Yesterday’s ride bordered on spiritual. Typically, while I’ve enjoyed every ride I’ve ever gone on, it’s a rare day that I can have everything and get into it that much. It was a special day indeed.
First, it was nice out. Perfectly sunny and better than 60 degrees (F) when I struck out at around 9:30, unheard of for the last week of September. It was so nice I didn’t even bother with arm warmers.
Second, while there was a bit of a wind from the south, it wasn’t so bad that I struggled, in fact I was able to maintain about an 18 mph average without pushing into the red (though a couple of hills had me huffing pretty good.
Third, an older friend of the family just died the other day and another person much closer is having heart issues lately so all of a sudden he’s feeling quite mortal. If that wasn’t enough, I went down to watch some golf with my dad on Friday and Alzheimer’s is having its way with him. We’re thinking he doesn’t have much time left. Now this would be a whole lot of bad for a lot of people but for me, it is an unmistakable reason to be grateful. All of those cases, the issues would have either been prevented or put off for decades had they been fit… Like me. While I could look at this another way, I’m choosing to be grateful. As my wife likes to say, I am that guy.
After chilling out with the guys and having some chili at the running club, I packed it up and headed for home, the looooong way. Now, that “bit of a wind from the south”, in the hour that I was hanging out with the guys, had become a nice, steady wind… The first six miles were into a steady crosswind but my bike eats those up pretty good now as long as I stay in the drops… Then I turned north, with that glorious wind at my back – and only one stop sign in 13 miles! I gave it everything I had, just for fun and managed to keep my speed between 24 & 26 mph – that was fast enough that I was still cutting into the air, but I just kept them rolling. When I rolled into town, I stopped by the bike shop to top off the H20 bottles and say hey. Now, at that point I was faced with a choice. Either to get back on the bike and bust it hard to get home into the wind, or spin it back. The day had two forms of cycling thus far – a medium effort and a very hard effort – I opted for the easy, and that was where the ride got really good. I was about halfway home in that last six miles and I realized how blessed I am. The two fellows and my dad I was thinking about earlier – how blessed am I that I have my fitness and my health, or that I chose the hard path? How blessed am I that I chose to not get fat and stuck with it for all of these years? How blessed am I that on one of the last days in September I’m out on my bike, in just my shorts and jersey, spinning away to get home? That’s when I started looking around:
This is what I saw – and you can see in the photo, the sunshine just beaming down – how blessed I am that these are the roads I get to ride on! Quiet mile-long stretches – and even when there are cars, motorists in my home town are some of the most respectful I’ve come across (with the exception of those in the Southern US – Northern Georgia, North Carolina – they’re next level nice down south).
And the home stretch:
Yesterday’s ride was one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever had, and at the end of a perfect cycling month. It had everything… Some hard spinning into the wind, some intense speed:
Lunch with friends, a stop at the bike shop, and a few laughs with more friends there:
It was perfect.
I’d been waiting patiently, for a long time now, for that first shoe to drop. You know, the one where cycling actually becomes work. Or at least that the fitness side of it makes me feel like the “It’s time to make the donuts” guy… Yeah, I pretty much gave up on waiting for it to happen, I don’t think it’s going to.
I went out for a second ride yesterday, just 16 miles, but I was absolutely into that 16 miles. It was gloriously sunny out, not a cloud in the sky all day, and at about 75, the temperature couldn’t have been more perfect for cycling and we barely had a breeze. Yesterday was one of those days that had me grinning within the first quarter-mile. I hit it pretty hard right out of the gate and completed the first 10.3 miles in just 30 minutes, including stops – for that route, solo, that’s really fast. I’ve got six stop signs and two stop lights to contend with in those ten miles. I hit my favorite right turn, a down hill residential right hander, no stop or yield signs because you can only follow the road along the turn, at more than 23 mph… It never ceases to amaze me how well the Venge corners. Compared to my 5200, the Venge should be illegal it can corner so well. On the 5200 I’d have been on the brakes so I wouldn’t drift into the oncoming lane. With the Venge, I took it full speed, in the drops and hitting the apex just right so I went from outside to outside of my lane. Cars slow down to 5-10 mph to make the turn.
I stopped in to the bike shop to say hi to everyone and while waiting for the huge crowd to thin, I picked up an awesome Specialized long sleeve, full-zip jersey and a pair of shorts that were on sale. On the way out, a fellow had his two young sons there shopping for some accessories and as I walked by I heard him say, “see I told you that was his bike” to the youngest… I stopped, turned around and asked the little fella, who is probably used to riding a bike that weighs twice what mine does (and that’s if it’s a kid’s Trek MTB) if he wanted to pick mine up. He looked at me as if I were crazy, so I said, “go ahead, I’m sure you’re plenty strong enough, it’s a really light bike”. So he came over, all 7 or 8 years of him, grabbed onto the top tube and lifted it up over his head. The look on his face at being able to lift such a big bike over his head was priceless… When I was a kid, that would have been a fairly profound experience for me. Who knows, someday that kid might be pulling my old, tired butt around the course.
From there, having already put in a furious ten after the morning’s twenty with my wife – and due to the fact that the wind blew in from nowhere, I decided to just spin it back easy for the last six miles. This has been one great year of cycling for me and I’ve let go of the need to improve and embraced more of a maintain and enjoy, end of the season, style of riding.
I love my cycling label – what they call people like me, who have found a love for cycling that most simply won’t or can’t fully grasp… Who manage to enjoy some pain and suffering with their speed and throw in some distances that most think of as simply silly, while being able to also just enjoy a nice spin with the wife or a game of bike tag with the kids. Cycling has a special name for people like me:
The call me an enthusiast.
Yup, that’s about right. If the s#!t fits, wear it.