Take the Ride

For a couple of days, I’d been planning to ride last night, the only night of the week I wasn’t busy and that had a decent forecast. But the day was warm and humid and I worked outside in it and I didn’t have enough water with me and the water in the house was shut off so I was a bit dehydrated and tired and grouchy and not wanting to ride a bike when I got home. Looking for an excuse, I checked the weather – Rain was forecast, but there was a window.

It’s been a hard spring for riding. Between my new job and incessant rain, I rarely got out twice a week. I didn’t even try to ride with Jeff and the fast guys because I sucked so much. Then Battenkill happened and showed me just how much I sucked and I started riding with Joe again and he also showed me how much I sucked because there was a time I was faster than him and now it’s not even close. Joe’s worked hard, and I haven’t.

The only consistent factor in all your dysfunctional relationships is you.

You, Engel.

The last couple of times I rode with Joe, I worked to hold his wheel. I didn’t always succeed, but the effort was there. My mind is coming around. I’ve been getting out early on Saturdays and riding hard stuff hard. Monday night, I rode the Pond with its 200 ft. per mile of climbing, alone and pushing.

Which brings me to last night again. I did ride. I decided on a short loop, maybe 12 miles, but with dirt climbs. The first was Grassy Hill, and it felt pretty good. Not a real standout time, but not a grind. I could have ridden it slower, which, when you think about it, indicates you don’t completely suck. Near the top of the main pitch, I pushed enough to want to puke. Halfway the short, upper pitch, I pushed again until I wanted to puke, and then rode through that as the grade eased. At the airport, I rode down the grass runway rather than through the hayfield because my God, there are ticks everywhere this year.

Welton was a hoot. It always is, with its long, shallow descent and the two out of the saddle pops at the end. I love that road.

At the start of Booth, I told myself I wasn’t going for a time on the segment. That segment depends a lot on the condition of the descent before the climb. If it’s loose and dangerous, you don’t do well on the segment. I rode the initial couple of hundred feet slowly. Realizing the road was in great shape, I hit the descent as much like a Valkyrie as I’m able, carrying speed into the climb. Cutting the corner to the steepest part of the switchback, my mind flashed back to times a few years ago I didn’t make it up this section at all. Now I was hammering it. That helped. Gutting out the last quarter mile’s up, I stopped at Painter Hill and let the nausea recede.

And then the same on Dorothy Diebold, cranking through the time when my brain said, “Enough,” keeping it going until the end. I rocked the down and up at the end of Old Roxbury, out of the saddle, in the middle of my back ring, slipping in the dirt just a little as I over-torqued the wheel. And then finally, on what I call Afterburner Hill, passing the catch basin at the top at 14.3 mph, when usually that’s been more like 11 and change.

I was spent at the end. And that was good. Because I feel it coming back.

You should always take the ride.

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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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