Sunday, June 19, 2011

How did this all get started?

I wasn't very good at sports when I was a kid. I was on the grade school basketball team only because our school was small and that meant every boy signed up. Actually playing during a game was a different matter. And I could probably count on one hand how many times I was passed the ball during the last 2 years. I was a tall, gangly, un-coordinated klutz that had no passion for the usual sports. I kind of liked baseball, but that still required running. Running fast. And I was clearly born with a deficit of fast-twitch muscle fibers. And let's not even talk about high school. The competition was stronger, and I just knew I was better off not trying out for sports. I didn't discover a sport that I really liked, and something I seemed to do reasonably well in, until I was 22 years old.

In 1980, I decided to dust off my candy-apple red Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed. I set a goal that by the end of summer I would ride my first "century", a 100 miles in one day. That September, with a group of other cyclists from American Youth Hostels, I did it! I had found something my Creator had designed by body and mind for, endurance cycling. The following year my goal would increase to a double-century, 200 miles in one day. So in 1981, I took a trip up to Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Earlier that year, I had just bought out the remaining stock and tools of a bicycle shop in Two Rivers. My new steed was a beautiful iridescent orange Centurion Pro, a very close copy of a Cinelli road bike. It just seemed that a ride up along the shores of Lake Michigan and back would make a fitting route for my entry into the world of "ultra-marathon" cycling. In ultra-cycling, that usually means at least 200 miles in a 24-hour time period.

Well, I almost completed the trip, until I was struck by a hit-and run driver somewhere just out of Cedarburg...with about 5 miles to go. I was left lying in the ditch, with a broken rib and my eyeglasses somewhere on the opposite side of the road. Fortunately, a kind elderly couple stopped shorty after the accident, and drove me to the local police station. At that time, I didn't even know my rib was broken. With nearly 200 miles under my belt, and having been thrown into the ditch by a 2,000 pound vehicle, I was feeling pretty numb and the irritation a little old broken rib just didn't seem to be an obvious problem.

But from then on, I was hooked. The ultra bug had caught me and there was no return to normalcy. I began to make plans for next year.

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