Pain and Joy on the Same Road

Thanks to all of you who have been reading this blog and commenting on it.  It’s fun to write again after all these years.

Believe it or not, I’ve done a lot of physically hard things in my life.  The hardest job I ever had was working in a sawmill for four summers when I was in high school.  The job I had was stacking the wood as it came off the saws.  How hard can it be you might ask?  Well it was an endurance test not so much of the body but of the mind.  To stack 4″ x4″s, 2″ x4″s, 2″ x 2″s, 8″ x 8″s (railroad ties) and 10″ x 10″s for 10 hours tends to get to your head.  You think about everything and nothing.

The hardest athletic event I’ve ever done was run the Richmond Marathon back in the early 80’s.  I contracted shin splints before the race and should have pulled out.  However when you’re in your early 20’s and hard headed you don’t always make the wisest decisions.  I finished in a little over four hours but a lot of it was walking the second half from block party to block party.  I finished hurting but very well hydrated.

Since we started geocaching/hiking a few years ago I’ve gotten myself into a bit of difficulty because I thought I was in better shape than I was.  A couple of years ago when I was well in the 350’s Lynn and I decided we’d do some geocaching in Waller Mill Park in Williamsburg on a 95 degrees day.  The first couple of miles were okay but on the way back the hills really got to me and I bonked.  I literally had to walk 50 yards and sit, walk 50 yards and sit.  At one point I collapsed on my Camebak and Lynn was pouring water over my head.  I was looking for a place (and I’m not even kidding) where they could put a med-flight chopper down and airlift my big butt out of there.

You’d think I’d learned my lesson that day but I’ve repeated this scenario a couple of times over the next two years on hikes and mountain bikes.  Lynn was not happy either time to say the least.

Thankfully over the past 10 months I’d dropped some lbs. and the bonking has been eliminated.  Almost……

For the last month or so Joel, Steven and I have been talking about riding from my house near Regency Square to Ashland and back.  I got online and used MapMyRide to plan the route.  It would take us from my house, west on Patterson, right on Hockett across Broad Street, across Pouncey Tract, across Staples Mill and down Ashcake Road to Ashland.  About 56 miles total.  Fifty-six HILLY miles total. If you click here, you can see the route.  If click on the 3D button on the map it will give you a Google Earth flyover – pretty cool.

So yesterday we left my house at 8:00 in 35 degree weather and headed towards our destination.  I felt like doo-doo.  I was achy, nauseated and my legs felt dead from the start.  Like the marathon, I should have just canned it but apparently I haven’t learned anything in the 30 years since.

If feeling crappy wasn’t a good enough excuse then the fact that I usually bike about 1-2 miles per hour on the average slower than Joel and Steven should have made the decision for me.  The problem was that I had been through, yet again, another tough week and I NEEDED the brain cleaning that a good 3-4 hours on the bike would give.  I’ll spare you the whining about my week because I’m pretty sure most of you probably had a tougher week.

Anywhoooo…after the first few hills I didn’t feel so bad and I was hanging okay with the guys.   It was when we took that right off Patterson onto Hockett that I started to feel the nausea and my legs felt like concrete.  We’d never been down Hockett and it was very hilly and long.  I was struggling to keep up.

After we crossed Pouncey Tract I couldn’t conceive of getting through the next 35 miles.  I just wanted to lie down and take a nap.  I was cold and sweaty.  Dang that Steven and Joel!!!!  They were so encouraging and patient.   Slowing down to wait for me.  Making sure I was okay.

It was when we crossed Staples Mills that I considered turning around.  I didn’t even think I could make it home then but I knew the next stretch of road pretty well (I used to drive it to go see my mom in the nursing home) so I kept going.  I knew Ashland was only five miles or so away.

We pulled into the Ashland Coffee and Tea Company where there were a dozen or so other cyclists from the Richmond Area Bicycling Association there on their weekly Laurel to Ashland ride.  I downed a big latte and a cinnamon bun which seemed to help.

I won’t bore you with the return trip details other to say that it a) hurt, b) hurt alot and c) was highly enjoyable.

What!!!!  Did you say enjoyable?  YES!!!!  Sure I felt bad but my buddies always stopped every so often to wait for me.  You can’t put a price tag on good cycling buddies.  Steven even made me stop in Centreville on Broad Street and bought me some PowerAde.

Once again the repetitive nature of the sport erased the weeks silliness and pulled me back to center (unlike Joel’s brakes who we had stop twice to adjust back to center).

The return trip was gorgeous but a a bit trafficky.  People around the Richmond area (and in this case Goochland and Hanover) are very gracious when they see cyclists.  They usually give us plenty of room and even refuse to pass us or let others pass us until we’ve gone around blind turns or up steep hills.

I have to admit I was grateful when Joel flatted with two miles left.  I was exhausted and very tired.  This 56 miles was WAY harder than the 60 miles we did in the eastern shore a few weeks back.

Once back at my house I mumbled a few feeble and weak “thank you’s” and went inside and threw up the cinnamon bun and latte.

Here I sit 24 hours later and I’m considering going on a quick hour ride.  Maybe not.  Maybe my mind is clear enough and my body needs a rest.

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