Tek-Knees Cycling 

Put the metal to the pedal ...

 

The first story of recovery ...


 

Why I Ride

A Story Of Recovery

 By Greg Bullock © 2007

 

When I was nine years old my parents were divorced and I began living nearly ten miles from my Dad. Not far by some standards, but to a young boy whose Dad was suddenly no longer at the dinner table each evening, it might as well have been the other side of the moon. I spent every day I could traversing the distance to see my Dad. I would frequently borrow my uncles Schwinn Continental, which I had to ride sitting on the top tube as my legs were not long enough to sit on the seat and pedal. I was often scolded for “borrowing” that bike, but it was that bike that allowed me to discover the bicycle as life support. During those days I spent many hours on the bike. By the time I was twelve, my cousin was racing in the United States Cycling Federation, and although I could not afford to own a sleek Schwinn Paramount like he had, I learned how to train on my very own Schwinn Continental. I learned to eat properly, to carry water with me, to hold my line riding safely on the roads, all the things I needed to know to build a solid foundation for bicycling to become part of my life. I was putting in between ten and twenty miles nearly every time I got on the bike, after school, on weekends, whenever I could ride, I did.  I once entered a local race, and won in my age group. Bicycling had become my passion. I never thought about why, I just got on the bike and rode wherever the road would lead me.

 

I continued to ride through the years, spending countless hours riding longer and longer distances, while escaping to the magic of the countryside. Nearly all of my cycling during those times was on solo excursions, including a stint of commuting twenty-miles in the darkness to work the mid-night shift at a local factory. I’d ride with a lighting system to my job, and return home after working through the night twenty-miles each morning, riding forty miles a day round trip. At the time I did not know what I was riding for, but the ride was what was important, and I didn’t need to know why I did it. When I was twenty I rode from my home in New Jersey to Canada, and back, averaging nearly one hundred miles a day over a two- week period. My bike was a Motobecane Grand Touring fitted with panniers front and rear, and the almighty granny gear. I carried a tent, cloths, cook stove, and a sleeping bag, stopping at campgrounds, rest areas and town parks along the way. I miss that ride. Throughout the years I continued to log miles. I used my bike over several years to commute to work again, an average of twenty-six miles a day. When taking the long way home, my daily mileage would climb to fifty plus miles or more. My goal was to ride 300-400 miles a week whenever possible. I continued that pace for many years. Over time my weekly mileage rose to around 400 miles during the summer months, with centuries ridden frequently on both Saturday and Sunday, and I kept to a 6 day ride schedule as time permitted. Some folks would say I was obsessed, but to me it was normal. I love being on a bike. 

 

Several years ago, my wife became pregnant with our son, and my riding partner got off the bike at her doctors suggestion. We bought a house and started a new business together. This was an exciting time for us both and we were going through a lot of changes. I stopped riding as well, claiming a lack of time as my excuse as to why I could not get on the bike. I began to eat poorly, choosing high saturated fat food sources, instead of the pasta and vegetable salads I had been eating for years. Cooking burgers and hot dogs on the grill, on the patio of our new home, while sitting around with a cold beverage, was how I chose to spend much of my time. Ice Cream was our fun food of choice, eating a full half-gallon in only an evening or two. I was enjoying this new phase of my life, even though I had gained over sixty pounds since I got off the bike, and well over my weight of a time when I was logging close to 400 miles a weeks. I was no longer riding my bicycle, and I had myself convinced that all the little physical inconveniences I was feeling at that time, were the signs of “getting older”.

 

I turned 47 years old in August. I was beginning to feel my age. I was finding myself fatigued most of the time. I’d always thought I’d still feel good when I got older, but I was feeling terrible. Then in mid-January, I could not get enough water, always thirsty, I needed a nap every afternoon, headaches came nearly every day and I was having trouble with my vision. I was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes. Hypertension was also something I began to have treated, though I had known I was afflicted with it for sometime. Both diseases run through my family history, along with heart disease. In February we had a major ice storm here in the northeast. The next day, with temperatures in the twenties, I went out to chip the ice from our driveway, spending more than two hours banging on the ice with a shovel until all of the ice had been cleared. That night while getting into bed, I felt pressure like a strap wrapped tightly around my chest. My wife and I discussed it for a short while, and we decided I needed to go to the hospital. I was having a heart event, which required a stent to be placed into my left anterior descending artery. The LAD had more than a seventy-five percent blockage, while other arteries had blockages of over fifty percent. My cardiologist called the LAD the “widow maker”, and told my wife that I was a short time away from having a massive heart attack, which I probably would not have survived. A diet loaded with saturated fat, family history and lack of exercise all contributed to what had happened. My cardiologist also said, the fact that I had been a cyclist all of those years, greatly contributed to the ability of my heart to survive my undoing, thus far.

 

Why do I ride?  … Because when I didn’t, it nearly killed me.