Last May, my husband Mark and I joined a small group of aging adventurers and bicycled 290 miles in 8 days around the old Zuider Zee in Holland. We spent 4 months training at home for this ride. I had never biked more than 18 miles in a day. So we started with spinning classes at the local college, and transitioned outdoors when winter abated. Our guide gave us a strict training schedule. By the middle of May we had to ride 90 miles in a week with at least one, preferably two rides of 40+ miles. Lest you stop reading here and call me crazy, I want to testify that the training was remarkably ENJOYABLE! Why?
- I can’t remember a time when my husband and I spent so much concentrated time working together towards a shared goal
- My middling February fitness blossomed into a can-do confidence by May-I lost weight, got lots of vitamin D, got stronger and happier with each passing mile
- I got to buy really cool new raingear (I love a packing list of required gear-time to shop!)
- Almost every ride went by an ice cream shop (no explanation needed)
In future posts, I will share much more about what a FANTASTIC trip this was for both of us. Many have asked us, “Why the Netherlands?” The answer is easy: low altitude, no hills! I love biking the straightaways, and the bike routes in Holland are atop or beside a dyke at or below sea level (insert smiley face). My kind of riding. (Of course, the wind is a story for another post…Holland should make you think “windmills”.)
One day, it was sunny and hot, and we had 42 miles to pedal. Our route took us through a lovely town called Giethoorn, the “Venice” of the Netherlands. There were many tourists that weekend day, so it took some patience to cycle the narrow paths along the myriad canals.
Now, I should explain that I prefer to bike at the back of any group, so that my casual 10-11 mph pace doesn’t hold anyone back, and so they won’t feel compelled to ride too close…I like my space. My friend Dan often road far behind me to bring up the rear. After leaving Giethoorn, I was hot and tired and thirsty, head down, concentrating on getting this ride DONE. While enjoying a small pity party in my head, Dan shouted forward,
Hey Julie, you are about to be passed by a granny!”
Just then, an elderly Dutch woman in a starched dress and with perfectly coiffed hair, riding stiffly upright and not giving me so much as a glance, went zipping by me. Not out of breath. Certainly not all sweaty like me. Assuredly older than I.
I slowed down a bit to let Dan catch up, and we decided that for every Dutch granny that passed us, we could have one Heineken beer at the end of the day. Only 15 minutes later, and Dan sang out, “Here comes another one!” Then another one! It was a 3-Dutch granny, 3-Heineken day!
All to say that when an adventure becomes more physically challenging than you think you can handle, a little humor goes a long way to help you power through. And ice cream and beer at the end don’t hurt either.
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