Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recovery Writing

OK, I've fallen off the blogging pace. I'm accustomed to something similar, as I'll discuss shortly. It's been a grueling week and, as far as blogging goes, I've sort of been like I am on most group rides: way too focused on hanging on to be able to think of anything interesting to talk about, if I'm even capable of talking.

I've caught up with my workload. For the moment. But my brain now feels like my body does after a brutal race: sprawled out on the grass, staring at the sky, telling my heart rate to drop while the spittle dries on my cheeks.

So this is like a recovery ride -- a recovery write? Not much interesting or productive coming up here, so consider yourself warned. I'm just spinning out the waste in my head, recovering.

That's how I've spent a decent part of the week literally, as well. Tuesday at Westlake, and again on a 40-mile solo ride in the rain on Saturday, I got worked over pretty well.

It's hard to figure out right now where I am in comparison to last year, because I never kept a very accurate ride diary. And even if I did, there wouldn't be much in there that gives me a quantitative basis for comparison.

I do know two things:

1) With the cutdown in my bike commuting, I'm riding fewer miles, probably. But I think I'm riding a lot (or at least a little) harder than a year ago when I do ride.

2) I'm another year older, and long past the point where that's a good thing. In just about every sense.

With those as a backdrop, I'll be interested in seeing how I feel at RATL this weekend, assuming it doesn't get cancelled like everything else on the local race calendar.

Here's where I'm coming from:

On Tuesday, I got shelled off the back of the A's at Westlake inside the race's first five miles. Now, it was only my second go with the A's, and I wasn't exactly convinced I'd finish with them. But there were guys in the A group that I out-raced routinely when they rode with the B's, and even a couple whom I dropped -- on hills of all places! -- on group rides. So either they worked harder in the offseason (definitely true in the case of one young and ambitious kid), or I just have to sharpen some skills, position myself better in the peloton and learn to suffer a bit better.
On the plus side, I spent most of that race riding pretty hard alone until I slowed down to let the B's catch me. Hanging in with them was easy. So that's good.

There was also some encouragement Saturday. It was shitty outside, but I convinced myself to get on the bike and ride into the cold mist around 10:30 a.m. Then I convinced myself to climb my personal nemesis, Sherman Road, and keep going over its rollers out past Sperry Road to Heath. That's right about where the rain picked up, frigid and annoying. I was in Chesterland, and that southwesterly wind that was at my back was going to be a bitch of a headwind, icy and steady, for the 20-mile ride home.

I was cold. My toes were numb. I was wet from sweat and rain. It sucked. I wanted to call home for a rescue.

But I thought, man, you just climbed Sherman on your 21-lb. steel bike; you can't puss out now.

I kept challenging myself to ride for just one more mile before calling home, then one more and one more. I'd ridden in a lot worse, I reminded myself.

I drove it hard over the rollers on Cedar out past 306, just to stay warm. And by the time I passed that Metzenbaum park and reached County Line, I knew it had become just about pointless to call for a pickup: I'd have to keep riding while my wife got the kids in the car and drove far enough east to meet me, and I'd probably be at least at SOM by then. SOM is maybe eight miles from my house -- practically home.

Then, lo and behold, the rain let up. And so did the headwind. I was supposed to be riding into the teeth of it and instead, I noticed myself smiling as a herd of deer and I looked at each other.
For that moment, it was really damn good to be on the bike. I knew I had some hard work left to do, but I suddenly felt like I'd put the hardest behind me, when most of the local cycling world was on the couch.

From that moment on, the ride home -- even the climb out of the valley -- started feeling as though it were downhill. Maybe, just maybe, I'm not as big a slug as I sometimes think.

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