My buddy Jim (not a member of my melon committee, I actually have a friend who goes by the name of Jim) once said, after a health scare of his own, “It’s easy to talk tough about death… till the bus shows up for you.”
I was fairly certain, when I went into my appointment with my cardiologist, that he was going to tell me that I was healthy and my ticker was in excellent shape. You never know though.
As the appointment grew closer, I slowed down. More to the point, I hid more. My turns up front were a little less intense, a touch slower or a bit shorter. I was scared. You never know.
I tried to push all of that crap out of my head. Tried to stay positive… but I didn’t know. I contemplated a slower me. I could do that, maybe a 17 mph average instead of 21 or 22. Maybe even 16 – that’s super slow... Comparatively, of course. Maybe take it down to 100k rides instead of 100 milers? Yeah, I could be okay with that.
Then the appointment came and went and I was given the all clear….
We rolled at 6:03 pm after a nine mile warmup. Northeast wind, upper 80’s for a temp. It was hot. The first five or six miles were cross tailwind or headwind. Then we got to a pure, rare tailwind for seven miles. It was fast and good, and I spent a lot of time up front.
Then came the headwind half of the ride. Gotta pay for the tailwind. I took the first sprint sign after a few guys chose not to wait for a couple of stragglers from the hills. I couldn’t believe we caught them, but I took a good hard turn up front and began the reeling in, another completed the process and with less than 100 yards to go, I blew by the lead guy at 32 mph, dead into the wind.
Then the fun began.
We turned into a cross headwind and an echelon formed with eight of us still in the lead group. Only problem is you can’t fit more than five into a crosswind echelon in a lane.
I struggled pretty hard over the last eight miles and there were a few times I thought about dropping. Last week, I would have dropped, same with the week before. This week I was armed with better information. It wasn’t until my decision to push through the uncomfortable miles that I realized how far I’d slipped in the last two weeks, mentally.
We started picking up some of the A guys who had dropped, with about five miles to go. One worked up to the front, just ahead of me, with three to go and he ramped the pace up from 21 to 23 mph into the wind. I was down in the drops and had a good pocket so I stuck to his wheel as if I were attached with bunji chords. I figured he would take a mile or two and was surprised when he didn’t come off the front after two miles. A quarter-mile later he was still up there. I was ready for him to pull off after 2-1/2. He didn’t. I was certain I was going to have to pull the last quarter-mile. I was wrong. I started getting ready for my sprint…
I launched at the perfect time and in the wrong gear…. half a gear too hard. I crossed the line two bikes in front of the next guy. I felt like I was back, and it was good.
I slept like a brick last night.
I put the sordid cardiologist mess behind me last night. If the two doctors I saw on Monday say I’m good, then I am. I almost went a different way with with that title, I did exorcise a demon yesterday. With exercise. I just failed to come up with something a little more witty. Meh, good enough for government work.
UPDATE: Brent, in the comments section below, questioned the terrain in which we ride that I can call a 16 mph average “super slow”. Where we ride, it’s pretty flat. Throw in a fair amount of hills and we’ll slow from a 20 mph average down to 18-1/2 or so. Even with 10,000 feet of climbing in 100 miles, we’re averaging about 18 mph. My average speed, or that of the group I ride with, should not be used as a benchmark for anyone else. I ride how I ride, and at a pace I enjoy. You should do the same. I ride with guys who are bored at a 22 mph average (they’re closer to 24) and I don’t contrast myself with them. They’re simply willing to work harder than I am. I ride for fun, not to have my tongue dangling in my spokes when I finish. So should you, unless you want to race.