of The Mick on Hulu until like 2 am. Plans bailed, so I was like “I’ll just have fun without them”.

For a week or two, I had planned on going up to Pottsville for the day. Visit the family, get a case of Yuengling, reminisce, kind of just go around the city and play a little bit of Pokemon Go (I still play.. almost level 30. Maybe you’ve seen me — I’m SuburbanCyclist). The good stuff.

I went out for cycling around 7:55 and came back around 10:10. I stopped once because my dad asked me if I wanted anything for breakfast so he could go get it so we could leave sooner. I told him I wanted two bacon, egg, and cheese bagel Sizzlis from Wawa and a can of Coke. I typically get two Sizzlis and eat them when I come back from cycling sessions (it’s an easy way to eat 800 calories really fast — if you’re into trying to get extra calories in). I ended up eating them in the car on the way up.

We got there. Guess what happened though. Our family wasn’t home! So, it felt like a wasted trip. What ended up happening is my dad started touring us through the city and showed us where his mother and rest of his family grew up in the area. My dad’s family can be traced back over a century in Pottsville. He was also born there. We also visited the cemeteries to visit the cousins and put wreaths on. I also got my case of Yuengling. That was brewed not long ago and located in a distributor a mile a way from the brewery. The place is simply called “Scanlan’s”. If you’re ever in the area, check them out. They have just about every brew that Yuengling makes. This whole process took like two hours. Then we headed home.

On the way back, we stopped at a diner in Reading. Really good food in there. I love diner food. It’s like my favorite. My usual go to at any diner is chicken parm. It’s almost impossible to mess up.. unless you burn the breading. They didn’t burn it. It was fantastic.

Now, I’m home.. and weirdly kind of hungry despite a big dinner. I’ll probably get like ice cream or something. Or maybe a hoagie. And a beer. I just got my case of Yuengling, so there will definitely be beer involved.