Sometime between today and June 14th, my 79th birthday, I will once again attempt to bike my age. This will mark the 14th year in a row of this challenge, which, so far, I have been able to meet.
But this time things are more exciting and more challenging for these five reasons:
1 & 2: The ride is a mile longer, and I am a year older.
3: I cannot use my familiar (and very flat) route outside New York City because we are now living in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, a hilly and windy island.
4: For the first time, my attempt is authorized by the Association of Birthday Bicycle Athletes (ABBA), which will be monitoring my effort from its international headquarters in Sweden. If I make it, it will be certified and officially recognized. ABBA has some pretty serious rules and regulations, including these four:
A. The cyclist may not get off the bike more than 7 times during the ride;
B. Nap or rest breaks cannot exceed 15 minutes, and no more than two naps are allowed during the competitive effort;
C. No performance-enhancing drugs;
D. No sex during the ride. (This provision is the subject of much debate within ABBA. All of the French and Italian ABBA members, men and women, want the rule revised to prohibit unprotected sex, but not all sex. That debate continues, which means I will be abiding by the current rule.)
Although I went well beyond the required 78 miles last year, ABBA’s strict rules do not allow me to count the surplus of 5 miles toward this year’s goal.
5: My effort will be live-streamed on ESPN-27, the sports channel for amateur athletic events. This is a big deal for me, as you might imagine. If you’re not familiar with ESPN-27, it scored a ratings hit when it live-streamed 62-year-old George Hood’s 8:15.15 plank back in late February. At times during that broadcast the audience reached into the high double figures.
I’m wearing a Go-Pro camera for the live-streaming. Commentary will be provided by prominent sportscasters, who will weigh in during the 8-hour broadcast. I’ve invited the eloquent Greg Gumbel, the articulate Jim Nantz, the trail-blazing Robin Roberts, the unflappable Al Michaels, the perceptive Hannah Storm, the quick-witted Tony Kornheiser, the hebetudinous Brent Musburger, the cerebral Erin Andrews, the incomparable Vin Scully, and Herman Mullakang. Only Herm, the backup engineer at Martha’s Vineyard Community Service Television, has accepted the invitation as of this moment.
Three companies purchased spots on my biking attire to advertise their products. My main sponsor is Target, which has bought the rights to my shirt. I will be riding with its logo on my back and over my heart. Other sponsors are Vacurect, which is underwriting the inflation of my tires, and Depends for Men, which is sponsoring my biking pants. The proceeds are, of course, being donated to charity.
Even in the best of times, this venture of mine is akin to Trivial Pursuit. To make it meaningful, I am asking people to contribute 79 cents, $7.90, $79, $790, $7,900, or any other multiple of 79 to non-profit organizations in communities of color affected by the coronavirus and the protests over the murder of George Floyd. As always, pledges are contingent upon my riding 79 miles. If I don’t make it, you don’t have to make the donation.
If you wish to make your commitment public, that’s great. There are two ways: 1) Make your promise in the ‘reply’ section below, or 2) Go to my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/johnmerrow and make your public commitment there.
Thanks, and stay safe…..