By Anne Poe
If you have explored our website, www.hikingbikingadventures.com, you may have noticed that we frequently embark on demanding “holidays.”
Our journey began in 1984, with our inaugural adventure of biking from Costa Rica to Peru, attempting to conquer the notorious Darien Gap in Panama.
Now, thirty-one years and numerous adventurous escapades later, both of us are in our 70s. Recently, Mike stumbled upon a study examining the race times of marathon runners, which revealed that their performance declined by 20% per decade after the age of 40. Although our spirits still yearn to face challenges and reach the distances of our youth, there seems to be a disparity! Age has undeniably taken its toll.
During the past summer, we cycled a daunting 4000 kilometers across Europe, carrying our full load without any electric assistance. Our blog and the “Bicycling Adventures” section on our website document the tales from this expedition. There were instances, even entire weeks, where we questioned our purpose.
In the United States, even the steepest gradients on paved roads seldom exceed 8%. However, in Europe, we found ourselves relentlessly battling ascents of 10% to 15%, encountering short yet exhausting inclines that peaked at a staggering 26%, according to our GPS.
Ultimately, we decided to alter our itinerary and follow the Euro Velo 6 route along major rivers. While there were still plenty of formidable hills, it proved to be a comparably less arduous path than our initial adventure through Greece and Croatia. Nevertheless, even though we had the desire to continue on our original route, the challenge proved too formidable for our enjoyment.
I have always lived with a genetic form of emphysema. At my current age of 71, only 37% of the oxygen I inhale reaches my bloodstream. In contrast, individuals with healthy lungs in my age bracket typically transfer between 70% to 80% of oxygen from the lungs to the blood.
Due to the insufficient oxygen supply to my blood, my heart struggles to compensate by pumping harder. Breathing becomes strained and restricted. My only option is to proceed at a leisurely pace, especially during uphill climbs.
My average speed while ascending a six-mile hill with a gradient of 10% was approximately two miles per hour, if not slower. At times, my breathing would become intensely laborious, leaving me no choice but to pause and recuperate. It was far from an enjoyable experience.
Because of my compromised lungs, Mike carried more of the luggage.
Due to the condition of my lungs, Mike took on the responsibility of carrying a greater portion of the luggage.
He had a fully loaded bike and pulled a Bob’s trailer.
Often, on long uphill climbs, if he stopped to rest, he found it difficult to regain momentum and ended up pushing the bike to a flatter spot or all the way to the top.
The constant effort of pulling such a heavy burden on a daily basis wore him down and dampened his enthusiasm for cycling in mountainous terrain.
He was no longer having fun.