It has been a strange and fun summer. After too many years of fighting an awful and disabling illness (adrenal fatigue), I am starting to feel like recovery is a possibility. I’m taking great supplements and have a fantastic doctor who encourages me and wants me to get better. I’m exercising again, and thanks to the prodding of my neighbor, I’ve been cycling at least twice (and usually three times) each week. The rides have not been long distances, and the majority of the terrain has been rollers or flats, but with each successive ride, I’ve felt stronger, which is such a wonderful and different sensation from the continual drain of muscle mass and stamina I’d experienced over the last three years. I almost tear up thinking about it.
Climbing used to be my favorite thing. Even with my recovery process, I resigned myself to the fact I would never be as proficient as I was before. I’m three years older, which makes a difference, regardless of my wishing it didn’t. Still, I don’t like thinking there are cycling skills out of my grasp.
Lot’s of things have made me feel old recently, and one event in particular nearly sucked all the joy out of something I’ve loved doing for most of my adult life. A callous comment from a young stranger set me spinning. The circumstances don’t matter, and what was said is irrelevant, but my dark emotional response to the comment surprised me. I am a firm believer that adults should follow their passion. Whether it is a love of music, attending concerts, running, cycling (sports in general), art, writing, whatever, no one should ever feel they have to put something aside because they are suddenly not 25 any longer. Some things will obviously be harder with age, some impossible, but if a person can still be active, still work, still find joy in what they have always found joy in, that is all that matters. I refuse to allow anyone of any age to tell me what I can or can’t do, what I should grow out of, or what isn’t appropriate for someone my age.
To get myself out of this glum state of mind, I decided to prove to myself I could still kick ass on the bike. I determined to climb Emigration Canyon and summit Little Mountain again.
I can’t say I wasn’t extremely nervous. It’s not a massive climb, or particularly steep, but it is a challenge, one I had not attempted in nearly three years. I almost talked myself out of the whole thing this morning. I fought through my doubt and made my way to the parking lot at the mouth of the canyon. Instantly, I felt the rush of adrenaline, anticipating what was ahead. I was excited and ready. I put on my gear and started climbing.
The first two miles were harder than I remembered and the burn in my knees was more painful than I anticipated it would be so early in the ride. I pushed through. It got worse, then better, then worse again. As I kept pedaling, as the familiar landmarks came into view, then faded behind me, I knew I could complete the ride. It felt slow and labored, and I wanted to stop over and over, but that would not be my style. I don’t quit on the bike, never have.
Then it was over. I’d reached the summit. I pulled up to the rusted guardrail and looked down for my time, fully expecting something over an hour. To my surprise, I’d ridden from parking to summit in just under 41 minutes. A good effort before my illness was 40-43 minutes. My best ever attempt was 35 minutes. Not only had I made the climb, but done it faster than I could have hoped. Surely the summer of rides helped,but I never expected this result.
It is still beautiful at the top, maybe even more so this time. The lake looked dark turquoise and the sky a darker blue. I stood next to my bike and took it all in. I had accomplished my goal, climbed the mountain and I know I will do it again. I am strong again.
“What is that strange old man thinking about?”
That he isn’t old at all.
There are so many fascinating things in the world for me explore. Limiting my interests, or my blog topics seems a bad idea.
Also, David Bowie is awesome.
I am back on the road bike for the first time in nearly three summers. I feel much better, and while I am not at 100% (or even 80%), I am able to ride without feeling sick or absolutely drained afterward. I don’t need to nap afterward, or wonder why I’m get weaker rather than stronger. I’m getting better, finding my stamina, even starting to seek out areas to do some short, but vigorous climbs. I’m feeling the competitive juices again, wanting to beat previous times, other riders on certain sections of road.
It is hard work, attempting to regain what I have lost, and to make it more difficult, I am older, slower. The years away from cycling have resulted in lost muscle mass, and ability. I want so badly to climb the way I could before, attacking the road, conquering the hill and my own weaknesses. Sadly, I may never get back to that point, but I am getting better, getting stronger, finding my determination.
I accomplished a 30 mile ride this last weekend, then followed that up by cycling 18 more the next day. I road with friends and family, which added to the experience. It reminded me of what I loved about cycling- the feel of the road, the sweat in my eyes as I climb, the rush of wind as I pedal through sprints and downhill stretches, the accomplished feeling of riding hard. Most of all the pleasure of good company of others out doing the same thing.
I’m remembering that that riding makes me happy. It’s nice to feel that again.