I’ve been having a bit of a hard time dealing with my waning abilities. I am reminded of this every week – I go out for solo rides during the day in the early part of the week and feel good, riding what seems to be a zippy pace, then attempt the Marquette hammerfest on Thursdays and find myself watching most of the group ride away on one of the Melrose climbs. I still have plenty of power on the flats and rollers – I’ve managed to catch back onto the lead group a couple of times when I had another person to rotate with, and once I even managed to stay away from a small group that was trying to catch me. It’s just the climbs – when the road hits 10% my heart feels like its going to explode and all I can do is back off the cadence and watch ’em ride away.
It sucks – in the ride’s previous incarnation I went from a rank beginner, looking to go a little further each week before getting dropped, to being a routine member of the lead group. I was never a natural climber, but I turned myself into a pretty decent one for awhile there. Last year it just started to feel different – I went through the whole training and racing rigamorole, but my fitness never seemed to come on like it did in years before. Now, I don’t think I could race even if I wanted to – I just can’t take any real climb at speed. I’m still putting in the miles and haven’t gained any weight (well, maybe a couple of pounds) – the only thing that’s different is I’m older. Oh well, the Marquette ride is still a great time, and I’ll just have to learn to deal with being one of the older and slower riders there.
Climbing slower is not the only indication I might be getting older. Today I went out for a ride after watching Team Columbia suffer a bit of a meltdown in today’s TdF stage, with Hincapie blaming Astana for his failure to get the yellow jersey and a stupid move by Cavendish maybe costing him the green jersey for good. The unseasonably cool temps had me feeling quite chipper, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying my ride and pushing a zippy pace along Wildhorse Creek and through Chesterfield Valley. As I was passing one of those shiny new buildings with the mirrored glass, I glaced over and saw in my reflection that something was missing – my helmet! Cripes – I have never forgotten to put on my helmet before, much less ridden 10 miles before realizing it. I freaked a little bit, having just ridden with fairly heavy traffic all along Olive St. and Chesterfield Airport Rd. I wasn’t gonna turn around a go back by that point, but I was nervous about riding with traffic and a little self conscious about the bad image I was portraying (I was in full Euro-pro regalia, down to the white Sidis and backwards CSC cap). I figured the best thing to do would be to get onto a route with no cars, so I cut down Long and Kehrs Mill Rds and picked up the Marquette route on Shepard. Once on the Marquette route I forgot about my lack of helmet and started enjoying myself again. I took the Marquette route all the way to the bottom of the Ossenfort descent before turning up Hardt to my house. I felt good on the route – even reasonable on the Melrose climbs, although I did encounter another cyclist on Pond Rd. I’m sure he was thinking, “What a poseur dick!” (it’s what I would have thought) so I just muttered, “What’s up” as I went by and hoped he didn’t try to strike up a conversation so that I would have to explain that I really did forget my helmet – honest! When I rolled into my driveway, the computer read 35+ miles and 1750′ total ascent – stats almost identical to the actual Marquette ride. The computer also read 19.7 mph avg – not too shabby for going solo. Now, if I could only do that on Thursday!
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009