This has been a bad week for riding.
Or I’ve been slack.
One or the other, but I’m going with the first one.
Today I got home late but was still determined to squeeze in a ride. With the sun ominously low in the sky, I set out for a twelve mile ride, that being all I had time for. Since the ride was so short, I decided I was going to go as hard as I could and just rip the route up.
It only took about a third of a mile for my legs and the wind together to tell me that, while I should still feel free to go as hard as I could, I wouldn’t be ripping anything up, except possibly my legs and maybe my self esteem.
Still, it’s a ride, right?
Now I had a choice to make. I could ride the route clockwise, in which case I would get the worst of the wind at the beginning and the end, or I could ride it counterclockwise and get the worst of the wind in the middle of the ride. (I think that’s all backwards for our friends in the other hemisphere.)
I would have liked the second option if it wasn’t for the fact that it would have put me on the busiest road for the longest time during the worst traffic.
Let’s see…setting off into the wind or dramatically increasing my chances of getting splatted by a car…wind it is.
Four miles of headwind, right turn, unpleasant crosswind for a bit and then here comes the right turn that will put the wind at my back. Ahead of me is a car waiting to turn left onto the same road I want to turn right onto. There is no other traffic, so why is that car simply sitting in the road waiting to turn instead of actually turning?
Is the driver waiting for the guy on the bike?
In fact, she waited a good thirty seconds, until I was almost in the turn, and then she turned right across my path. Oh, boy. I turn after her, and she takes off down the road. I watch the car grow smaller and smaller and then bigger and bigger as she slows down.
What the heck?
(There is no need to cue the music from Jaws here.)
With a very nice wind behind me, I catch up with her. She is doing 21 point something or other mph, and, as I am closing in on her, cars are coming up behind me and passing me and then passing her, and then there I am, drafting off of this car.
I don’t want to be drafting off of this car. First of all, drafting off of a stranger is…how shall we put it…fundamentally unwise. Second of all, I’m interested in riding hard and getting stronger, and drafting isn’t going to get me there.
Then, in unique experience for me, I feel like I can pass this car and leave her behind. Perhaps putting myself in front of this particular driver isn’t the wisest move in the world, either, but I do it. As I am passing her, I notice that, despite her slow speed, she isn’t looking for anything. In fact, she has her face resolutely and apparently immovably pointed straight ahead.
I think to myself, “You’re driving a car and you just got passed by a guy on a bicycle! And not only a guy on a bicycle, but by me. Is this one of the signs of the apocalypse?”
I hit 25 mph (tailwind!) and I’m off. I never see my friend in the car again. I get nearly two blessed miles of that tailwind, and then it’s another right turn and the going gets harder and another right turn and I’m into the headwind again for another few miles, but I’m still going as hard as I can, which is not quite the same effort as it was at the beginning of the ride, I can tell you.
Pretty soon I’m back home, and, as it turns out, I have clocked my highest average speed for a ride since I got back on the bike. Now, I now guys who could surely trim as much as five or even ten minutes off my time, but I’m happy with it. It’s one more sign of improving fitness.