13 October 2008

Hollow Man

With apologies to a serious poem:
"this is the way the [season] ends - not with a bang, but a whimper" (T. S. Eliot)

That's how I'm feeling about a premature steep decline in riding days, miles, and energy. A good ride on Labor Day was followed by a decent first Saturday in September. At this time of year, it seems like it's Saturday or no day, and the next Saturday was Chicago's monsoon season. The following 2 Saturdays found me at work for the better part of the morning. (OK, make that the longer part of the morning ...) - on beautiful days, one of which included a near-century ride with the boys.

The Saturday morning ride crowd are a welcoming, encouraging bunch, and a heck of a lot of fun to ride with. If I miss this ride, I haven't had a proper week of cycling. And if I get that ride in, I usually feel that the week has gone well ... even if it is the only ride of the week. So, to miss 2 in a row is rough.

On the last day of September I got home early enough one afternoon to put in about 45 minutes of laps in the neighborhood. It had been 3 weeks and 3 days completely off the bike. Bummer. That next Saturday, October 4, I coined my fall cycling slogan: "Every ride an exercise in humility."

In reality, though, thinking back to August, my last 2 rides found me drifting off the back of the pack. I have never hung on in sprints, and now I was losing it even on elevations that hardly qualify as hills. I could catch up in time, so at the time I didn't really think much of it. But coming back after a disappointing time off the bike, well it is downright discouraging. Every ride an exercise in humility.

The other day, when it coulda shoulda been a perfect fall 80-miler, I had to let the group go on and I turned back at mile 30. Looping back and taking a leisurely pace (which a couple of years ago would have been totally satisfying) I still got in 64 miles. For which, I do want to be - and, really, I am - thankful. But where is that energy?

And lest the group be misunderstood - my Saturday morning guys do not drop riders. If I had tried to keep going, they would have modified the pace for me. Maybe I would have recovered. It was exhilirating while it lasted. But it sure felt like I missed the Wheaties they all had that morning. I dropped out so no one would have to sacrifice a glorious outing.

Don't mean to whine. I just guess I'm ready for another round of ABD's Boot Camp, which starts up in a couple of weeks. Just in time? I guess so.

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