And, here I am.
The tires on the bike still inflate. The computer isn’t quite working. It isn’t a big HAL taking over the world kind of malfunction, but it won’t record my distance. Not a threat to all mankind, but annoying nonetheless.
Now what about my legs…a colleague of mine loves to say “muscle has memory” but surely there’s a limit to how long that memory lasts. And then, of course, there are the extra pounds I’m packing. Well, there’s nothing to do but go for it.
I rode yesterday and the day before, my first rides in I don't know how long – short rides of 8.5 miles each, but some steep little hills and, as always around here, the wind. (The wind is your friend. I’ve been told that over and over again. The wind is your friend. It will make you stronger. Of course, it will do that by beating you down into the ground repeatedly, but what’s a little pain among friends, right?)
Today’s ride will be over 10 miles. (Yes, very short, I know, but, let’s not forget, I’m a sluggish toad right now. Let’s see where I am in March, shall we?) At the first contact with the saddle, I have an immediate desire to stand up. The sit bones are not happy with me.
When I bought my first road bike, Steve said: About the saddle...just deal with it.
And why did I choose a route with 3 hills in the first mile? This is the question I ask myself as I power up the first hill. (Well, really, as I climb slowly up the first hill, but not as slowly as I thought I would.) Mind you, the pain in those flabby things I call my legs made me forget all about the pain in the sit bones.
Then I’m over the hills and out of the protection of the buildings and into the wind. That’s why it’s lovely to live in a place with a lot of fields. Your friend, the wind, has ample opportunity to snuggle up next to you and help you merrily along your way. Or beat you down. Whichever.
I am either alone on the road or so lost in the haze of effort that I am blissfully unaware of anybody else being there. That must mean that no motorists tried to kill me. I think I would have noticed that.
I call this route the dump loop because it passes a scenic garbage drop off. At least it doesn’t stink. The turns are my landmarks. Reaching each one is a goal. The plan was to take it nice and easy, but I seem to be constitutionally unable to do that. I’m pushing the pace.
A confession: I am better at following than leading.
That isn’t as bad as it sounds. What I mean is, if there is someone ahead of me, it really motivates me to turn myself inside out (there’s a pleasant image) trying to catch them. What do you do when you’re alone on the road? Do you imagine Phil Liggett commenting on your ride? Do you imagine someone chasing you or someone up ahead you're trying to catch? Be honest, now. How do you motivate yourself?
As I turned onto the last long stretch of straight road, I spotted lines painted on the road. Every other line was numbered. I have no idea what the unit of measurement was. It was longer than a yard, anyway. Rods, furlongs, who knows. But those lines were my motivation. There’s number five. I’ll keep this pace up until I reach ten. Then I’ll keep it up until fifteen. I was still going strong when the mystery lines petered out at 110 something over a mile later. I have no clue what those lines were – roadwork, something left by aliens, some complicated piece of performance art – but they helped me along.
Steve says if you can still talk, you aren’t riding hard enough.
I was riding hard enough.
I remember those excellent moments when I exhaled loudly and my breathing, which had been ragged, settled down and I was just cruising, going hard but well, the swoosh of the tires audible over the wind, that lovely sound that has a music all its own. Or the moment when I took a drink of cold water after having just crested a steep hill and am ready to glide down it with mother gravity on my side.
Then, instead of resting, I hear Keith’s voice: pedal up, pedal down. Don’t just laze your way down the hill, keep putting forth the effort.
These are my cycling buddies. I haven’t ridden with them in a while, but I will again soon. I am not a pedestrian, I am not just a guy riding a bike, I am a cyclist, funny clothes and all.
Then I’m done, home, happy.
My lovely lovely asks me, “Why is your face so red?”
“Been on a ride.”
It’s nice to able to say that again.