Do It Movin’

Guest blogger Dan McClain shares how a little motivation from a stranger will push him toward the finish line at the 2019 Seattle to Portland 

I am turning 40 this year. Over the hill. For some people, the analogy of heading downhill after cresting one is a negative thing. “Well, it is all downhill from here,” they say. I live in Colorado and have gotten back into cycling after an 8-year hiatus. Now downhills represent the reward and are my favorite part of a long bike ride. In fact, the downhill is the only thing that gets me up the hill in the first place.  

My first 40 years had their share of uphills and plenty of coasting, as well. As I reflect on all my life’s “rides,” I look back with neither regret nor excessive nostalgia. I am thankful, for I have built my leg strength with the uphills, experienced enough downhill portions to recognize the reward, and also spent significant time on the flats working on my pace. I am ready for what life throws at me next. For now, let us reflect on some important dates.

7/13/2019 and 8/9/2019: On August 9 I am turning 40. On July 13 I am riding 206 miles in one day for the annual Seattle to Portland ride (STP). This famous ride also turns 40 this year. In the eight years since my last STP, I have moved to Colorado, married my wife, changed careers twice, had a bike stolen, gained a used bike, had two grandmas and a mother-in-law pass away, bought my first brand new bike, lost two dogs, gained one dog, had a serious health incident, quit drinking, welcomed our daughter into the world and gained approximately 35 pounds. Not all in that order. While the bike being stolen was abrupt, the weight snuck up like a long incline on a ride with a tail wind. You know it is there, but you don’t feel it enough to realize it on every pedal until, “WOW, I just gained 500 feet of elevation!” Or “WOW, I just gained 35 pounds!”

1/26/2019: My Grandma “Margie” McClain passed away last year. She was born January 26, 1920. In my opinion, she personifies, and may indeed be, the inspiration behind the nickname of the “Greatest Generation.” On January 26 of this year she would have been 99. This year I decided to honor her by getting back on my bike on her birthday. I wore a scarf she knitted for me years ago with her hand knitted label “Made with love by Grandma.” I rode my bike 5.66 miles. I threw up. I trudged on anyway. A week later I rode 10.86 miles. On the ride after that I rode 20. 

During my past STP training rides, I would segment them into 20 miles. So that became my first goal. My first 20 mile ride was a rough one.  A fresh coat of snow blanketed the streets of Denver. I had already dedicated myself to being the rough, western cowboy, so I still rode. I almost fell a few times but made it to dry pavement again. As I painfully pedaled through an unfamiliar neighborhood, a middle aged man walked towards me with a little bit of a street swagger. I prepared myself to just give him the “what’s up” nod and pedal on. We motioned as if to say “yeah, we’re cool,” and then he shouted out a phrase that has stuck with me since. In fact, many days it has been my internal mantra on my longer rides when I needed an extra push – “Do it movin’, brotha, do it movin’!”  Yes!  And that is what I was doing, I WAS doing it moving.

For me, riding my bike creates rhythm and focus, control and discipline, and just pure elation. Cycling requires a hyper concentration that I really wish I could manifest every moment of my life. The full body and mental fortitude of riding through cities, countrysides, hills, valleys, rivers, creeks and so much more in one day is one of the most exhilarating rushes I can experience.

While riding the other day, I thought to myself, “Dan, you will be on your bike for five hours today…you should really take all of this time to plan your week, month, year, life, etc…you do, after all, have all of this time.” Hours later, I remembered that passing thought. I realized I did not do any of that. I spend my time on my bike thinking about past times on my bike, this time on my bike and the next time on my bike. I am happily unplugged for hours at a time. When the moments arrive when the hill is steep and the energy is low, I think of my health, my daughter and my wife. Head winds and elevation gain do not seem as bad. I think of the top of the hill. I think of getting over that hill. I think about going downhill with all of them while the wind is at our back. I think about the next 40 years and I smile, for this is the reward. I think of that stranger that day and I internally shout to myself with glee, “Do it movin’ brotha!! Do it movin!” I plan to.

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