We rode a Dirty Thirty this week whose route was similar to one we did in April. Fall is fast approaching. Leaves covered the trail in spots and our lights were on for most of the ride. It was humid, but wonderfully cool, and that Phil Ochs song rang in my head: “The moon was a ghostly galleon set sail upon cloudy seas…”
But where I really noticed the season was in the shape I’m in. I lost a lot of conditioning during the summer of 2017, not riding much until last September because of that broken carpal bone. When I could ride decently again I only ever regained the ground I’d lost up to about the time in May when I fell and heard that ominous crack. I never hit late-season form last year, and then I slid over the winter.
Riding that DT in April hurt. It called into question why I was riding with guys who are out of my league. There were a few rides like that this year.
This week was better. This week I remembered how on those early rides I’d find myself thinking, “Fuck, we’re only half through and my quads are on a slow burn.” Those rides were done in survival mode. This week, I thought that I could maybe go a little harder than I was, that I didn’t need to pace myself as much as had become my habit. Yeah, the last two hills, Bear Burrow and Booth, were hard. But where every pedal stroke on those climbs in April had required a mental commitment, this week was different. This week, the questions weren’t whether I could do the climb, but whether I should take the inside line or the outside, whether I should stay seated or get out of the saddle.
Even better was Nettleton Hollow. That’s a favorite road; a long, gradual descent that’s not all downhill. I decided to hang with Jeff and Jay and Ben. I had to push, to ride out of the saddle now and again, to ignore some lactic acid burn. But damn, it was fun. I was putting out effort and getting speed in return. It was one of those times in cycling when the reward and the effort come at once.
I’m still riding out of my league, but it’s fun again.