After watching the live broadcast (thank you NBC sports) of De Ronde van Vlaanderen this morning, I kitted up and headed out for my first real bike ride of the season. The last time I had been on a training ride was way back in October. To keep it simple and to force me to pedal smooth circles, I opted for the fixed-gear, which ended up being a little over-geared for what needed to be an easy spin. My legs felt heavy, fat and sore, as much from the long run I had done the day before as from not having pedaled for nearly five months.
What amazes me every time I get back on the bike after an extended absence is how my legs just know how to go. Muscle memory. I calculated during the ride that I have been pedaling seriously for 27 years. Even if my legs feel shitty, they still know how to turn smoothly. After the first 10 or 15 minutes, I started to feel better. For me, the bike has always had a therapeutic effect. I could already feel knots in my TFL and gluteus minimus starting to unwind and my sore back relaxing. Then, there’s what it does for my mind. Back in the day, when I used to be on the bike 4 or 5 hours a day, my mind had a way of sifting through things and solving issues without me having to actively think about it. These days, it’s more of a challenge because the cars, in particular, scare the hell out of me when I’m not used to the traffic. It doesn’t help when you’ve been hit a couple of times and have perspective on the extent of your (limited) mortality or family waiting for you at home.
Nothing was won or lost for me today. I thought about the Boonen, Pozzatto and Ballan and how they looked and probably felt at the end of the 257 km. I thought about the little training crits I sometimes do or the local races. It all seemed too far fetched for me to be competitive again on the bike. The 39 x 18 on the fixed gear was enough to make me question if I’d even make it over some of the hills. But it was a start.
When I raced full-time in my 20’s, I had the best form and fitness of my life. I was 152 lbs, 6% body fat, a resting HR of 41. I could ride for hours on end. I could climb mountain passes in the big ring. I could make the splits in the last 20 km of a 200km race. If only I had then, when I had the 30 or 40 hours a week to train, the wisdom and experience to read a race and to know how to expend the effort that I have now. Some of the guys I started racing with are still out there. George Hincapie. Adam Myerson. They’ve never stopped.