Before the modern era, in a time we might call "B.C." (Before Cycling), I was a softball player. Today, I still am, and it's largely because of cycling that I can still play at a high level.
In 1999 I returned to softball after a 10-year absence. I never meant to get away from the sport, but it was a time in my life when I moved around a lot, changed careers and didn't have much of a social life. When I returned to softball I knew I had gotten soft myself. For a few seasons I suffered through overuse injuries, frequently pulling hamstrings, calves, etc. After the 2002 season I knew I needed to do something different with my conditioning, and in early 2003 I bought a mountain bike. The idea was simple: a couple of 1-hour rides per week would make my legs stronger and help me to prevent softball injuries.
The 2003 season came and went. I avoided the nagging injuries that had been bothering me. But the end of softball didn't mean an end to cycling. I had come to love cycling for its own sake, not merely as conditioning for softball ... and it occurred to me that I was riding a lot more than I had planned. In 2004 I started to keep track of my miles: 1,454. In 2005 I set a goal of 3,000 miles and ended the year with 3,050. I got a road bike and reached 3,161 in 2006, then hit 4,410 in 2007. In 2008 I crashed and broke my collarbone, limiting me to 3,787. Last year I set a new personal record: 4,800.
Tonight I played my 129th softball game since buying that mountain bike. In all those games I've had just one little muscle strain, and who knows what brought that on? You can be sure it wasn't a lack of conditioning. I'm now one of the oldest guys on my team, but I'm not the slowest by a long shot, and I'm still getting it done on offense and defense. Cycling is my fountain of youth. What I give to it, it pays back with interest in just about every other aspect of my life.