How do we define ourselves? Is it the things we’ve accumulated over the years? Our education? How much we weigh, whether our hair has turned gray (if it’s there at all), having to wear reading glasses… ok, this is heading more towards defining our age. I think that’s a guy thing, or at least guys spend a lot of time talking about getting older. If women do spend time talking about this stuff, it’s not around guys. Getting back to the subject…
I ride bikes. That, aside from family stuff, is really what defines me. Sure, my brother and I own a pair of bike shops, and I’ve had to become much more savvy as a business person over the years to keep things afloat in a world that has increasingly less room for error. But if I were suddenly transported into another culture, an alien planet, or maybe Arkansas, it would ultimately be my cycling that defined me.
Today’s definition included the usual Tuesday ride up Kings, stopping for a few minutes halfway up while Kevin (my son, not the pilot) had a seizure (which happens more often than not lately), followed by an enjoyable dash across Skyline, descent on 84 towards the coast for a few miles, then the always-pretty ride up west-side Old LaHonda before diving back down into Woodside.
I wasn’t feeling great for the first part of the ride; something about 53 degrees showing on the bike computer that explained why my lungs were working worse than usual, but finished fairly strong, including the final sprint at Albion, contested primarily by Kevin (my son, not the pilot) who surprised me by flying past early. Thankfully too early, because I was able to come up to his rear wheel for a moment or two, giving me just enough draft to slingshot past at the line. It was close. Too close. But a win is a win. I’m not dead yet.
I had expectations of a kinder, gentler ride this morning. Why not? It was Thursday (and Thursday rides are supposed to be easier-paced than Tuesdays), Kevin (my son, not the pilot) was home with a cold, and at the start of the ride, it’s just me, Eric, Karl & Mike, picking up Marcus along the way and Millo further up the hill. The dynamics of the group are such that Marcus and either Karl or Mike might key off each other and bolt up the hill, so I did have some understandable fear & trepidation.
Since it’s a Thursday we did the through-the-park option, delayed slightly by the bottom gate being closed, requiring a dismount & squeeze (not for everyone though; don’t remember, might have been Marcus that deftly squeezed through the narrow spot to the right of the gate without getting off his bike). It was a moderate pace to the upper park entrance, just a few seconds over 10 minutes (by contrast, it takes 7:45-9:00 minutes the “normal” way). We quickly regrouped and were off again, this time with me sitting on Marcus’s wheel. Why? Good question. Partly defensive; if I’m on his wheel, someone faster isn’t, so there’s less incentive for him to really push the pace. Nevertheless we gradually pulled away, with me wondering how long I could hang with him before blowing up.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, Marcus rides very smoothly, and if he’s not trying to ditch you, and notices you’re falling off a bit, he doesn’t just sit up and wait, but instead slows down just a bit, allowing you to claw your way back up to him at your own speed. You could say he’s allowing you to perfect your Levi skills (Levi Leipheimer is known for getting dropped during hard accelerations on steep grades, but instead of becoming discouraged or working too hard and blowing up, he grinds away at a sustainable pace and catches up to those who dropped him. This works because the hard accelerations that allowed the other guys to drop him also put them into their reserves so deeply that they have to slow down and recover).
In the end my time was 28:16, which if I extrapolate for the normal route up the hill, would have been a darned good time. Could not have happened without Marcus (and the new, lighter me probably helps a bit too). –Mike–