My annual health check


My annual health check
John Myers has just signed up again for his 16th Around the Bay bike ride.

Do you have a yearly event or physical activity which can benchmark your health and fitness level? It could be a ride, a run or workout which takes a significant effort to achieve.

For me it’s an annual 210km bike ride, which just so happens to be Australia’s largest one-day bike ride.

Around the Bay is a challenge ride around Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. With a pre-dawn start and a one to two hour break in the middle for a ferry crossing, it’s a long day in the saddle.

I rode the first three years of the event from 1993 to 1995. I registered for 1996, lost motivation and the event dropped off my calendar. After missing the event for seven years, and consequently gaining a level of fitness that could only be described as mediocre, I knew that I needed a goal to get fit, especially in winter when hibernating is easy.

Held each year in spring, the event ensures I stay active during the colder months. Committing to an event meant I have regular early morning training rides, which get me out of bed earlier on weekends than I do during the working week.

My return to Around the Bay in 2003 coincided with the wettest ride in its history, but I was hooked. It was not necessarily the easiest ride but all the early morning training had paid off and since then I’ve only missed one year.

Over the years my times have varied. The weather has always been a factor, especially in warmer years when a warm northerly always makes it a long slog back to Melbourne.

At the beginning I was slower because I was on a hybrid bike with thick tyres. I look back and wonder what was I doing. Fortunately a cycling mate convinced me to buy an entry-level road bike in 2004. Like all bike riders there are a few key moments when life on a bike will never be the same.

In 2005 I discovered early morning bunch rides. My fitness improved and I was completing Around the Bay in faster times each year.

Last year I rode with two friends who I shared the ride with from 2004 – 2006. Back then I was the ‘slow boy’. Fast forward eight years and I had to slow down and spent more time at the front of the pack. For the first time, I was enjoying the view.

The biggest benefit of taking part in Around the Bay has been a feeling of health and vitality leading into summer when there is always much more to do. It’s also set me up for some bigger bike riding challenges in summer and autumn. And in a sense it is these new challenges that have become a better benchmark of my fitness level.

After all these years maybe Around the Bay is no longer my annual health check, just a terrific way to spend a long day in the saddle with some of my bike riding mates. And at the end of a long ride the coffee makes way for beer!