Yup, true to my predictably unreasonable and stubborn nature, I did that Chinese Bakery Ride again this past weekend and DID NOT GO TO THE CHINESE BAKERY. It’s a work in progress okay? [And by “it” I mean “trying new things and being more sane.”]
My excuse - like Mike’s last time - was that I needed some good coffee. Sunday morning, having left around 10am, I put myself in that stupid situation where I was battling joggers, bike commuters, and [the worst of them all] rental bike pelotons up the Westside Highway to the GW Bridge. My initial giddiness acceleration turned first into careful maneuvering around joggers deaf to the world around them courtesy of their iPods, then gradually into crawling along at 5mph behind three chubby tourists who clearly haven’t been on a bicycle since 1995. A third of the way up the Westside Highway, I, as usual, gave up. Though always hopeful that it wouldn’t take me over an hour to get over the bridge on a weekend morning, I again accepted that this would never happen.
Tired of weaving around things, I hung a left when I crossed the bridge, towards River Road, the nemesis to my flimsy thighs. 9W is awesome for relaxing, long rides, but like Derrick and Cassidy informed me, I wasn’t going to get any better or faster without experiencing some pain. And frustrated at getting dropped so easily on any climb, I had mentally resolved to climb those two motherfucking hills this weekend. So I can eventually not be such a pussy [I mean that figuratively].
I did it. I mean, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it. And by “wasn’t pretty,” I mean that my jaw was sagging, I was wheezing, and the only thing that got me up that mile long climb was the fact that there was a woman in front of me in a red jersey and armwarmers, who I resolved to keep, if not within three bike lengths of me, at least within sight. Weaving through the potholes, we both edged our way up the hill, almost at the same speed. I stayed behind her, and though I was convinced she would drop me, I miraculously maintained the same distance behind her for the entire climb. We both spun in our saddles and climbed out of the saddle and avoided the gaping holes in the pockmarked road. And before I knew it, we were done.
Maybe it was that red-jersey-ed woman, or maybe the it was the exercise-induced dopamine jumping around in my brain, but the climb seemed shorter this time, and I didn’t feel like I was going to die within the next 5 minutes. I even had this ridiculous thought like maybe I could climb some more. I ate a banana, wondered what I would do next, and then the peloton caught up.
Mike, Doug, and Francesco had met up with a few others the past two Sundays or so to do some faster rides. The first time, Mike and I had left at the same time, but riding solo, I had gotten a faster and earlier start. Pollo, who bumped into me first at the bridge, then into the guys sometime later, joked when he saw me later that day that I was in the breakaway. I had hoped for a repeat performance this week, but given my crawl up to the bridge, assumed that Mike and Co. [this time joined by David, who races for FGX Racing] were way ahead of me. Not so. My breakaway streak continues...!
I stuck around chatting to them for a while, and feeling ridiculously proud that I was able to do River Road solo, felt adventurous enough to try the Chinese Bakery Ride on the way back. The guys headed to Piermont [...then Nyack, and College Hills, and out into some alternate universe somewhere which translated into 7 hours of riding], and I headed west to Tenafly. Feeling drowsy, I figured coffee and a second breakfast was in order at Cafe Angelique.
It hit the spot. Then I hit a climb. And halfway up the first hill, I started to realize what a stupid thing I had done.
Coming off of a week of no riding, I was doing the hardest ride that I’ve ever done. River Road remains a challenge that I’m determined to conquer, but there was really no need to torture myself and do the Chinese Bakery climb on top of all that. While mentally I felt great, my muscles were just barely keeping pace. In fact, they were pretty much ready to call it quits, and I had a longer climb waiting for me.
Yeah, I considered it. I considered the shame involved in getting off and walking up. I weighed how no one would probably see me or know, and then thought about how embarrassed I would feel afterwards. I tried to cheer myself up that hill, and when that didn’t work so well, tried playing pop songs in my head. I thought about how I’d never done this much climbing on a ride before, ever, and how even if I had to walk the last few feet, it would be enough. But by then, there were only 10 feet left of the climb and though the grade was steeper, it felt more stupid to get off at that point. I remembered what Fritz said once, about the climb on River Road: “Just don’t ever get off your bike.”
When I got to the top, I wanted to almost cheer, or do Contador’s victory pistol thing, or even Andy Schleck’s cheerleader thing. I danced a little in my head, then coasted back onto 9W, over the bridge, and through the city. I was dead tired, but hadn’t bonked or otherwise tipped over in sheer exhaustion. All signs of a bike ride done well [although some might argue that a bike ride done well should always include vomiting mid-climb and legs so sore you can’t move after you get off the bike].
I came home, plopped down on the bed after my post-ride-shower-that-will-always-feel-better-than-even-the-most-awesome-bubble-bath, and fell asleep after reading the last few sentences of Bill Strickland’s newest book, Tour de Lance. Though I don’t remember it, I’m sure I dreamed of bikes and the Schlecks, Contador on the Col du Tourmalet, and a road bike that just might fit.