Four years ago, my daughter was the age where she wanted to ride her bike to school. At the time, I was grossly overweight and unhealthy, weighing about 315 lbs. I wanted to ride with her, so I started riding an old hand-me-down Schwinn World Class Tourist. The bike was given to me by a friend. I made the half mile trip with her to school in the mornings and met her in the afternoons to escort her home.
I got to the point that I loved the morning rides and would go on longer and longer jaunts, stretching the 1 mile round trip to 3 miles. That soon grew to 5 and 7 mile spins around our neighborhood.
For Father's day that year I got a Mongoose 29er and discovered the bike trail system here in Plano. I made the jump to 12 and 18 miles, once or twice a day. Over the course of the summer, I blew through 500 miles and lost 30 pounds. I was bitten by the bug and had to have more!
I love a good challenge! Through Bicycling Magazine, I learned of several longer rides, races and tours. The one that I found most appealing was the American Red Cross - Tour du Rouge. It is a 6 day ride from Houston to New Orleans, spanning over 500 miles. My wife is from Louisiana and knew that it was the ride for me! The only concern I had was the required average pace of 15 mph. The best I seemed to be able to do on the 29er was about 15, and that was downhill with a decent breeze at my back.
At this point, I had been working from home for a couple of years and had a very flexible schedule. Having a second vehicle seemed a waste, so I sold my truck to buy my Fuji Roubaix road bike at Performance Bicycle in November 2011. Shortly after that I found the Plano Bicycle Association and joined. In researching the group riding options, I found that the “Tweeners” seemed to be the closest to what my perceived ability and needs were at the time so I began riding with them as my work schedule and weather would permit. During those sometimes grueling (to me) rides, I made several friends who were very supportive helpful in teaching me about cadence, pace and the dynamics of group riding. In the beginning, when I would fall off the back in those cold northerly winds, one of them would show up to encourage and pull for me.
In May of 2012, I rode my First Tour du Rouge. It was no big surprise that I was in the last group every day, but I kept the pedals turning, reaching New Orleans on the 6th day in a deluge. I completed my first century ride on the tour, completing it in 7 hours elapsed time (probably 10 or so in real time). On the Tour, I made new friends that commended me for the group riding skills that I had learned under the tutelage of my friends in the PBA.
Cycling had definitely started changing my life in new and rewarding ways. I was getting healthier and made new long term friends that would have seemed unlikely just a year earlier. Now when my family travels, you will normally see my bike on the back of our vehicle and me looking up my fellow Tour riders to go out for a jaunt while visiting an area such as Austin or Baton Rouge.
It also gave me the confidence to also complete my first Hotter'n Hell Hundred in August of 2012.
Today, I have completed both the Tour du Rouge and Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred three times, and am looking forward to my fourth!
In comparing pictures from the last three years, I am finally able to start seeing the results of my riding. I have lost about 8 inches from my waist and weigh about 250 lbs! I am confident that I will reach my goal weight of 205 lbs in the next year!
Please join me in the support of the American Red Cross! This is an organization that is there for every major domestic emergency, whether it be as large as a hurricane or as small as an apartment fire!