I was a little angry on the bike today. But I wasn’t sure why. Could’ve been a variety of things all coming together. My back has been a little sore lately, not debilitating, just that nagging, general, sciatica-type annoying pain. My racing weight wasn’t dropping fast enough. The endless snow and cold temperatures were continuing to add to my seasonal affect disorder, with more snow on the way tonight. The Olympics are on with their perfect athletes in their glory days always racing against the clock. All reminders of my mortality.
I was hoping to get out at 1pm today when the temperature picked up a degree or two, but a quick check of the weather this morning sent me quickly, almost frantically to change into my cycling gear. I sent a desperate Twitter out, like a message in an e-bottle, but no one picked it up. It was overcast but Doppler showed a window of at least a few hours. So I threw a waterbottle in and a fuel bar in my outer jacket pocket and hopped on the bike.
I decided to go it alone and rode a familiar course. You know this one. It’s the Bethel Rd, to 45 to South Shore and back on Robinson and Old 37. It has a little bit of everything, long flat sections, rollers and a few pitches. It’s just under 30 miles the way I do it. I did this same ride with newcomer Jason U yesterday and had a little trouble with the speed in some spots. I set out this morning, with a few flurries falling, in a hurry but in the small chainring and was managing a nice tempo early on. I had a few adrenaline surges as the dogs along the route (and I know where they all live) seemed to be waiting for me. That old German Sheppard near Yellowood was literally waiting on the edge of the road and lunged for me! “HEY!” I yelled. Assuming an alpha-male posture-whatever that means. A couple of boxers (brothers, no doubt) came running out in the road after me before the descents to Lake Lemon, giving up the chase only when they saw I had selected the perfect gear for my escape! The others along the way, mercifully chained or in their cages, nonetheless announced me to their ilk further up the road.
The adrenalin helped me negotiate the pain a little longer as I crested the few hills along the way. I am not the climber I once was but today I recalled some of those same feelings from years ago out here alone on these barren climbs. Races in the Green Mountains of Vermont-Stowe and Killington, Bromley and Burlington. The long steady climbs through the gaps in the mountains. Never looking back, just listening to the breathing of my mates slowing fading away. I was letting the pain in rather than pushing it away. Now, believe me, I wasn’t going that fast. You would’ve been able to keep up with me, but I was in a different place now, watching from a little deeper, measuring cadence and breath and power like a violinist measures notes and pressure on the strings. I flipped into my big chainring and turned onto SouthShore. I settled nicely into a cold cadence, somewhere in the 80s and my speed was somewhere in the 20s along with the temperature.
I saw a small group up ahead. About 6 men, two abreast, maybe 50 something. They were just getting to that small, beautiful spit of land on South Shore, two lane’s worth, between the railroad tracks to the South and the lake to the North. The pavement here seemed smoother than I remembered. The cold temperatures I had been battling were replaced by a feeling of warmth and a small drop of sweat fell to my bars. They were wearing wool apparel and riding vintage bikes but this didn’t seem odd at the time. All around, lake and field and hill, covered in pristine snow. As I got closer and attached to the slipstream of this welcome train, bleary-eyed, a strange feeling of numbness worked its way through my shoulders. The rider in the rear turned and said, ‘Welcome Tom. We’ve been expecting you!”