Life is suffering….or not

Tuesday I made up my mind that I needed to suffer.  To this end I decided to go to a club bike ride that I had not attended all summer because I believed it would entail a butt-load of suffering.  I personally don’t like to suffer but “serious” cyclists love to suffer.  They love to push themselves to the limit.  Tuesday I had in my mind I was going to be a “serious” cyclist.
To be quite honest when I ride with the club riders I’m usually in way over my head.  For me to ride with the B+ riders requires me to struggle to keep up.  I put forth a brave face but I’m hurting at the end of a 35 or more mile ride.  The riders I habitually ride with are my age and older so no problem, right?  Well the problem is that they all have thousands of miles in their legs and are a good 100 pounds or more lighter in the carcass.  That’s a lot of excuse making isn’t it?

I even have to gut it out when I ride with friend, Steven, who is “gentle” with me.  I’ve more or less accepted the fact that if I keep this amount of muscle mass and weight AND ride with others of that ability then I’m going to have put out a little more effort.  This is fine because the payoff is worth it.

Back to Tuesday.  I figured I’d go to the Rockville ride and see if I can once again hang.  On the way over to the start it began to shower off and on; foreshadowing for sure.  Then as I was going down Ashland Road, past the quarries. I heard a frightening KABOOM!!!!   The kaboom I assumed was from an errant rock off of a dump truck.  Not so because I looked in my rear view and saw the front tire on my bike flopping around on the rim.  The tube had exploded the tire off the rim.  Evidently when I put the new tire on, I pinched the new inner tube with the tire lever.  So one mile from my destination of the Rockville Little League, I sadly turned back home.

After returning home I repaired my tire and decided to suffer in a different way – Shallow Well.  The Shallow Well route is the hilliest route per mile that I routinely ride.  It’s horrible.  I start at Dover Baptist on Manakin and ride down to Miller Lane and then down to Shallow Well Road and then wind my way across Broad into Hanover and circle back.  It’s the Miller Lane/Shallow Well section that’s the killer.  Up and down and up and down until I’m gasping for breath and my heart feels like it will “Alien” out of my chest. There are hills on Miller Lane that are 16% grade.  It’s difficult to walk this hill.  If you’re whippet thin, have thousands of miles in your legs then you probably think this is a poor excuse for a workout.  However for a cyclist of my manly stature it’s a real lung burner.

I made it through the hills and back to Dover Baptist with no more tire problems and even bettered my Shallow Well segment time by 4 mph!!  Still suffered, though.  Here’s the Shallow Well segment below:

Four miles of pain and this doesn’t include the 3 miles before on Miller Lane.

On Wednesday I rode my default home course out Patterson, down Manakin, down Hermitage, back up Patterson and River Road by to Gaskins and home.  It’s the course I ride during the school year in the mornings to keep fit.  After Shallow Well it’s my second hilliest course so I get a good workout in a relatively short 22 miles.

This brings me to my most recent bonk – Thursday’s Unemployed Cyclist Ride at Hanover Courthouse.  It’s called that but the truth be known it’s mostly retired, lean folk who ride pretty fast compared to me.  I knew I was still recovering so I decided to ride with the slowest group there.  That would have been a pretty good plan except the slowest group there was still a pretty fast B+ group and the same group I have a problem holding onto.  The first 18 miles of the planned 37 was fast (17 or so mph average) but comfortable for me.  After the store stop things started to get uncomfortable.  We started to go a bit faster with each passing mile and then came Bleak Hill.  I heard grumblings about going up Bleak Hill at the store stop and I could see why.  It must have been  mile long and at the worst time – around mile 31.  My heart alarm – which as set at 92% – started going off which is unusual for me.

Bleak Hill is around mile 30 more.

I never recovered from Bleak Hill.  We even had this incredible 2-3 mile slow descent but I never got my mojo back.  Part of it was that we were pressing the pace at over 20 mph and the other part was I was stupid.  I rode two hard rides back to back and then came out and tried to ride another fast (for me ride).  What was I thinking?  I can barely hang onto this group when I’m fresh.  I was  getting progressively hot and my legs ached like fire.

At around 2 miles from the finish back at Hanover Courthouse I actually thought about telling the other guys to go ahead while I stopped to take a break.  This would have been embarrassing. They probably wouldn’t have left me but that was how bad I felt.  Nothing was in the tank.  I turned to Gary, one of the RABA organizers, and said, “I’m gassed.”  He said the most beautiful words ever – “Don’t worry.  301 is just up ahead.”  301 being up ahead meant we were almost back at the courthouse.

I let them pedal away and limped in by myself.  I barely got off the bike and said a feeble thanks to Bill, Gary and few others.  I got in the car, turned on the ac  and gulped down everything liquid I could find in my car.  The drive home was sketchy because I was having some dizziness and double vision.  When I got home, Lynn looked at me goofy because I could only speak in this weird, whispery high voice I was so gassed.

Once I got home I drank two ginormous glasses of Gatorade and ate two bananas and felt better immediately.  After a brief rest, I even went outside and stained the fence with Lynn for a couple of hours.

I’m thankful.  I really mean it.  I’m grateful for the suffering.  It means I’m alive and kicking.  It means that I’m not being passive.

I would love to be able to go out and ride effortlessly.  To fly up hills and ride 20 mph or more for miles on end.  Maybe one day.  Maybe never.  If I go out and every time is a sufferfest, I’ll take it.  I’ll take the suffering.  It’s worth it because it means I get to spend time with some pretty awesome people along the way.  It means I get to find myself on those long solo rides.  It gives me peace.  It also means it gives me more years with my bride; who. hopefully will ride with me slowly so I won’t have to suffer.



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