I have a few standard bike routes around my area, most of which I have been riding over and over for 10 years now. One ride I frequent is about 14.3 miles with 950 feet of climbing, and it usually takes about 64 to 66 minutes on my 29er.
Sunday I ate breakfast and headed out into the yard at 9 a.m. I moved dirt and rock for about four hours, which left me tired, dirty, sweaty, hungry and thirsty. With the boy's baseball practice looming, I quickly changed and headed out for a short ride.
Without much time to work with, I chose the route I described above. The first few minutes were uncomfortable, my knees and back protesting loudly. After a couple miles I settled into a rhythm, loosened up and started to feel better.
At about the halfway mark I realized my pace wasn't too bad. I kicked up the effort a bit and was surprised that my body responded. I hit the final two-mile climb at 49 minutes and change, and I thought there was a chance I could crack one hour. I have tried to complete this ride in under an hour many times, and each attempt has ended in failure. Still, I keep trying.
I hit the climb hard and really turned myself inside out. I can honestly say I had never previously put that much effort into the last two miles. I stomped up the last hill and pushed hard over the top, hammering down the last descent in my big chainring. I took the last corner without braking, barely acknowledging my neighbors and Jenn who were visiting in the cul-de-sac. Up the driveway and into the garage, I stopped the timer at 59:54. A good ride.
I collapsed on the living room floor like Laurent Fignon after the final time trial in the 1989 Tour, wondering if I have been doing it wrong all these years. Eating, resting and hydrating before races? Not anymore.
If you see a guy pushing around a wheelbarrow full of rocks before your next race, stop by and say hello. It's just me. Be afraid. I'm only getting warmed up.