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A Healthy Sum

Jeff Bond

AS A KID, I WAS usually one of the last chosen for pickup games, be it softball, basketball or football. My athletic prowess was limited to being the fastest kid in my neighborhood, but it seems I lived in a slow neighborhood. I had moderate success on a local swim team, but again found that success didn’t translate to surrounding communities.

Into my teen years, I was plagued by allergies and asthma. It wasn’t until the late 1970s, when I was in my early 20s and still in college, that I took ownership of my health and started running. At the time, running was virtually free. Everyone had a pair of tennis or basketball shoes. It didn’t take long before I entered local 5K and 10K races. For $5 or so, I could run in a race and get a race T-shirt, along with all the snacks you could scarf down afterwards.

I was never racing to win, but I was always racing against myself, trying to improve. Soon it required new and better running shoes, lightweight shorts and singlets, and more training time. To track my progress, I kept a running log, painstakingly scribbled into a notebook.

I discovered that the more I ran, the more often I had to replace my running shoes. I ran a lot of races, eventually completing a marathon in a respectable time. This continued into the 1980s, but things changed when my first wife and I started a family and bought a house requiring a lot of work.

In the early 1990s, I went on my first adult backpacking trip to the Tetons. It was amazing—but I needed gear for the trip. A backpack, sleeping bag and pad, tent, clothing and cooking gear were all required. During that time, I also participated in several sprint triathlons, typically involving a half-mile swim, 13-mile bike ride and three-and-a-half-mile run. I borrowed someone’s road bike for the first one, but the next year I had my own bike, though it was a junky hybrid, not a proper road bicycle.

As we moved into the early 2000s, life got even busier. I had a new and exciting job, my wife was traveling a lot for her job, and the boys were turning into teenagers. My best opportunities for alone time were running and biking, but were limited by family commitments. We lived in an area with easily accessible greenways that led to trails in a nearby state park. My mountain bike time increased, as my right knee was now objecting to running so often.

Also, in the 2000s, I became an adult leader of a Boy Scout troop. We generally camped one weekend per month during the school year and spent a week at summer camp. I was an adult leader for 12 years, including a Scoutmaster for three of those years.

In 2005, I took some of the troop on a high adventure backpacking trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. In 2006, we backpacked in the White River area of Colorado and, in 2008, we backpacked the Wind River Range in Wyoming. One or both of my sons usually attended these outings. This period also coincided with the departure of my wife. That’s when I started rock climbing. As you might imagine, all these activities required training, plus an investment in gear, travel and preparation. Fortunately, I had a very understanding employer.

A bike wreck pretty much ended my running activities in 2007. I had already developed osteoarthritis in my right knee, plus most of the cartilage was also gone. I continued biking, hiking, backpacking and climbing. Have I mentioned whitewater rafting? Some of my Scout leader friends and I began annual trips to West Virginia for guided tours on the Gauley River during Class V water season. This was not a passive activity. Paddling for 26-plus miles, often in fast and violent rapids, is a lot of work.

At the request of my girlfriend, now wife, I gave up the rock climbing around 2009, but I replaced that with a YMCA membership for workouts on cold or wet days, when I didn’t ride outdoors. I turned 70 last year and went on my last super-aggressive whitewater rafting trip.

I’m considering the purchase of a second bike. We live six miles from the local state park, and I often bike to and inside the park on the designated trails. But I wish I had a gravel bike that’s nimbler and lighter. Bikes got expensive during the pandemic, and I don’t think the prices have come down. I’ve not yet pulled the trigger, but I think I’ve found what I want.

So, where’s the payoff? I have no idea how much I’ve spent over the years on bikes, bike maintenance and repairs, shoes, hiking boots, gear, travel, gym memberships and trips, not to mention the occasional doctor and physical therapy bill. But the amount of satisfaction I’ve gained in return is immense. My weight has been stable for well over 20 years. I still do all the yardwork, gardening and occasional home projects.

My smartwatch has a “fitness age” feature that says my activity level is more representative of someone age 61 and gives pointers for lowering that to 59½. I’m not sure I’m that compulsive, but we’ll see. At this juncture, I’ve given up running, climbing and aggressive whitewater rafting. Still, there are days when I probably overdo it.

I’m aware that, as time goes by, I’ll need to take other things off my activity list. Those will be day-by-day calls, based on how I feel, input from my wife and family, physical condition, and other currently unknown circumstances. But today, as soon as the greenways and trails dry out, I’m headed out for a ride.

Jeff Bond moved to Raleigh in 1971 to attend North Carolina State University and never left. He retired in 2020 after 43 years in various engineering roles. Jeff’s the proud father of two sons and, in 2013, expanded his family with a new wife and two stepdaughters. Today, he’s “Grandpa” three times over. In retirement, Jeff works on home projects, volunteers, reads, gardens, and rides his bike or goes to the gym almost every day. His previous articles were Unsettling Experience and They Pitched We Swung.

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