I had to work last night, so I missed the Wednesday night hammerthon. Accordingly, I headed out on a solo ride this morning.
Coming out of my ‘hood, there is a gentle climb that was into the wind. I was about a mile from my house, breathing heavily. My legs were shot. My thighs were tight. They felt heavy. They felt like I was stirring concrete that was starting to set. The worse they felt, the more my doubt set in. If I can’t ride two miles, how can I ride 200? I rode too much this winter. I’m anemic again. I’m on the outside. As I rode up the hill, into the wind, my cadence slowed down like a washing machine ending its spin cycle. Slower and slower I plodded along, just barely cresting the tiny rise.
On the far side of the rise, I was greeted with a steady headwind. I ground my teeth and fucking hated being on the bike. Why. Why? Why am I doing this? Major life questioning started to creep in. You know how you can set a paper towel on a spot of water and watch the water wick through the towel? Slowly but progressively, the doubt spread through the fibers of my consciousness.
I turned out of the wind and pedaled down a gentle decline, the sun warm on the side of my face. I breathed inordinately heavily, labored beyond the reasonable extent of my effort. I started to contemplate how crappy I felt. A car passed, and I started to think about the three foot rule. I swerved around a pothole. I shifted up a gear, going a little faster.
The next thing I recall was pushing as hard as I could up a hard climb, miles down the road, with my legs fully engaged and my chest throbbing. I was surprised by the intensity of my effort, and surprised to have missed several miles in the ride. It’s like the phenomenon of driving somewhere, and just simply not remembering parts of the drive.
At the top of that climb, I settled into a steady cadence down the backside of the hill, and then dug in to a long, gradual incline. (Long in Illinois terms). Things felt good, and I shifted up a gear, picking up some speed. I shifted up a gear again. I realized that I was starting to work hard, and I felt my opportunity. I rose out of the saddle and pushed just to the point of sustainability. The throbbing in my chest subsided and the lead in my legs was replaced with a pleasant burn.
I reached the turnaround point and stopped, just for a minute, to take a long draw off of my water. I turned and faced the sun, the wind at my back, and pushed off…clipping back in and settling back into a healthy rhythm. The doubt was replaced with the whir of a well-oiled drivetrain and the sound of my unzipped jacket flapping in the wind. My legs were opened up, my mood had cleared, my spirits had lifted.