Who Wants To Ride???
On March 3rd, 2 days before my 59th birthday, I twist my teammate’s arms into riding a metric with me. Okay, so I didn’t have to twist. If anything, I hoped they wouldn’t set out to crush the old man since my longest ride has been 39-miles. I didn’t need to cramp (which is typically what happens when I push it) and ruin everyone’s day.
I plan the route, avoiding some of our regions steeper climbs, and settle on a 62 miler that has 2 gas stations, should I need to refuel. Kirk, our team leader (and strongest rider) reminds the young bucks that this will be a no-drop ride and that we will probably average 18 MPH; slow by their standards; just right by mine.
Come ride day, and barely 15 minutes into the ride, Kirk is laying down a fast pace. “Surely he’ll notch it down when we make the next turn.”
Kirk isn’t the type of guy to do the old “bait & switch” so had this been too much for me, I could have said something and he would have slowed down. But something inside me stirred: I wanted to go fast; I wanted to see if I had what it took to endure. I battened down my will, grit my teeth, and decided that no matter what, I was going to hang on at least until the first scheduled stop in Eagleville, TN near the 26-mile mark.
Catch Me If You Can
At the top of a small climb 16 miles in, Kirk announces over his shoulder, “Hold on. I’m going for a segment!” His chain zips across the cassette and chiseled legs hammer the pedals. I react instantly, shifting and powering myself to bridge the gap and stay on his wheel. Kirk flies down the gradual descent, rounding the “S” turns aggressively, crossing the yellow line to get the best angle and speed. I match his every move, a wingman following his skipper, giddy at the speed yet wondering when my skinny legs will seize with cramps. In the flats, a teammate buzzes past and Kirk jumps on his wheel. At this point, I know that if I follow, it will be too much, too soon, so I let them go.
The Eagle Has Landed
We regroup at the stop sign and keep a hard pace into Eagleville. We refuel and I take stock of how I am doing. We are at the 26-mile mark and averaged 21 MPH. Granted, we had a slight tailwind, but nonetheless, for this old bird, that’s a fast pace! My legs feel good (no signs of cramps) nor was I fatigued. Still, I guzzle my hydration drink and eat my protein bar. I was ecstatic that I was doing great until my inner voice reminds me: “Don’t get cocky; let’s get past the 40-mile mark and see how you feel.”
Into The Wind
The wind was from the northwest at about 7 MPH so heading back was going to test our earlier pace.
Will they maintain the same speed?
Will I be able to hang on?
No matter the outcome, I am fully vested and will either savor victory or defeat. Our pace remains brisk and I ride as assertively as possible, sipping my hydration drink often, staying relaxed (as in upper body riding position) and draft, draft, draft.
Okay, Now What?
I check my Garmin. We are at the 40-mile mark and averaging 20 MPH. I wait for my legs to go from feeling strong to instantaneously cramping up. I never had this problem as a young cyclist so I chalk it up to old man issues. But they never once quiver or grab or hint that they are done. To be safe, at the 45-mile mark, I tell Kirk I need to stop at the gas station up ahead. I was feeling great but want to grab a banana so I can finish strong. I devour it and spot an unused cigarette on the ground. Feeling confident and a bit rowdy, I pose doing my best “bad ass” impression. Okay, so I don’t have a BA look, but it is was fun to goof around!
We reach the 59-mile mark and Kirk and the boyz sing happy birthday then rally around the old man for the proverbial selfie. If I haven’t said it before I’ll say it now:
I am blessed to ride with such amazing cyclists and friends.
It is little moments like this that make life sweet. Come what may down the road of life, I will always cherish this memory.
We crest the last hill guarding Nolensville and ride triumphantly to the finish: 62 miles at 20 MPH with 2,382 ft. in elevation. None of which would have been possible without my teammates.
To commemorate the spectacle, I created a short video. Be sure to turn it up loud! Special thanks to Dixie Horsepower for letting me use their song, “Full Tank.”
Keep on spinning!