Saturday, April 30, 2011

And at the finish line...cardio beats car!

With April drawing to a close, I am happy to report that my month-long quest to outrun/out-bike my car has been a success! And I did it without having to become anti-social! (well, at least not more than usual)

My driving mileage for the month ended at 576, with the vast majority of those miles coming from two road trips to places (St. Cloud and Wabasha) that go beyond practical distances for biking. For in-town commuting, I used my car for the following this month: 2 plasma donations, 1 bike repair at Scheels, and once as a sober cab for a friend that needed a ride home from the downtown bars (he still owes me one, by the way). That's it.

On the flip side, my biking/running totals ended up at 625 miles collectively (108 by foot, 517 by pedal). Averages for that equate to be about 3.6 miles of running and 17.25 miles of biking per day. My longest run of the month was 8 miles, and my longest non-stop bike ride was 33 miles.

Pretty modest totals compared to what some of the hardcore duathlon junkies are doing, but still a respectable amount of exercise on a daily basis. And since I keep a pretty busy schedule, I won't complain.

Even for a person that's relatively in shape like myself, the effects of regular exercise like that are noticeable. By the end of the month, my legs pretty much stopped feeling sore after long bike rides and felt like they were recovering faster from weightlifting. Not to compete with my co-worker's "fight to be fit," but I also lost seven pounds for the month.

Beyond that, I noticed a definite improvement in cardiovascular endurance.

I haven't done much for serious training runs since I ran the Mankato 1/2 Marathon last fall. I still run regularly (pretty obvious since I topped 100 miles last month), but the pace is usually leisurely and the distances have been shorter (3-5 mile runs are pretty normal these days). Conventional wisdom says that my running times should be slower now than they were when I was cranking out 40-mile training weeks last spring.

But thanks to all the biking this month, my spontaneous decision to push myself on the YMCA treadmill yesterday yielded some surprising results: 8 miles in 53:41 (about a 6:43 average per mile) and I felt like I could've kept going at that pace for a few more miles. Compared with my race times from last year, it's almost like I never stopped marathon training.

The other big surprise came in how many less miles I drove with my car this month than I normally would. I can usually count on driving about 900-1,100 miles each month, depending on the frequency of out-of-town trips. But thanks to in-town commuting on my bike, I was able to keep the drive total low and add to my biking miles at the same time.

The two in-town destinations I biked to most often were the YMCA and my morning job near River Hills Mall. The distances from my apartment to those two locations are both pretty mild (roughly 1 mile to the Y, 4 miles to the morning job), but they add up over the course of a month.

I work at my morning job four days a week, which adds up to 32 miles of commuting per week and 128 miles every four weeks. Although I don't have a set schedule of attendance at the Y, six visits a week is a pretty fair estimate, which translates to 12 miles a week and 48 miles in four weeks.

Add it up, and that's 176 miles I didn't drive with my car in April. And since those are in-town locations, a safe assumption would be that I saved on having to buy around 8 gallons worth of gas for those trips (my Kia gets about 30 miles to the gallon for highway mileage). Given the direction gas prices are headed, that's hardly chump change.

Despite the challenge being over, I plan on continuing to use my bike for most in-town commuting. It's been a great boost to my exercise schedule, it's good for the environment and, quite frankly, I enjoy biking a heck of a lot more than I enjoy driving my car.


  1. Good for you!!! Keep it up!! Truly inspiring! :) I bet you feel great and you are being environmentally friendly which is awesome! Keep that positive attitude! You will go far! Congrats! :)