I went out on the bike for 16 miles today. That's not very many miles, but it was pretty cold out there and windy after snowing yesterday for a little bit. It was what I call a skiff of snow. Nothing stayed on the ground and it was gone as soon as it came. Nothing major, just the first snow of the season, off and on all day long and into the evening. So while today looked warm with the bright sun shining, the cold front was here and when I got out there on the bike it was 40 degrees and windy.
I like to ride in the cold. Rule #9 you know. Also my windproof bib tights and jacket make me feel skinny on the bike. They hide my 175 pounds very well and in my mind, I feel like I weigh 150 and can climb like a mountain goat. In fact I was thinking about this the other day during the summer when I saw my reflection as I was walking into a convenience store wearing shorts. The only time I feel or look slim and elegant is on the bike. My knees don't stick out. I don't look bow-legged. My shoulders don't slump. I have a smooth pedal stroke and a nice elbow bend. I don't pass many other riders, but once I passed a guy pedalling up Emigration Canyon, and he said I made it look easy. Nice.
I feel like I might have gallstones. Or broken ribs. It hurts. That's why the easy ride today wasn't too easy. That's why it was a test ride. I'm not sure what's wrong, but a few days ago the upper right side of my torso started hurting about five inches under my armpit. It got worse over the last two days, so much so that it really hurts to breathe in deeply, or hiccup, snort or cough. It was very uncomfortable last night and I could only sleep on my left side because it hurt so bad. When I press on my ribs there, they feel like they are broken and when I breath deep the pain radiates into my shoulder blade and trapezius muscle. It feels like Spock is pinching my neck. So today was a test ride. Today was a ride to see if I could ride.
I can ride. I'm going on the ride, this big ride, this Gran Fondo. I will see a doctor after the ride if I still have the problem, if I still hurt. Things aren't perfect, but I feel like I can do the ride. I know my family has been looking forward to this trip for months, and everything is all set. They are going to have a great time playing in Mesquite, bowling, swimming, eating at the buffets, eating the $5.99 prime rib, playing the mini-golf, in the arcade and just generally hanging out, out of town with dad because he has a bike ride.
So I'm going on the ride and my goal is to not finish last. I don't know how many cyclists will be there. I don't know how hard the climbs will be. I don't know if it's going to rain or shine, be hot or cold, or windy. I just know that I'm going to ride. I'm going to finish. And, as I ride and finish, I am going to feel good and look smooth and graceful on the bike. I may hurt. My side may burn. My legs might ache and get worn out, my wrists may be stiff with my arms going numb and my side about five inches below my armpit might feel like someone is twisting a knife they stabbed me with every time I breath in, but I am going to feel good because I'm riding my bike.
I read Allen Smith's blog, Big Guy On A Bike over the last few days and again tonight. He was writing about setting a new personal best of 11.6 miles on his bike in Marietta, Georgia. Kudos to him, because he is a big guy on a bike and he's out there lapping everybody sitting on the couch, falling in his clipless pedals and sweating out a new personal best of 11.6 miles. I read his blog and am humbled. I read his blog and realize it's easy to forget how we got started, how we might have struggled and how far we may or may not have come as a cyclist.
It reminds me of my first false flat and being in the small ring and the 25 tooth cog and barely able to keep a descent cadence even if at that time I didn't know what cadence was. It reminds me of my first time trying to pedal up and over an overpass, using every gear I had and almost having to get off and walk the bike. It reminds me of the shame I felt during my first Tour de Riverton, when I had to get off the bike and walk it up the last quarter mile of the hill to the corner of the valley on the Bacchus Highway and having to admit that to my wife. It reminds me of my first long ride of 25 miles on the closed course of the Salt Lake City Marathon, and how I rode so ploddingly slow that the 5K winner passed me, then I passed him, then he passed me again, before I finally passed him again and beat him to the finish.
It reminds me of my first ride up Suncrest, and how I thought I was going to die as my heart exploded out of my chest and my legs went numb with pain. It reminds me of my first ride up Butterfield Canyon, and how many times I had to stop and recoup before I could plod on a little bit more before I had to stop and recoup before I could plod on a little bit more before I had to stop and recoup. It reminds me of my first race, riding up City Creek Canyon and being the last road bike up the hill to the top, my legs screaming for mercy. It reminds me of my first really long ride of 69 miles, and how I barely made it, how much pain my body was in, how bad my legs and knees hurt for days afterwards and how I could barely walk, talk or breathe when I finished.
And now I remember noticing a while back that I have calves for the first time in my life. I remember passing a few guys out on the road this season, up and down hills, in and out of canyons and around town. I remember climbing hills that I used to think were hard, thinking how easy they are now. I remember racing up to Minnetonka Cave in the big ring and passing quite a few riders slogging up the hill in their small ring. Racing up City Creek Canyon this year, I passed a few racers and held another off at the finish before drinking my soup and heading back down in the snow and rain before flatting on a sharp rock toward the bottom.
I have come a long long way, one pedal stroke at a time, from my very very humble beginnings as a cyclist, and I am ready for the Tri-States Gran Fondo this weekend. My hard easy 16 miles on the bike today showed me that I can ride through the pain in my side and back and the Spock pinch in my neck. The legs are good and I can breathe well enough to pedal 112 miles and climb 7500 feet of hills. The mind is ready and I am strong enough to ride this ride and see my family cheering me on at the finish. I am humble and I am ready. I can finish this Gran Fondo. It is a timed event and I just don't want to finish last.