Up until this season I have ridden my bicycles as fast as I possibly could. Well, as fast as my fitness would allow me at the time, let’s say that. In fact, I’ve always assumed that’s simply what you’re supposed to do. Otherwise, why bother, right?
Over the years I have read countless blog posts written by dozens of authors opining their lack of ability to ride their bicycle faster. Whether it be triathlon, a club ride, or racing, the principle is simple: To go faster, you push harder on the pedals. It used to drive me nuts that, when presented with an opportunity to actually get faster, these confused authors would choose to do that which kept them slow. Every. Time.
Unlike them, push harder I did. I pushed on the pedals till I puked on many occasions, and then I pushed some more. As one would expect, I got faster over the years.
Last winter I put the “push harder on the pedals” notion through its paces. I pushed harder on the pedals than I ever had on a trainer, all winter long. Lo and behold, I got faster. Surprisingly faster – like “it’s time to move up to the race-class group” fast. I knew it, my closest friends know it… Last year I thought I was at the top of my ability, that I couldn’t naturally get any faster without putting more effort into it than I was willing to give. In blunt terms, I was simply wrong. I just needed to learn how to push on the pedals harder.
Tuesday night we had our normal club ride. We had our B Group (which by normal club standards is really an A Group but our A Group is race-class so we started going by “The B Group” last year) line up and head out about a minute after the A Group left. We were a little slow getting started but once we got up to speed, a fantastic ride broke out.
I had fun on Tuesday. I took both sprints by more than a dozen bike lengths, and still spent a good amount of time up front but the B Group is now deep enough a few of us don’t have to spend as much time pulling the group down the road.
After taking the final sprint to the finish, one of the “one time” A Guys pulled up along side of me – this guy, when he was just a little younger, was one HELLUVA pro mountain biker – and said, “You know you really need to get up there with the A guys. You have the fitness, you’ll just might have to grit your teeth every once in a while”.
And therein lies the rub. He’s right, and I know it. The question of this year for me is, “What do I do?”
The answer, for me, is simple so far (if it is constantly evolving): I’m riding with my friends and it’s all about the fun.
Here are the facts: I have a wife, two kids, a day job and a thriving company to manage. I ride a bike because my sober life is awesome and I want it to last as long as possible. I am a firm believer in the notion of “move it or lose it”. Cycling puts a smile on my face like nothing else. Finally, I have an amazing group of friends who are willing to put up with me in the B Group.
Jumping up a group won’t do anything to improve my life, in the broader “recovery” sense. In fact, the jump would mean another increase in fitness and make it even more difficult for my wife to enjoy riding with me. Perhaps if I had a desire to race it would make sense, but I have none. Cycling, for me, has become a social, fun activity and my enjoyment of the sport centers around my friends (much like my sobriety).
I need to change that like I need a hit in the head… and for those not in the know, I don’t need a hit in the head.