Circa 1983 – Cycling was my second passion after running. So after my knee blew out on a nine-mile run, I started looking into other ways to exercise. I suppose it was less about working out, and more about getting outside to relieve stress.
My ultimate hope was to run a marathon. I was impressed by Grete Waitz, the Norwegian marathon runner. She ran in a marathon in Charlotte, NC, and I participated in the 5K event. She was one of the few “stars” that I ever met as a youngster. It was a small world back then.
My problem is that when I do something, I overachieve typically, and running was one of those instances. When you mix an overachiever with a lack of instruction, you will have issues. Hence, I blew out my knee.
My most in-depth longing was for someone to appreciate me. So like a pinball bouncing off obstacle after obstacle, I was in search of something with which I could succeed. And though I may “couch my exercise” into a fitness narrative, that was not the whole truth. I had to run farther, longer than anyone, own the best shoes, read the right books, and prepare excessively.
I was on a 9-mile run one day around Olive Branch and Helms Pond Roads—it was a loop. At the 7-mile mark, something happened to my right knee. It was so painful that I thought that I heard it pop. It was excruciating pain. Not to be defeated, I finished the course and ran back to the house. My running days were over.
Shortly after that, some guys at work introduced me to cycling. Cal Pearson and Liston Darby were two biking advocates. I bought a Panasonic bicycle. It was a racing bike, about $350 (I don’t remember.) I also purchased a “fish-eye” computer to go on it. The “tech idols” were tempting me back then, too.
Cycling was a total blast; I was over the moon. My knee could make the movements, and there was no foot pounding on asphalt. It was the perfect exercise. I would get up early and go to Cal’s house, and we would ride with a group of folks from Delaval—the manufacturer where we all worked. We would bike across the county on a Saturday, which was 50 to 60 miles. And then back home by noon. It was so much fun.
I remember one day when I decided to go on a 100-mile trek—such an overachiever. I set my fish-eye and off I went by myself. About 75 miles into the trip, my knee went out. It was the same injury, the same pain, the same stupidity. I knew my “excessive biking career” was over. Just like the running injury, I had to finish the course.
So I rode my bike the remaining 25 miles on a bum knee. I would pedal hard with my left leg, and my right would sort of tag along. That worked fine until I came to a hill that required more “leg teamwork.”
I tapered off intensive training. It was about a year after my bike injury that I became a Christian, which set another trajectory for my life. Interestingly enough, my metabolism was so sped-up that it was another nine months before I began to gain weight. I continued to eat like a runner/biker, and my metabolism took care of it.
Then it didn’t!