A hard ride

February 10, 2023 Comments Off on A hard ride

It’s the gravel season here in somewhat-southern-California, with incredible tales of pre-epic badassery, online malls of once-in-a-lifetime-til-next-year bicycle costume collections, finisher’s trucker caps, commemorative beer, and tens of thousands of fingers knuckling down to the amazingly tough job of posting everything on #socmed.

In my little corner of Redneckia I’ve settled for something much more mundane, that is, simply riding my bicycle upriver for twenty-five miles.

Sounds easy.

And not too long ago, it was.

With a mere 2,700 feet of elevation and no steep climbs of any kind, six months ago this was one of the two main throwaway rides, the other being a 38-mile sally around the lake.

But here’s the thing. When you are old, your fitness goes away with astonishing speed. Given my readership’s demographic, there are plenty of people who will read this and say, “Old? You’re only 59! Still in diapers, sonny!”

Alas, no matter how you parse it, muscles, hearts, lungs, and minds could care less about exhortations or about relativistic theories of aging. Fifty-nine isn’t the new thirty, it’s old as fuck. As I continually remind myself, by the time Mozart was my age, he’d been dead for twenty-three years.

So my modest goal was to modestly ride upriver, keeping my heart rate above 120, which is Zone 2. Shortly into the third roller I realized that I had my work cut out for me. It doesn’t matter how many hard rides you’ve done in the past. How fit you were. That race you won that time. Detraining is a real thing and it hits you like a hammer in the face when you confront it with actual work.

Last October, when I rode to Los Angeles on a fully loaded bike, I cracked out much harder rides with far less misery to show for it. Not so yesterday. By the time I reached the Johnsondale Bridge, two terrible things had happened.

First, my legs were fucking shot. Second, as I turned for home, it became clear that a bonk was imminent and the next food supply was an hour and a half away. Bonk. At 25 miles. Then I recalled that no one rides for an hour and a half on a bonk.

As the glycogen depletion set in, on the downhill no less, as the ride out is all uphill and the return all down, I considered my options. Hitch a ride? Try to catch and eat some raw fish? Cry?

That’s when I saw two anglers doing what anglers do best, which is be overweight in the sunshine as they smile with no fish biting. The overweight part brought joy because I surmised that these two fellows would not be out in the wilderness without snacks.

“Hey, man,” I shouted. “You got any food?”

They weren’t happy to see me because it punctured the illusion balloon that they were alone on the river. I also looked ragged and haggard and lost and rather desperate. “Lemme check,” the one guy said, climbing up the bank. He opened the passenger door and out plopped the mother lode: a full pack of Girl Scout peanut butter cookies swaddled in chocolate. “Take all you want,” he said.

All I wanted was all of them, but I gobbled eight and left the rest, leaving much thankfulness in my wake.

I got home wrecked. It’s going to be a long road back.


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