Beyond all of the puffery about suffering when it comes to cycling, if I’m riding at the edge of my ability, usually around a 23 mph average (or 25-27 mph on flat ground, a little slower uphill and a lot faster downhill) I have to take short turns up front and I simply get to a point where too much is too much and I fall off the back. Usually about the time I can’t be of use to the group. That’s when I’m riding with the A guys.
I don’t enjoy working that hard. It is what it is.
Put me in with the B guys and I’m a different animal. I can spend a lot more time up front and we’re usually just below or right at that magic happy-zone where I’m fast, but not so fast I can’t sustain it over a goodly distance.
One of my good friends, Phill, said to my wife on her first weekend ride with the gang, “One thing we know about Jim is when it gets to the front, it’s time to go.” As a cyclist, that’s one hell of a compliment, especially considering I never realized my friends thought of me like that.
When I ride, I want to give my best when I’m up front because anyone riding behind me will have to ride one-third as hard, even less the more bikes behind them. When I go to the back, it’s usually with my tongue hanging out, and I hide in the draft to recharge until it’s my turn to do it all over again.
The kicker is that I do not complain about being tired, hurting or being “off” on a particular day, unless we’re in the final few miles. The main reason for this is that if I do complain, I give voice to those fleeting thoughts that generate in my melon that say I’m too tired, hungry, heavy or slow to keep up. Giving those thoughts credence makes them real, and once I start that snowball rolling downhill, there’s no stopping it till it hits a wall. On most days I simply decide not to build the snowball, let alone start it rolling downhill.
This gives my friends (especially my wife) the impression that I don’t have those thoughts or struggles. I do have them. When they pop up, I just remember that old line in Lethal Weapon 2, delivered by Captain Murphy to Riggs and Murtaugh, “I don’t give a f***.” This has its limits, obviously – it’s not like I can hang with the A guys. Of course, to that I can cart out that line again. I really don’t. I am content with who I am – and that’s far more enjoyable even, than being faster.
Now, the next thing to look at is this: If my friends think I’m stronger or faster than I do, maybe they’re right.