Two days until the ride

I had written this days ago but forgot to hit “post.” Sorry about that. I will have an update soon.

I feel pretty good. My knee will probably hurt, but not bad enough to keep me from riding. My back, too, still isn’t 100% and I don’t know why. But, I know I will finish the ride, barring some kind of accident or something unknown. I feel ready, but I won’t set any course records on Saturday. I am hoping, at least, for some personal records, I guess. That’s what’s so cool about Strava and the Garmin computer. I will get a personalized analysis of my ride in a way that I never did before. It used to be that I could only get an average speed, a max speed, and a distance. But, now I can have all kinds of data. I will see my exact route, speed at any given point on the route, heart rate, too, and so on.

It’s pretty cool.

Anyway, I was thinking about how it’s going to hurt. I know that at many points on Saturday, my chest will heave, my quads will burn, my calves will ache, my knees will throb, and likely some other muscles or tendons in legs will feel tight and sore. My butt is going to hurt, I may even get sores. I will probably be too cold and too hot over the course of several hours, or even minutes. I will, at some point, look at my mileage and despair because I have so many miles left. I may be too hungry, lightheaded, nauseous, or just tired. My hands will likely go numb or tingle at times. My shoulders will hurt, my neck will ache, and my eyes will be dry.

All of that will probably happen and that’s the best case scenario. Worse case would be that I crash and and actually get injured. Or I get cramps. Or sick.

So much discomfort and even pain. Why do it? I often think about that. Sometimes I even try to figure it out during those times when it hurts so much. It is for the moments, I guess. There are moments when the surrounding are beautiful. I recall coming down Glendora Ridge Road and the sunlight sparkled through the maples and oaks on the mountainside. They were in the midst of changing colors (not the oaks, of course) and it was really cool. Sometimes it’s a moment where I feel good. My legs feel powerful, my body isn’t hurting unusually, and I am moving at a good pace. My pedaling is smooth, the bike tracks along the road and I feel the power transferring efficiently from my legs to the pedal, the chain, the cogs, the tires, and into the road. That’s a good moment, too.

I ride also because I can. I enjoy feeling like I did something that others can’t. It might be going up a steep climb, for example. Most people complain when the grade hits 2%. I like being able to climb four miles of 6-8% grade. I like getting to the top and knowing that I didn’t let the hill beat me. It also could be distances. Most people can’t even comprehend riding a bike for 100 miles, or even 50. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to be on the bike for hours at a time. So, there’s that.

I ride because it’s the most fun version of exercise I have found. I get injured running. Walking is too slow. I don’t want to use machines or lift weights. That seems pointless. Bike riding takes you places. You get to see things. I like the way the world looks from two wheels, and it does look different. Smells different too, good and bad. I love the smell of damp fields in the morning just beginning to warm in the sun. On the other hand, there’s the smell of a hot sewer or port-a-potty that has been cooking in the blazing Southern Californian sun. That’s every bit as bad as it sounds. Sucking in a lungful of car exhaust is no fun, either. But, a field of wild flowers is heavy with fragrance, or jasmine blooming in the later afternoon. Divine.

To some degree, cycling is about living with the pain, and sometimes enjoying it. Usually, it’s that the ride is better than the pain is bad. But, it can also be that the pain means you’re doing something worthwhile.

I’m looking forward to Saturday’s ride. It will be difficult. But, I have a feeling that I will get a little of everything from it. There will be pain, and beauty, loneliness (when I get dropped) and camaraderie. There will be ups and downs, good and bad.

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