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Aaron Johnson: Reaching for your goal

The main reason old men get injured is because they think they are young men. That saying didn’t originate with me, but I don’t know who to give credit. Let’s just say it’s mine. The older I get the more truth I find in it. From time to time my body reminds me of this fact; like every time I think I am still 20.

The last year has been especially difficult for me physically. I was met with a round of radiation to overcome prostate cancer. After having had nine months of chemo with a previous cancer diagnosis, it was embarrassing to ring the bell at UAB when the last round of radiation was complete. Chemo makes radiation seem like a bump in the road. However, it is still not without significant side-effects.

Previous cancer surgeries left my body a perfect prospect for radiation. As the oncologist put it, “You don’t have anything left we can hurt.” I think he meant that to be comforting.

Oddly, it wasn’t.

For me the primary side-effect was fatigue. Fatigue would come at random times and without warning.

During the middle of doing something small, like taking out the garbage. It would come daily and visit as long as it liked. The past year has been one of waiting to feel good enough to actually do something that resembled a normal life.

With fatigue wearing away slowly, today was the day!

My wife, Denise, is in Kennesaw, Ga., taking care of three grands while our daughter begins her new job teaching for Cobb County. Alone and unsupervised I chose to go on a bike ride.
In days gone by, I rode my bike often and for long rides. Twice I rode over 100 miles in a day. And nobody was chasing me! Truth be told; I have put less than 10 miles on my new bike and it’s four years old. So, I did what anyone would do; I strapped my bike on the rack on my truck and drove to Jacksonville, Ala.

Did I mention that I was left unsupervised?

The Chief Ladiga trail stretches from Anniston to the Georgia state line between Piedmont and Cedartown. There it links with the Silver Comet trail and continues all the way to Smyrna, Ga. The total distance is just under 100 miles. This entire trail is paved and is the result of unused railways being donated for the purpose of recreation. This is one of the finest bike trails in the nation and we are fortunate to have it.

I did my undergrad degree at Jacksonville State and I dearly love the place. Each time I return it is a little different, but always the same somehow.

Parking at the campus puts you right at the trail, where it crosses Highway 204. From Jacksonville, Piedmont lies to the north and Anniston to the south. There are no stops between there and Piedmont.

However, the village of Weaver punctuates the trail just a few miles before you get to Anniston. Not wanting to push this ride too far, I opted for a leisurely ride to Anniston. Round trip would be something like 15 miles, I think.

The weather was perfect. Trees lining the trail gave shade for the ride and the kudzu along the side made me smile. I wondered about the chief whose name the trail bears. I wondered how long it had been since a train stopped at the Jacksonville depot. Today it is a visitor center and municipal offices. I wondered how many soldiers left small towns and road this path to Fort McClellan to prepare for war. I wondered how many of them never came back home.

Have I mentioned that I had not ridden a bike in over five years?

Have I mentioned the number one cause of injuries in old men?

Have I mentioned that I was unsupervised?

Did I mention that after four years away from riding my bike, 7½ miles felt like it was just over 200 miles to get from Jacksonville to Anniston?

It took 35 minutes to arrive at the trail head in Anniston. The terminus is in a park with beautiful old growth pecan trees; and no water.

Before I died, I thought I should let Denise know where to find my body. I sent a text and told her this might have been a mistake.

She only asked about Nola, our dog.

After a full 30 minutes of recovery, I again mounted the bike and headed back for Jacksonville. Another 200 miles lay ahead of me. Minus a 15-minute stop in Weaver for Gatorade, I made it back in another 35 minutes.

I won’t ever do another triathlon. But today was a start. If you aren’t making progress toward your goal, you are losing ground.

As I drove away from Jacksonville, I was happy that I came and vowed to return.

What is your Wildly Important Goal?

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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