The Strava Siren’s Song

 

Saturday dawned cool and sunny, a perfect September morning. Saddling up before seven, I went out for a casual ride. Grassy Hill was a slow climb, as it usually is when it’s the first vert I hit from home. The grass in the airport hayfield soaked my feet in dew. Welton Road was a fast and easy roll. I climbed the hill on Gold Mine out of the saddle just because I liked how it felt to turn a big gear.

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Looking east to Woodbury from Gold Mine Road.

Visual magic happened on Gold Mine between Bear Burrow and Booth roads. That’s one of my favorite morning views anywhere. On Saturday, the rising sun backlit the field and the trees and made the mist shine like polished silver.

I lingered there for a few minutes, then turned my attention to Booth Road. I felt good. The ride had been mellow so far; so far I had accomplished my goal of answering Pat’s question, “Don’t you ever just go on a bike ride for its own sake?”

But it was cool. The roads were in “hero dirt” condition.

The Strava segment called.

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Booth Road coming up. The Sirens singing from just around the corner.

I clipped in and rolled fast onto Booth Road, pushing up the initial shallow grade until my thighs burned. The wet spot in the right wheel track was still soft, so I rode the left around it, then dodged back to the right in case of oncoming traffic at the bend. The descent I counted on to give my quads a break began. Because of the great condition of the road I cut corners across the gravelly center with confidence, and carried good speed into the sharp climb at the end. Not long ago, I walked this climb. Saturday, I took the steeper, inside line up, out of the saddle and loving the feeling of watts pouring out of my legs and heart.

I owed for that though, and the nausea hit just beyond the crest. The segment turns north there onto Dorothy Diebold for the final quarter mile, but it’s flat for a bit before the last three bumps. Deep breaths. Suck in air, blow out CO2. Calm the system on the flat before the bumps. One hurt. Two started the tingling in my thighs and arms. Three had me wanting to hurl, but then I was over it. Finish strong – fifty yards to go, no coasting yet.

And then I’m off the segment and coasting on the pavement of Painter Hill. A hundred yards up and the nausea is gone. A hundred yards back to ride Dorothy Diebold toward home and the cardio is normal. I was pretty sure I PRed the segment, or at least it would be my second fastest time.

When I checked Strava later, I’d cut 30 seconds off my fastest previous time, down to 4:44. Even better, it was the 5th best overall time for the segment; One of my best ever. I beat out several riders I know to be stronger than me. But Strava segments, especially on dirt, don’t always go to the stronger rider. Saturday, I had the hat trick of perfect weather, perfect dirt, and late-season form. Plus, I had the inclination to go for it. And lest I get too full of myself, the KOM holder, my buddy Jeff, has an order-of-magnitude full-minute of time on me.

Still, pretty good for a fat guy four days past his 57th birthday.

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About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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