Yes, it has been awhile since I’ve posted here at Low Cadence. I’m happy to report that one reason it has been so long is because I have been riding my bicycle. Something had to give if I was going to get everything done and the blog took the hit.
The result is being able to concentrate on getting things done. That makes me feel free to mount up for a couple of hours and ride. It culminated in what Strava labeled an “Extreme” effort this past Saturday.
I took Friday off my day job and spent the morning doing I Do It For Foundation work. Then that afternoon I took off for a solid 30 mile ride around and over Paris Mountain. On that ride, something was awakening. At times I actually felt that I was riding well.
Saturday morning came and I didn’t put anything on my schedule. This day would just come to me. I took sometime in the morning getting caught up on some personal things and then rode my mountain bike with Thing Two over to the coffee shop. After lunch and a bike cleaning, I decided to start out for Caesars Head.
The week before I had ridden part way up the incline. It was one of my “End of the String” rides. This is a ride where I have a certain amount of time to spend on the bike — say 4 hours. That means I can go out for 2 hours. That point is the end of the string.
That ride put me a couple miles away from Highway 11 — just beyond the fire station on the left as you climb. I felt bad about turning around at that point, but the string would not allow me to go farther. That put the desire in my mind to make it to the top next time.
So, I started off around 2:30 PM and headed up over Paris Mountain. This wasn’t the same route I had taken the week before and I wondered what that would do to my comparable time. I would know when I reached the county line at Hunts Bridge Road. I typically make it there in 1 hour following the typical route.
I reached it in 1 hour and 2 minutes. Ahhh, that would put me pretty much on schedule to match the previous attempt. I now began to think about seeing how far I could go beyond my stopping point a week before.
That leads us to the climb. I knew I was going to better the previous attempt, but I also knew that I was going to be hurting trying to make it to the top. Still, I was pleased to see the fire station pass with 2 minutes to spare. This means I had knocked 4 minutes off the time from Hunts Bridge.
That goal done, I turned my attention to the climb before me. It had been nearly a year since I last climbed this road. The memory of the turns was not clear to me. I was riding blindly up with no way points to cheer me along.
I determined that having my stated goal complete, I would just take it easy to the top. Of course, that is all relative. Climbing a 6 mile incline can be painful even going slow!
Then the clock started to enter the picture. The longer it was taking me to climb the mountain the later I would be getting home. I knew it would take me at least 2 hours from the base — and that would be with good legs!
As usual, I wasn’t eating much of anything and had only finished off about half a bottle of water. I knew that was going to come back to haunt me. I started trying to take on a bit more fluids and thought more of the banana in my pocket.
Then it started getting really hard. “Just keep turning the pedals over,” I told myself. Then I beat myself up about how it didn’t seem to be this hard in the past. Then I found myself praying, “Lord, PLEASE, let there be a marker around this next corner that I recognize letting me know I’m near the end.”
Finally, an embarrassingly long 50 minutes later, I was at the top. There was not much time to enjoy the view. I had to eat my banana and race the sun home.
Thankfully, going down it only took me 10 minutes to cover the distance it took me 50 minutes to climb. I reached Highway 11 at 3 hours into the ride. So, I figured this experience should be over with 5 or so hours in the saddle.
Just as I was coming off it hit me. A huge cramp locked up my left quad. For a moment I was in a panic. 2 more hours to go and I was already cramping!? I just concentrated on the muscle telling it to relax and kept it spinning. I was taking on the water in earnest now!
Then I made another mistake. Thinking that it would save me some time, I turned off onto Tally Bridge Road. That led me to Moody Bridge, but rather than turning right on Moody as I should have, I turned left. This made me add several more miles to the trip home.
It was with great relief that I made it to Pace Bridge Road. From there I could start ticking off way points. From this point it was all about finding the flattest and most direct route home. About a mile from home my Garmin screen switched to “night mode”. I knew at that point it was officially sunset though there was still plenty of light to find my way.
Yes, I’m not in the shape that I wish I was. I just have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t about where I was or even where I am right now. If I look back at last year, I can see that really I’m not much off of my fitness level from that period. Last year at this time, my fitness was quantified with a score of 46. Today, I’m at 53. By mid-May, 2012 I had a score of 63. By July I was up to 99.
I still have some left in me. I will improve in the months ahead.