What have I gotten myself into?

There are two-word phrases in both English and Yiddish that sum up what I’m thinking right now about our summer plans.

Oy vay.

And uh oh.

Sam and I are going to Europe for a vacation in July that includes a bike tour in the Czech Republic. We will spend six days riding, about 25-30 miles per day.

This is something Sam could do in his sleep — he rides up into the Oakland hills about three times a week, covering anywhere from 15-50 miles per ride, and does several century (100 km or 100 mile) rides each year.

Me? I take weekly spin classes at our gym, but I ride outdoors maybe once a year.

Of course, this whole thing was my idea. I was looking through guidebooks about Central Europe and reading about the food, which seemed like an awful lot of meat, potatoes, dumplings, more meat, and more dumplings. Washed down by the internationally-renowned beer!

I figured that if we didn’t do something drastically active, I would come back looking like a dumpling myself.

Plus biking is a great way to see the countryside in a more detailed and leisurely way than train or car. Sam had been fantasizing about doing a European bike tour for years. So, all in all, a great idea, right?

Then today I started training.

Sam led me on one of his basic bike routes, a 28-mile loop through the Oakland Hills. (For those of you who live in the area, it was up Tunnel Road to Skyline, then down Redwood Rd. into Contra Costa, then back up Pinehurst to Skyline and down Shepherd Canyon, through Montclair down to our house near Broadway. The local bikers all know this loop and just say “Redwood and Pinehurst.”)

OH MY GOD.

I managed it, which is a plus. I didn’t have to walk the bike at all. I only had to make one little rest stop that Sam didn’t make, and that was near the end of the last, biggest hill.

But boy, am I thrashed.

I had done this route once before, a couple of years ago, so I knew when I signed us up for the bike tour that I could do a ride of 25-30 miles. But it was exhausting. And what worries me is the prospect of having to do this for six days in a row.

I have about a month to train, but a week of that will be spent back east visiting family. I think I’ll be able to improve my endurance a little bit (at least get my posterior used to extended periods on a bike seat) but three weeks is not enough time to work any miracles.

So even if I try to train, it will still be throw-the-kid-in-the-pool-and-see-if-she-swims.

Stepping back, the bright side of this is that I am in much better physical shape now, at age 52, than anyone might have predicted when I was a kid. I was on the chubby side and far from an athlete — the kind of kid who loved reading and  artsy stuff, and, when it came to team sports at camp, was always picked last and stuck in the outfield.

I’ve had bad knees since my late teens. I never did sports during college. My only high school sport experience was in freshman year, when a friend and I signed up for track & field because we had crushes on a couple of the the junior boys on the track team. (How would you describe that on the part of a college application that asks about sports involvement? “Running… after junior boys.”)

I’ve benefitted from my generation’s awareness of physical fitness. (Health clubs really became a mass phenomenon as baby boomers hit their 20s and 30s, didn’t they?) I’ve also benefitted from being married to someone who cares about his physical fitness, a nice little bit of low-key peer pressure.

In any event,  the mere fact that here I am — making it to the gym several times a week and now attempting a six-day bike ride — should be worth a few gold stars in my internal report card.

And yes, there will be a van on this bike tour to pick me up if I need to bail at any point.

So things will probably work out fine. And if they don’t, I will come home with some world-class stories of disaster and humiliation. Either way, a vacation to remember.

But right now, my legs are jelly.

And my butt hurts.

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7 Responses to “What have I gotten myself into?”

  1. susie wallenstein Says:

    Ilana, maybe i shouldnt pass this on, but here is my version of a similar story. 3 or 4 years ago, i planned a walking trip in England with a friend. Across the Cotswolds, carrying only a day pack (the tour operators move your stuff from inn to inn for you. No guide, just a funky guide book, with directions like “cross this sheep pasture, heading for the oak tree near the top of the hill, and go over the fence….”. Any way it was fun. Our goal was 10 miles/day walking.

    To train, my philosophy was get to where i could walk 5 miles in one fell swoop, figuring that if i could comfortably do that in Berkeley, in England i could walk 5 miles in the morning, take a lunch break and walk another 5.

    I have to say that, in theory, that training plan worked very well. In actuality, England was having the worst rainfall in decades that month. We were scheduled for 10 miles, through mucky sheep pastures in torrential rains. we did persevere, but on several days, gave up after 5 miles and took a local bus to the next stop. However, we did do over 10 miles on a couple of days, dividing before and after lunch stints, so i would say the plan held up.

    Rain and all, it was a great trip. I’m sure your trip will be terrific! And it is really amazing how quickly we can get into much better shape!

    You get a lot of gold stars for your internal report card!

    • Ilana DeBare Says:

      I have always wanted to do one of those English walking tours! Sounds wonderful… except for that bit with the mud and the rain.

      Hmmm… so maybe I will stop worrying about my fitness for biking and start worrying about biking in the rain. :-)

  2. Donald Davis Says:

    Ilana,

    My advice: start the day early. Then you should be able to take things pretty leisurely without having to worry that night will arrive before the town does.

    Don

  3. Jody Knowlton Says:

    Congratulations….I totally understand the jelly-leg syndrome…we did almost the same ride yesterday, but not quite as far. You are going to do GREAT on your trip. Let’s ride this Sunday…where will Sam take us??

  4. Judy Pace Says:

    Reminds me of a bike trip I did in France several years ago. You’re doing the right thing by training, which I didn’t do. But, how about starting slower? I’d suggest building up to the 29 mile ride vs. starting with it (-: Making sure your seat is at the right height and tires are properly inflated–which Sam will surely see to–as well as learning when to shift when going up hill, will help a lot. It’s true; there’s nothing like seeing the countryside by bicycling through it–you’ll have a great experience. Judy

  5. Boris Says:

    Reminds me of a bike trip I did in France several years ago. You’re doing the right thing by training, which I didn’t do. But, how about starting slower? I’d suggest building up to the 29 mile ride vs. starting with it (-: Making sure your seat is at the right height and tires are properly inflated–which Sam will surely see to–as well as learning when to shift when going up hill, will help a lot. It’s true; there’s nothing like seeing the countryside by bicycling through it–you’ll have a great experience. Judy
    +1

  6. Wendy Ng Says:

    Have a great trip! You are an inspiration to take this on!

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