Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The curtain on summer is starting to close

My bike commuting has been interesting this summer.  There is enough light in June and July such that I don’t need my headlight for the ride in.  June is usually still a bit chilly so it isn’t until mid-July that I can ride in wearing short sleeves. When the calendar strikes August I have the weirdest situation where I can wear a short sleeve jersey but I need a headlight in the morning. 
At the Coffee and Lies ride this past Sunday KB asked me if we really had gone to Italy or if we all just shared the same cycling-based dream. I smiled and knew exactly what he meant.  Although I can remember it like it was yesterday, at times it seems like it was a hundred years ago.  Such is life.

After a solid month of morning temperatures between 58 and 61, earlier this week it was 53 when I got up.  “Is summer over?” I wondered. For my bike commute this week the sky was dark, cloudless and full of stars when I pulled out at 5:20 AM.  A long sleeve jersey was the wise choice.

Talk of football, Cyclocross and back to school signals the coming transition with an occasional golden leaf confirming the inevitable.  As an empty-nester I find myself reminded of my adolescence as fall approaches. 

When I was a teenager the end of summer signaled the impending start of cross country racing.  The start of school meant the start of intervals and after a summer that teetered on either side of a thousand miles of running my fitness was high and those intervals would sizzle.  I’ve always hated intervals but I have always been good at them and the results are undisputed. 
As a teen and young adult those hard efforts would trigger the production of lactic acid in my body during the workouts. Evidence of that was a metallic taste in my mouth and a burning in my lungs.  I can close my eyes and easily recall those sensations. When my eyes are closed I am seventeen years old.  When I open my eyes reality shocks me every time.

Now as a grandfather I find myself still doing intervals; this time on a bike. To my surprise the feelings are the same forty-some years later.  My lungs fighting for more air and my teeth hurting.  My chest pounding and a bit of lightheadedness.  Will I ever grow up?
 Everything looks worse in black and white......
At times I wonder if my life is so shallow that I somehow find purpose in the pain.  Do I have nothing more meaningful to do?  Am I just immersed in guilt and this hurt is my penance?  Have I made so many mistakes in life that I deserve this pain?  Am I bored and inflicting this on myself just appeases my ADD? Or worst of all; have I taken the Rapha psychobabble as gospel and ascribed a majestic nobility to the labor of pure suffering?  I don’t believe I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “Let’s go find some misery today.”  Yet I do take a perverse satisfaction in a hard workout. 
I have an interval workout that I can do on my bike commute home.  I use portions of a bike only trail as my interval sectors and the areas in between those which are open to traffic as my recovery.  Most of the sectors are STRAVA segments so I have a benchmark.  On one of those I’m seventh out of more than a thousand riders.  On another I’m second out of a thousand plus. It is amazing that I can train so hard and still race so poorly.

Luckily with age comes acceptance.  I figure it is probably like raising children. Once you figure it out, it is too late.  Lucky for me the habit of training has become so ingrained that I take pleasure in the process. 
Still, as the days get shorter and the nights grow colder, the summer that I waited all year for fades and I find myself experiencing a Pavlovian excitement that I cannot deny. The Winthrop Fondo and Cyclocross races fill the fall calendar. The prospect of crisp rides followed by snow, skiing and fatbiking excites me. 
My mountain biking takes on an urgency acknowledging the finite nature of the seasonal sport.  My casual shorts look worn, my sweaters look lonely.  Hottie is riding stronger each week.  Let’s go before summer is over.

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