Friday, June 4, 2010

My Return to Cycling

OK, the title of this post implies a couple things that are not true:

1) That I ever really stopped riding my bike
2) That I ride at a level that justifies such a title

That said, the phrase has been rolling around in the back of my head this weekend, and here's why:

Last year, I rode a lot. I covered 5,000+ miles, spent over 300 hours in the saddle, and burned over 300,000 calories. I went to France and climbed some of the most famous cols in the history of the Tour. I followed the world of cycling religiously. I trained for and raced in LOTOJA. I had planned to carry that through to 2010, and add to it.

When the snow started melting and I should have been back on the bike, I just didn't feel like riding much. I still got in a few rides here and there, but I just wasn't as excited about it as I normally am. I didn't bother signing up for any of the major 2010 races, and by April, I had almost stopped riding completely. My only time on the bike was during a vacation that was originally supposed to be centered around biking.

By the end of May, I had ridden about 1/4th the miles as the same period in the previous year, and most of those were out of some sense of obligation. I just wasn't having fun anymore. I think at some point I started to take cycling a bit too seriously, and I forgot why I was doing it in the first place.

Enter the Alpine Loop TT. It started as a simple "who wants to ride the Alpine Loop" email thread, but it quickly became clear, this was going to be a race. Call it what you want - everyone would be riding at their limit or beyond for 10.5 miles. Given my state of mind, I had no interest in participating in such a sufferfest. That said, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to ride to the top of the Alpine Loop with a few friends. It really is one of the best rides in the world. So I set off a good 10 minutes ahead of the pack, and hoped that I could get most of the way up before they caught me. But about half way up something happened. My competitive side finally showed up and the voice in the back of my head started tempting me with the thought that maybe, just maybe I could make it to the top without getting caught.

It worked. As the rest of the group made it to the summit and started announcing their times, I realized that while I was certainly the slowest guy in the group, I wasn't as slow as I had thought I would be. More importantly, I remembered why I ride my bike. It was the most fun I've had in a long time and I couldn't wait to get up early the next morning and do it again.

Friday morning came, and while I hadn't planned on going all out, something clicked again around Tibble Fork. I decided to keep my heart rate at 180 and see what happened. I didn't really think I'd improve over Thursday's time, but as the miles passed I started doing the math. 2.5 miles to go, 44 minutes into the ride, 6 minute miles - if I could hold my pace I'd finish in under an hour. With a little help from Rick (he caught me with about a quarter mile to go, gave me the international sign for "it's time to sprint", and put the hammer down), I finished with a time of 59:33. I was so excited I let out an involuntary cheer as I crossed the finish line.

My time isn't that impressive. I'm still the slowest guy in the pack. I will probably never beat Rick in any competition that involves two wheels. But I love trying. I love competing and pushing myself to do better.

And I love riding my bike.

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