The Breukelen cemetery is one of the few locations on the planet that has lasting meaning for me. It’s a place to which I make a pilgrimage each time I’m in The Netherlands.
This year’s pilgrimage had an additional agenda.
It was 35 miles round trip by bike.
I hadn’t ridden a bike for several years — quite possibly a prior trip to The Netherlands, even. In recent months I’d been preparing: I’d increased the duration of my mostly daily elliptical session, and added a stationary bicycle component to it as well.
Honestly, my concerns weren’t about the riding itself, but my endurance. 35 miles is quite a distance.
Fortunately in The Netherlands is different from back home — it’s mostly flat, and unless there are strong winds, it’s easier, per mile, than a ride around home.
But there’s that distance. 35 miles is 35 miles, no matter how flat.
Besides visiting the cemetery, my goal was simple: prove I could do it or, in failing, understand my limits. As I age, things like stamina, cardio health, and overall condition have become more “interesting” to me. I felt like I was in reasonable shape, even after having gained my “COVID-20” pounds in recent years, but nothing could confirm or deny that better than a real-world test.
It went swimmingly.
I had only two physical “symptoms” as the ride wore on: saddle sores and neck strain. The saddle sores (fortunately never breaking skin) resulted from the seat of the borrowed bike being closer to a racing than riding configuration. (To be clear, it was not a racing bike or seat, but it was narrower and harder than might have been appropriate for me.) The neck strain was simply a side effect of me having to look up while bent forward over the handlebars.
The neck strain dissipated quickly. The saddle sores resolved more slowly, but not so slowly as to prevent me from taking another, much shorter, ride the next day.
As I described it to my cousin, I was quite pleased with the condition of the rest of my body.
Her comment was that I should be proud of the accomplishment. I don’t know if pride is what I feel. Rather, I’m simply grateful that at this point in my life, I could do it. Many my age cannot.
Health is one of those things that many start paying attention to only later in life when the threats, or the examples, of ill-health are more evident.
I’m far from perfect, but apparently doing okay.
Now the next challenge: to keep it up.