Sunny Day News
A marathon is a bucket-list achievement for runners. Cyclists have a similar holy grail – a century, a ride of 100 miles or more. Especially for newer riders, completing a century is a rite of passage among the spandex tribes.
Welcome to the club, Arthur “Artie” Morgan!
Morgan, 60, of Lake Mary, Fla., finished his first century March 16. Actually, Morgan cycled 103 miles that day as part of Orlando’s Tour de Cure charity ride to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Morgan was one of a larger group of Seminole County cyclists who rode their first century while raising thousands of dollars for the charity.
The 103-mile ride, which required Morgan to spend more than 5½ hours in the saddle of his red Trek 5200 road bike, isn’t something he saw in his future four years ago when he took up cycling. Morgan started by riding modest distances on a mountain bike. He transitioned to a lighter carbon-fiber road bike and dedicated himself to improving his endurance and speed.
But there were health obstacles. Morgan has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, which is a progressive lung condition that makes it hard to breathe. That’s a major concern for Morgan while pedaling fast enough to make his lungs scream and his heart rate soar. But he continued to challenge himself by riding longer distances in faster groups, some with very fit cyclists decades younger than him.
“When Artie started riding with us, we could tell if were pushing him too hard because his breathing would become so heavy that I thought Darth Vader was following me,” said Joe Briatico, 47, who rides with Morgan on Wednesday mornings. “Often, we had to stop or slow down to allow him to catch his breath. He kept coming back week after week regardless of how hard he had to fight to keep up. Now, we probably roll about 1-2 mph faster and he never has issues. Not only does he keep up, but he routinely pulls (leads) the group.”
Morgan learned to cope with compromised breathing. “I am a lifelong asthmatic, with COPD diagnosed in 2006. I have, on my very best day, 50 percent of normal lung capacity, so doing a century for someone like me, at my age, is a decent accomplishment,” said Morgan, whose longest ride before the century was 78 miles.
Since completing the 103-miler, Morgan hasn’t let up. He notched a 64-mile metric century in the Tennessee mountains May 3, a leg-burning challenge in which he cycled up almost 5,000 feet. Morgan said the arduous climbing made this ride far more difficult than the March century.
But the day of his 103-miler was also not without challenges. Strong winds were a factor early on the course, Morgan said, and the wind was especially tough for the home stretch. The group in which he rode battled headwinds, with gusts of 20 mph to 25 mph, for the last hour.
“It was very difficult, but somehow we did it,” said Morgan, who burned more than 3,000 calories while averaging 18.2 mph during the 103 miles. “My quads (front of thighs) were smoking – you can still see the smoke trails,” said Morgan, laughing. “The last 12 miles were real tough.”
The payoff made the suffering worthwhile.
“It was a goal I wanted to do,” Morgan said. “Certainly, even a year or two ago, I never would have imagined I could have done it. But the progress has been so dramatic the past year that I knew I had it in me. It was just a question of doing it. It was one of those lifelong goals. And I’m really happy I did it.”
Morgan is also happy about the riders he joined for the event and the help they provided. He trained and rode with a Seminole Cyclists group led ably by Judi Robison.
“I had a great time. I was with Judi’s group for the most part. We had trained with them. I was comfortable with the group. I was comfortable with the pace. Obviously, I know a lot of the people. Overall, it was a well-organized, well-planned ride.”
Like many cyclists, Morgan said the social and competitive aspects of group riding attract him to the sport.
“I like the camaraderie. I’ve met a lot of new friends, and I really like the people I ride with.” Morgan said. “It’s given me a second lease on life in a lot of ways.”
Much of his first lease was used on running. Morgan stopped running in the early ‘90s because of pain in his feet and knees. Like many middle-agers who gravitate to a bike, cycling has given Morgan “a new challenge.”
“I enjoy being competitive about it. I enjoy the challenge,” he said. “Certainly, healthwise it’s great. I’m at my lowest weight I’ve been at in decades. I missed that runner’s high that I always got when I ran. Obviously, if you push it on the bike, it’s there in spades. When you get done with a good ride, you feel wonderful.”
We can guess how Artie Morgan felt after his first century.