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Birthday bike ride challenges Hillsboro yoga instructor

Fifty-year birthday celebrations no longer consist of a rocking chair and a membership to AARP.

For Marie Pielage, a Hillsboro physical therapist and yoga instructor, that half-century birthday celebration was two years late, took 78 days and covered more than 4,200 miles on a bicycle.

Pielage wanted a challenge for her 50th, so she decided on a solo cross-country bike ride.

Pielage, who turned 52 about six weeks into the trip which took from early July through most of October, doesn’t consider herself athletic, although she is lean, strong and flexible, and learned early in life that what she lacks in speed she makes up for in endurance.

In her 20s, she’d pedaled from her home in Seattle to Minneapolis, but hadn’t been on a bike in decades when she started training months before the ride.

“I needed to prepare my body, especially on hills,” said Pielage, who knew she faced the Rockies and the Ozarks as well as large expanses of flat prairie land.

For most of her 74-day ride (she rested four days during the trip), she set a riding goal of about 55 miles a day.

She followed a 10-state route with special bicyclers’ maps prepared by the Adventure Cycling Organization.

Shell around her neck

For a health professional who thrives on fresh Pacific Northwest food, she often had to settle for convenience store meals. She had looked forward to noshing on small-town diner food, but found mostly chain store sandwich shops instead.

Most of Pielage’s ride was solitary, but she hooked with some young British women for the final days of the trip, which ended in the ritual dip of her front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean. She picked up a shell, a traditional symbol of travelers and seekers, on the beach there and now wears it on a chain around her neck.

Back in Oregon, Pielage’s family and co-workers at Tuality Healthcare (where she specializes in women’s pelvic floor health) tracked the lone rider’s journey through occasional posts made via telephone.

And at Yoga Hillsboro, Pielage’s husband, Brant Rogers, offered updates on her progress before most yoga and meditation classes.

He claims she’s more confident after the trip, but Pielage isn’t so sure, saying there were plenty of times she wanted to quit, pack her bike and go home.

And, on her return to Oregon, the first thing Pielage wanted to do was to “dress in girl clothes.” She stepped out of her two sets of riding clothes and shimmied into a slinky dress, strapped on high heels and indulged in glam makeup for an elegant dinner out with Brant.



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