Tag Archives: cycling

13:01 for the ride home. 2 seconds from credibility. I’m fighting the clock. But which one?

Does it matter if the radar speed sign says you're going 20 or just 19mph? Absolutely.

Does it matter if the radar speed sign says you’re going 20 or just 19mph? Absolutely.

I don’t have to ride hard on the way home; taking it easy, I could avoid breaking a sweat and eat dinner without having a shower first. I could do that. But I won’t. I could blame it on the new power meter, which tells me if I’m slacking off, but it wasn’t much different before (only difference being that, if I’m slow now, I have the power numbers to show I’m slacking, that it wasn’t just a “high gravity” day).

It’s a commute, not a race. Just 2.8 miles, with a 400ft climb at the end. But it comes after a long day at the shop, and when you really push, you’re not just pushing the pedals, you’re pushing a reset button. It may only be temporary, but while it lasts, the rest of the day goes away, you exist only in the here & now, whatever your legs can put to the pedals, whatever air you can get through your lungs. You hope you get green lights all the way, but part of you looks forward to being held up for just a few seconds, just long enough to catch your breath. But not too long, because your elapsed timer is running, whether you’re stopped for 2 minutes at a very long light (Jefferson & Alameda) or you’re climbing up Highland. It’s running when you leave the back door of the shop, stare down Franklin and wonder if you’ll hit the light right for the left turn onto Jefferson (a light that cannot be triggered by a bicycle, so you have to wait for a car on the other side. It’s running after you’ve crossed El Camino and wonder if you should be pouring on the gas all the way to the Hudson stoplight, at an unsustainable pace but gambling on the light turning red and giving you a chance to breathe.

It’s that darned Alameda light that can ruin everything. It’s stays red so long, and you can’t anticipate the cycle because it doesn’t have one… it follows just one law, which is to turn green for any cross traffic, and stay green (red in my direction) for as long as it takes to thoroughly frustrate me. Doesn’t matter. What comes before that light is all-out war on the clock. What comes after depends upon the light. If I’m stuck there for two minutes, there’s not that much point to killing myself up the hill… I’ll end up with a 14 or 15 minute time, right? I wish. I’m just not wired that way. Never give up, never surrender. There’s a strava segment for Highland, and if you’re rested up from the light, you might nail it.

Riding hard, pushing my limits, it must be in my DNA. I don’t think 13 minutes of hard effort makes any difference at all in the grand scheme of things… how fast I can ride up Kings, what I feel like 80 miles into a 113-mile Santa Cruz loop. But the alternative feels like giving in to that mortality thing, the idea that at some point I won’t have the choice but to ride more slowly, more measuredly, because if I push too hard I’ll blow up before I make it home and be riding ’round that final corner on Jefferson at 4mph instead of 8 or 9 or even 12.

I didn’t start out writing this with an idea that it would be about, or even include, anything having to do with mortality. However, the “racing against the clock” bit, complete with the occasional red light along the way, seems an accurate metaphor for life. When you’re 20, racing against the clock is fun, but you have no problem turning it down. When you’re almost 58, it’s serious business. :-)

I could get used to this (not being last)

26:38, 26:17, 26:46. Those would be my times for my last three trips up Kings (the regular way, not through the park). And the week before I left for France, another 26-something.

Nice not being the last person up the hill anymore!

Nice not being the last person up the hill anymore!

The past 6 years, I’ve had at most 3 sub-27 times up Kings (each year), and almost never back-to-back. I’ve finally reversed the slow decline in my climbing times since 2006! But the faster guys on my ride… well, they just keep getting faster, and I don’t quite get that, since they’re getting older just as fast as I am. But at least I’m regaining a bit of┬álost ground.

There’s a stark contrast between this year and last; the 2012 Tour de France trip saw me completely collapse on both the Tourmalet and Peyresourde, climbs that should have been well within my capabilities to ride hard. This year, the climb I really wasn’t looking forward to, Ventoux, went very well. Alpe d’Huez, no problem. Back side of the Semnoz, again, no issue, felt good!

Kevin arrives a bit late to the party

Kevin arrives a bit late to the party

Nice not being the last person up the hill anymore!

It makes me wonder how much last year was affected by that mortality thing, knowing that I was getting close to the age where my father died. My improvement on the bike really did start immediately after passing that milestone. Strange, the way your mind can harass you. Jens says “Shut up, legs!” Guess I should be saying “Shut up, brain!”

Big group this morning, too many to get right but definitely had both Kevins, Mark E, Marcus, George, Keith, JR, Karen, Karl… at least one other I’m forgetting. Lots of trash talk from George, saying that he never sees me at the front heading down 84 towards West Old LaHonda. This is not true, or maybe it’s just on Thursdays (when George isn’t with us) that I’m at the front.

Hate it when this happens. I'm off the back on the final pull up West Old LaHonda.

Hate it when this happens. I’m off the back on the final pull up West Old LaHonda.

Or maybe I’m just sitting 3rd wheel most of the time. Whatever, I went to the front fairly hard and stayed there for a while, after which I got more grief from George because I was “in the drops” which he thinks I never do.

Pilot Kevin pointed out that he’s seen more before (in the drops). Clearly, to put George in his place, I’ve either got to get really strong, or George will have to suffer from something really debilitating, like owning a business. Neither is too likely to happen.