If someone told me they were planning to run a marathon with zero training save for a handful of 5Ks, I’d put the emergency room on speed dial ahead of their inevitable crash and burn.
So as I laced up Sunday for New York City’s 40-mile Five Boro Bike Tour — on training literally limited to cycling to an ice-cream shop to meet a friend in April — I was bracing for the worst.
“I’ll make it to Queens and then head home at the halfway mark,” I told myself. “There’s no shame in stopping early. Only a fool would try for 40 miles on about 6 miles — and one soft-serve — of total training.”
That’s the funny thing about preparing for the worst: sometimes it doesn’t pan out. Or in other words: sometimes you finish the entire 40-mile tour, feel awesome doing it, and can’t remember for the life of you why you were so darned nervous in the first place.
The Five Boro Bike Tour — not a race, as the organizers are sure to remind you — reminds me a lot of the NYC marathon: it leads you all around the city, it has spectacular views, and it forces you to go to Staten Island against your better judgment. But unlike the marathon, I finished Sunday’s event with zero pain and woke up Monday feeling fresh, not like my knees were going to crumble under me like I do after running 26.2 miles.
Seriously, if anyone had told me years ago biking doesn’t destroy your will to live like marathoning does, I would have traded in my Asics for a 21-speeder years ago.
Don’t get me wrong: biking events won’t totally replace running as my cardio of choice. But based on my limited experience, it does bring some key benefits:
- It’s lower impact, meaning you hurt less afterwards.
- You get a built-in rest on the down hills.
- It’s kosher to ring a loud bell at jerks about to step in your path.
- There’s no shame in carrying an entire backpack of food with you for the entire event, which doesn’t quite work when you’re traveling on foot.
Of course, everything has its cons. For the bike tour, it was mostly related to congestion: get 40,000 bikes on one course and you’re bound to come to a standstill once or twice or what felt like 37 times. As someone with a need for speed, I found this particularly frustrating.
Still, it was all-in-all a positive experience, and a good reminder that while I feel like my fitness levels have long since plateaued, I still have some endurance in me. Huzzah!
Have you ever tried your hand at a new sport?