How to Bike Yourself to Death and Live to Tell the Tale

A Coast Guard officer snapping a shot of Mayon Volcano at the Legazpi Boulevard.  Partly covering Mayon's base is Kapuntukan Hill (Sleeping Lion Hill).

This is my version of "An Idiot's Guide to Biking Yourself to Death".

Step 1:  Load your super cheap mountain bike on a jeepney's "top load" from Manito, Albay to Legazpi City, 42 kilometers, or one and a half hour jeepney ride away.

Step 2:  Bike around the city and finish all your day's errands.

Step 3 Refuse to load your bike on top of a jeepney and stupidly decide to pedal the entire 42 kilometer undulating coastal road back to Manito, Albay.

Stupid. Your cheap bike was not built for this.  Your body isn't prepared for this.  You know night fall will catch up before you reach home.  With the current conditions you'll probably be home 2-3 hours longer than the usual 1.5 hour public utility transport.

Starting the day with an hour-and-a-half-long fellowship to Legazpi City on top of a jeepney with Reymar & Jay Mar, two of my really good students at the Community College of Manito.  They're off to the city to work on their CHED scholarships.

You haven't ridden the bike for any distance farther than 2 kilometers the past two weeks. You just came from Manila for your wife's Lupus checkup and you were busy preparing for your second semester teaching load at the community college.

Stupid.  Yes.

But your heart has never backed down on any challenge.  You can't resist the thought of being alone on your bike throughout the afternoon glancing at the coastal scene with Mayon Volcano across the Poliqui Bay.  You know that so many things you have carefully planned and prepared for in the past never went past the drawing boards.  "Drawing lang," some of your friends call it.  It's now or never.

Try and consciously suffer the consequences of an aching body later.  Try and die trying.  Try or fail trying is all too familiar for me.

Once you start, you know there's no turning back.  You won't see a lot of people along the stretch of the road.  There will only be a handful of jeepneys that will pass by.  All of these will certainly be unable to pick you up because they will be full of merchandise from the city to satisfy the town's weekly needs.

Then you commit a further costly mistake.  You choose a route you think will give you an easier start.  You choose to pedal from the Legazpi Boulevard towards the Maslog-Taysan road in order to avoid the long climb to the Oriental Hotel in Albay.

Instead of saving energy you actually pedaled yourself to an additional 6 kilometers with 3 steep climbs.  So your legs already start cramping up merely 10 kilometers from starting.  You have 30+ kilometers more to go.

You already notice the shadows cast by the season's early sunset.  You can't stop now.  There is no public jeepney transport along this 14 kilometer stretch.

You know what's going to happen next:  either your lungs and legs explode, you die of fatigue, your cheap bike dies on you, or you kill yourself for being such the stupid man that you are.

But you forgive yourself.  You have been living with yourself for the past 38 years and you are already intimately acquainted with your own stupidity.

So you forgive yourself and apply the one thing that your stupid head and your weak body has in its favor -- a steady heart and the desire to finish anything you start

You just keep pedaling.

And pedaling.

Enjoy the view whenever you catch your breath until darkness starts enveloping everything around except for the city lights in the distance and the stars above.  Keep repositioning your body to relieve pain from the bike's uncomfortable saddle.

One thing I learned and applied in this adventure is to just keep pedaling.  Take short glimpses of the road and destination ahead, bow your head and just keep pedaling.  No matter how slow you're going at least you haven't stopped and inch by inch you're still moving towards your goal.  Every meter gained is better than stopping and whining.

View across the Poliqui Bay, 40 kilometers from starting point.  Kapuntukan (Sleeping Lion) hill can be faintly seen near Mayon's base at left.  (Photo from a previous morning ride)

Quickly glance at the road ahead, bow and keep pedaling.  Up and down for a total 753 meter elevation gain and 734 meter total elevation loss through 48 kilometers, aided to the finish by your bike's cheap head and tail lights.

Long stretches of near total darkness emphasize the feeling of laboring alone and exhausted.  It's always easier to give up when you're alone.  Every burst of extra effort near climbing peaks find you opening your mouth with "Just a little more, Lord" as you take in more oxygen to refresh your muscles.

The 42 kilometer road became a 48+ km stretch along the Poliqui bay because of a costly decision at the start.

You finally reach home 4 hours later.

Sometimes stupidity painfully bears twin babies called "fulfillment" and "success".  I've heard of calculated risks but not calculated stupidity.  Despite grouping myself under the latter at least I live to tell this tale and I'm waiting for you to join me next time.


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