After riding every day for at least 2 hours since last Thursday, I was starting to feel it on Monday. Tuesday, I told myself I was going to enjoy my rest day. Instead I predictably paced around my apartment and was generally restless.
So yesterday, even with only 6 hours of sleep, I was going to ride. Besides, it was going to be something like 85F and gorgeous. Not too much wind, either. Perfect cycling weather!
Because I’m generally a wuss, I like to make up my flexible goals as I head out the door. Yesterday, I tentatively decided trying for that negative split [I’ve only managed an even split the past few days]. You know, as soon as my entire lower body stopped complaining.
That decision solidified as the ride progressed and all the kinks worked themselves out of my legs. I didn’t do so badly climbing some of the bigger hills, and I was cruising along at a nice clip once I hit South Street. Half zoned out in that happy place that cycling can take me, I kept thinking back to that Bicycling article, “Riding is My Ritalin.” Cool article, but as applied to me, riding’s more like my Paxil.
At a light, I drew up next to three women. I assumed they were all together, although one looked clearly more inexperienced than the other two. I said hello, then as the light turned green, kicked off. The woman next to me was faster, and she sped away from the other two cyclists [who I presumed were her friends]. Caught between her and the other two, and assuming she wanted to give me space to pass, I balled up to catch a draft off her until I could be on my way. But with cars behind us on the narrow road, I was stuck on her wheel. I could see her cadence changing as she shifted gears on the uneven road. I pressed my body onto my thighs, in the drops and elbows nearly hitting my knees to maintain the pace.
We hit a hill and I knew I was going to pull an asshole move. I was hoping I wouldn’t though.
No such luck. Halfway up the hill she slowed down, and for me it was either pass or tip over. I hammered past her, out of the saddle, and floored it. Not out of any motivation to prove anything to her, but with my terrible pace line skills, the cars, and the narrow lane, I didn’t want to be some douche-y wheelsucker.
I made decent time the rest of the way and bumped into a guy in a Boston Road Club jersey on an IF with downtube shifters.
“Hello,” I said. Then, “nice bike.”
IF guy said thanks, then we parted ways. A few minutes later, I hit my 15 miles [in less than 1 hr, no less!] and was excited about maybe getting home even faster. Still feeling the effects of cycling Paxil, I was actually in a good mood, humming along to Eminem on my iPod and checked out of reality.
Then, a voice drew up beside me:
“Gotta get back to work?” It was IF guy.
“Um, no…you have to? Aw I’m sorry.”
And that was the start of cycling becoming my PCP.
Let me back up. The first thing you might notice about IF guy are his massive thighs that taper into chiseled calves. Salt and pepper hair stubble covers a strong jawline and square chin. He looks big for a cyclist, but apparently that just means there is a giant fucking engine in there. He looks fit, but not unlike your run-of-the-mill recreational rider. Yeah, um, wrong. As Velocb would later describe him: deceptively fast. He slipped in front of me and just for shits and giggles, I thought I’ll draft off him for the 5 seconds it took for him to drop me. Besides, a short sprint would be good for me.
He didn’t drop me. He wouldn’t drop me. He kept just far enough ahead that I couldn’t get into his slipstream but close enough to tempt. And out of some stupid sense of politeness or competitiveness or cycling induced crazy, I chased that rear wheel with everything I had. FOR THIRTY FUCKING MINUTES.
I’m sure if I had been capable of thought, I would have wondered if I was going to have a heart attack. Instead, I gulped air and made my legs hurt more, holding out a desperate hope that he was going to get tired of the slow pace and peace out. He actually tried to talk to me during this whole ordeal and all I could do was sputter. I felt like [a much less accomplished] Seabiscuit.
We finally parted ways at the rotary. I ended up shaving off a total of 5 minutes of my total ride time, making my average speed something like 16.4mph. I sat in front of my desk the rest of the day, while my legs wept.
At least Velocb would later say that I looked “super strong” on Twitter. I actually saw Mr. Mystery Pain Cave Guy on the IF later that day, on my way home from a lecture. He waved.
Yeah…Unfortunately, I think we’re meant to be friends.