The schedule called for a forty-five minute recovery ride, but my mental state dictated something a bit heavier. My fitness was no longer where I wanted it to be and yesterday’s race was a testament to that. It was time to rest up, and get ready for another round of hard training. I just had to take care of this one last thing. Yesterday wasn’t enough, and though going hard up Newberry wouldn’t make up for my shitty result the day before, it would go long way toward settling my mind. It just might make me feel a bit better about not being where I should have been.
At the moment I headed out the door I should have been over a thousand miles away. I should have been in Oklahoma City watching one of my closest friends get married. Though my absence was some what excusable given the fact that I hadn’t worked a single day in the last ten weeks, I took it as a sign that I’m a bad friend. A person who can’t pull it together enough to be somewhere when someone really needs him. Instead of being there, next to my friend I was riding West into a headwind and a light rain.
NW Newberry is not the longest, or toughest climb in Portland. Hell it isn’t even the toughest climb in the Westhills, but I love it. It always feels hard. Whether I’m attempting to bust a my PR, or tying not to blow my top thirty minutes into a four and a half hour group ride. That’s why I came here today, that why I decided to “test” the day after blowing up at the end of a race.
I have to wait for a few cars, so I roll just past the junction and then cross. I hit the lap button on my computer as I start up the hill and allow a car to pass, then the work starts. Right away it hurts more than usual. Realizing I’m a bit over geared I push the lever on the right hand shifter and place my ass in the seat and start grinding away toward NW Skyline.
At mile one I feel baked. I’m tempted to look at my lap time, but I convince myself to keep things the way they are, to forget about the computer and just keep spinning those damn pedals. At the switchbacks the grade kicks up to thirteen percent I stand and start rocking the bike back and forth, just like I’ve been watching the PROs do for the last two weeks.
“Keep pedaling…. I feel like shit… There’s no way I’m going to beat that time… Maybe I should turn around”. All this and more goes through my mind. For the first time in a long time I consider getting off the bike and sitting down. I feel ashamed of that thought and its enough for me to refocus on my pedal stroke. “Be smooth, pull back and up. Circles Bob, Circles.”
I’m through the switchbacks and back in the saddle trying not to sabotage myself any further. “Just put your head down and keep pedaling” I keep checking my heart rate, just at the red line. I’m holding it together… mostly. This is what I wanted. I wanted to suffer for the fact that I let a good friend down. That I can’t seem to pull my life together. The fact that I consumed an entire pint of gelato alone.
A friend asked me once: “Why do you feel like you have to punish yourself?” I didn’t have an answer for her. This is just what I feel I have to do. I tired to cover myself by saying that it isn’t all dark. The majority of the time I love being on my bike. I love rolling along for hours, alone or with friends. I genuinely love the feeling that comes after a hard effort. I love the how the wind feels against my body when I race down hill. All of those things are true. Those are the main reasons I ride. But those other darker things are the reasons I ride too.
Actually all of the reasons listed above are the reason I race. Its the reason a lot of us race. Part of living on the line means embracing those things that we don’t love about ourselves. It means digging deep with the hopes that all of this suffering will manifest it self in having more discipline when it comes to my diet, my finances, my life in general. It could be a fools earn, but its one I’m willing to run.
For the last two minutes I’ve telling myself that I can stop for a spot once I reach skyline.. I round the last bend and see the stop sign. Standing up I jump up two gears and start pedaling harder, rocking the bike back and forth. I’ve dropped what put me out here in the first place. I hit the lap button again when I reach the stop sign. 12:21. Just over a minute faster than my previous PR. I smile to myself, wave at the cyclist passing on skyline then turn left and start the rest of my ride.