Yes I’m in a world of pain …but there’s also a certain measure of what: Pleasure? Satisfaction? Insanity?
I’m back from four hours of hard riding. I put in a 60 km day today and I’ve never done that before but that’s only a contributing factor.
(Btw I’m using my IPad so forgive any typos.)
I rode with the big kids today. I even caught one of our best aero riders and chased her for a kilometre or so and that hurt…a lot. But that wasn’t highlight of the morning.
I think it was the part where my coach tried to kill me (Remember everything I say here is in jest. Petrina from The Cycling Centre is by far the best coach/teacher/sensi I’ve ever had. If I’m very lucky she might even consider me a friend.) and the fall didn’t help.
Maybe I should start from the beginning.
On Sunday as I was riding up to a half day hill training session put on by the Oakville Cycling Club I found the climb out of Oakville plus the 35 degree C heat and the overwhelming humidity too much for me. As those who know me know I had open-heart surgery 10 years ago. It was, and remains, a big deal. I was very lucky that a chance chest X-ray detected a life-threatening problem that had me into surgery within days.
It took me two years to recover and I was frail and needy during most of that period. (I’m just needy now.) Then I went back to yoga and my overall conditioning improved. But last winter it became clear that the couch in our front room was trying to kill me and I had to do something dramatic as my weight soared.
And I found cycling or maybe cycling found me and a new love affair blossomed.
And then I found Petrina and I joined an amazing group of elite recreational and racing cyclists who put up with me twice a week all summer long.
Riding a modern carbon-fibre, race-ready 18-kilogram cycle is way different from the 10-speeds we used to ride. Riding takes way more technique and finesse than outright strength (although I wouldn’t mind being 20 per cent stronger) and learning how to draft, ride in groups, and use the right gear at the right time as you descend, climb and peak hills is golden.
Anyway back to Sunday I had a significant and serious cardiac event. Fortunately my GP had insisted I carry a nitroglycerin spray with me. I knew if the discomfort I was feeling was heart related then the spray would be effective. It was.
I reduced my effort and after a rest I rejoined the workshop without incident. (If the issue had continued I would have stopped immediately and called for help. I might be determined but I’m not stupid and I am seeing my cardiologist for a stress test in two weeks.)
Monday was good as was Tuesday’s training but I was being super cautious. Yesterday was a rest day and I rested. Today I went for a 7:30am blood test then ate a sandwich, drank a couple litres of water and went for a 15 km warmup ride before class.
As the group set out we had to ride into and out a couple of challenging hills. The other riders, who are way better climbers and some way better technical riders, rode on. I struggled a bit but by 10 km out where the group slowed for a roundabout I caught them.
This was a pretty good effort on my part and I rode with the group to our staging area.
Today Petrina had us riding an eight-kilometre circuit chasing each other and practicing correct shifting down hill and back up the other side. This is technically pretty hard to do right but when you get it the magic happens.
After Sunday’s event I was still being very cautious and I was wearing a second heart monitor which I could see as I was riding. I was keeping my cruising heart rate to 120 and my exertion rate to 130. Whenever my rate hit 140 I took a rest lap.
Things were working pretty well when one of our faster riders passed me as she started her circuit.
I can’t tell you enough to times how grateful I am to these fabulous riders for putting up with me and this rider was no different. As we rode down the road I set myself in position to draft her. She knew I was a foot behind her rear wheel and slowly she began to ramp up her speed.
I could tell she was accelerating as my heart rate was climbing and my breathing was laboured. I guessed I was hitting around 140 bpm when I fell into the zone. While drafting reduces drag by as much as 30 per cent and I could feel there was also a place where the effort was the same but it was an easier effort. Does this make sense? Suddenly I was in a magical space where time and energy output just fell away. Even my heart rate dropped.
We were flying even after almost hitting a squirrel that ran out in front of us. We re-engaged and flew down the hill and due to my extra mass I had to back off a little at the same instant the other rider kicked herself up and over the hill leaving me behind.
I watched as she faded down the road. But I was learning the ways of the racing cyclist.
I needed recovery time and I cruised up the road and rested until another one of our younger cyclists started her run back. An athletic tall girl in her 20s this rider is learning her craft and she can move but today I stayed in tandem with her. I moved as she moved. I watched the cadence of her pedalling matching her gear for gear. Anticipating her next move I was doing about 34-35 kph and after a few kilometres thought it wise to break off again and rest.
And then I made one of my mistakes.
One of my favourite riders is a tall, strong, lean but muscular woman who rides an aero bike. An aero bike is a triathlete’s ride. It’s designed to do one thing and that’s go fast – really fast. It forces the rider to assume a highly desirable but painfull position of lying almost horizontally over the bike with arms in handlebar supports. The bike is unforgiving and the ride is harsh but boy can a powerful rider ever make it go.
So my favourite rider passes me going the other way and I make a turn and give chase. I caught her in about 500 meters and started to setup to draft her. If I hadn’t spent so much energy chasing her I might have been able to stay with her but within a kilometre I could feel my heart banging its way out of my chest and I broke off my attack.
I checked my heart monitor and I was hitting 155. I’ve seen 160 when I first started riding so while I wasn’t terrified it was a good decision to give up. Still to even catch up to this wonderful rider and draft her and keep up even for a short distance was a significant achievement.
On the ride back Petrina and one of our better riders (actually they’re all good riders) rode together and I tucked myself in between them and drafted them all the way back to Hwy. 25. Everything should have been okay but it wasn’t. I was sore all over. I was especially sore any place where I had been sore before. My injured shoulder ached. My butt was killing me. Everything was sore. I managed to stay with the girls but it was a struggle. Petrina told me later that what I was experiencing was lactic acid buildup from not cooling down properly. My guess is chasing down the aero rider might not have been one of my better ideas.
Patience as now we’re getting to the place where Petrina tried to kill me. (Remember this is in jest although all the facts are real and all the errors are mine.)
There’s one really big hill we race down and then pedal up the other side hopefully peaking with speed and race off down the road. Unfortunately the road at the bottom of the turn angles off in an odd way that can cause the bike to move toward the retaining fence. This can be very disconcerning especially if your feet aren’t setup right on the pedals (inside foot up – if you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle this is counter intuitive).
Ah lets just say I was so fatigued I wasn’t thinking right and at just over 50 kph with my inside foot down (dumb, stupid, suicidal) I found myself loosing control as my bike got very loose under me. I could hear Petrina screaming behind me. With the whoosh of wind in my ears I couldn’t tell what she was saying but I guessed it was something around whether my insurance was paid up.
Have you ever watched the police motorcycle escourts in news clips when just after some catastrophic event happens (like the assignation attempt on President Ronald Regan) the riders drop back into the saddles, look towards where they want the bike to go and then they gas it and takeoff at warp speed with ambulances and other emergency vehicles struggling to keep up?).
I’ve ridden a fast motorcycle too and I know enough to look where you want to go rather than where you think you’re going to end up and that’s what I did…twice…and I made it…but I’ll be honest.. It was a close thing.
But I still had Petrina yelling at me. I had no idea what she was saying but half way up the hill I realized I hadn’t made the prerequisite shift from my big chain ring to my small chain ring. Now I could hear Petrina yelling “Unclip! Unclip!”
It’s sort of like hearing someone yell”bail out” except your foot is stuck and you know this movie isn’t going to end well for somebody. So in slow motion I fell into the hillside rather than into the path of a passing car. Large drama!
So I looked up and Petrina was over me straddling her bike, keeping me safe and offering a hand up.
I can’t imagine the story she is going to tell her husband tonight about the old guy in her riding group.
I know the story I’m telling myself.
I am becoming an athlete. It hurts and that’s okay. I am becoming a way better cyclist. It’s going to take some time. I am blessed to be part of this wonderful riding group and I have coach who is always there when I need a helping hand. And maybe she wasn’t trying to kill me. Maybe she was just trying to save me from myself.
I wouldn’t have missed this morning’s adventure for anything 🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼🚴🏼