It is Different
Last spring and summer, I spent a great deal of time on my bike. Just about this same time, I was getting ready to ride my first century and I was very nervous that I was in no way prepared to ride that distance. I was pleasantly surprised when I was not only able to finish the ride, but finish fairly strong. I was more impressed when I thought about how far my fitness had come in less than a year. The summer before I had ridden my bike less than 2o times, the longest distance being 30 miles and had only reached the summit of Little Mountain twice.
2010-11 winter and spring were wet ones with there being five days during March and April that were dry and warm enough for my inexperienced self to ride. I recall vividly my first attempt at climbing. I kept shifting and shifting into easier and easier gears, my heart pounding and my breathing extremely labored. I was so disappointed with myself for allowing my fitness level to fall so far. I knew I would suffer some affect of the long period of inactivity, but I honestly expected to do much better. Through a great deal of effort, and competing with my brother (who always pushes me to be better), I was able to get back to a good level fairly quickly. Riding the canyon, riding out by the Great Salt Lake, getting my rear end used to being in the saddle, every ride was taken seriously, with better fitness being the only goal. Dylan rode up Big Mountain three times, I made it twice. Together we put in the work and were rewarded for it by a successful summer of century rides, 50 mile rides and dozens of Little Mountain excursions.
I determined that I would never again suffer the agony of that first March ride ever again. With some ingenuity and spending, I put together a decent array of winter riding apparel. My initial goal was to purchase decent clothing specifically made for cycling, but after three stores where the price for riding pants ranged from 150-300$, I decided a nice pair of running pants with an ankle strap would more than fit the bill. I found a fantastic Columbia jacket that cost me a third of any cycling jacket I could find. What a scam apparel is! No way is any of that stuff worth the cost. The only thing I can say is not overrated, lobster riding gloves. They are fantastic!
With my clothing needs met, I was ready for the cold and nothing was going to keep me out of the saddle. Luckily, the winter was very mild and the snow build up on the roads was minimal. After several rides around my neighborhood, I attempted Immigration canyon. What a thrill to ride up the mountain in the dead of winter, warm and secure, sweating even. I was able to summit the canyon on 20 days in January, another ten in February and at least that many or more in March and April. I rode in the cold, snow, rain, wind, whatever. I have (for good and bad) eliminated most bad weather as a ride deterrent. I still refuse to ride if it is below 20 degrees or if snow is piling up, but that seems like good sense.
Funny enough, I still feel unprepared for the century ride coming up this weekend. Maybe I have over prepared. When I go for 40 mile rides, I come back tired and worn. Maybe I ride differently, knowing the distance. I know I ride harder, faster, when the distance seems short. I was supposed to ride another century on May 5th, but that ride ended up being cancelled. I admit I was almost relieved. The thought of riding 100+ miles, taking one week off, then 100 more seemed like a really bad idea.
Though this spring is one where I pushed myself to remain fit, that thought it the back of my mind persists. “You’re not ready,” it says. “You won’t finish.” Part of me wants to believe that voice. I am older. I feel more tired this year. I don’t have the same fire. Then I get on my bike, test the tires, gears and breaks, I focus on the way it feels underneath me and I realize I am more connected to that machine than I ever was last year. When I ride, it becomes an extension of me and when I push, the bike pushes with me, not against me. We work together to accomplish our goals, to complete our rides. We are never fully ready for what is in front of us, but we ride anyway, we succeed regardless of the obstacle. It is a wonderful feeling, a fantastic realization.