A thin line between pain and a good bike ride

Balancing a thin line between puking and riding as hard as I could, I kept mashing the pedals towards home as the sun was setting in the western sky.

I started my after work ride well. I was going pretty fast and more importantly, I was feeling great on the bike. Maybe the week off the bike did some good. I was feeling phenomenal.

Ten miles in, my feet felt like I had hot plates for pedals and my calves began to take turns cramping up. Ten miles. That’s pretty pathetic. I slowed down and took it easy, trying to find a nice cadence to stick to and keep my calves from cramping up. I soon found that turning my feet in and moving my feet a bit in the shoes (they are a little bit too big) took pressure off my calves and kept me from cramping. I continued on, but my average speed was dropping. Bummer.

I turned halfway through the bike ride and faced a headwind just strong enough to make it more difficult to pedal. I wanted to enjoy the ride and not cramp up, so I tried to pedal at a leisurely pace and concentrate on keeping my feet pigeon-toed to keep my calves from cramping again.

I made it past Americus and noticed it had cooled down to 95 degrees as I passed the bank. It felt nice. Funny how living in 100+ degrees for awhile makes 95 feel cool. Finally I turned south to head back to Emporia. And then something happened.

The first part of the ride I rode a little too hard and ended up cramping a little in my calves.

The middle part of the ride, I took it easier and watched my average drop to 14.6 mph, but rested and warmed my legs.

This last part of the ride, I felt something inside that made me put some muscle into those damn pedals and start flying down the road. My speed was between 18 and 22 mph. My legs started burning and my heart felt like it was in my throat. My legs were not cramping so I continued on as hard as my little legs would keep pedaling. I put myself in the drops, held on tight and concentrated on my pedal stroke and foot position. I pushed. Then I pushed some more.

I didn’t know if I could keep that pace up all the way back to town, but I didn’t care. It felt good to go fast and put forth a strong effort. To my supreme pleasure, I began to see my average speed creep up. Could I possibly bring it back to 15 mph? That became my goal as I put my head down, mashed the pedals and made my heart rate go through the roof. It felt both exhilarating and painful all at once.

Now I know, I make it sound like I was going really fast with my fancy writing skills, but it’s a good thing Tim Mohn or someone like him, with unnaturally long legs and riding skills wasn’t there. At that speed, Tim most likely would be able to whistle a tune and carry on a conversation while I was close to stroking out. But for me, finding adventure is all about taking myself to my limits and trying not to get too worried about other riders’ abilities. It’s hard not to wish I was faster though. I’m never satisfied with my current level of anything. It’s a issue I live with and sometimes it drives the wife a little crazy.

I made it into town, legs, lungs, heart and head on fire. My average was 14.9 mph, up from 14.6, so I kept pedaling as hard as my fatigued body would let me. Could I make it climb 0.1 mph in the short two miles or so I had left?

I pulled onto my street and BAM, my average was 15.0 mph! OK, I know that’s no speed record, but I made a goal, pedaled through extreme pain and met that goal. I felt perfect in that moment, a good bike ride.

Perfect that is until I stopped in my driveway and walked my bike into the garage. It felt like my heart had relocated to my skull as I could feel it pumping up there. I was breathing hard and the sweat began to flow in little rivers from my pores without the wind blowing on me. My legs were buzzing from the effort. I was a bit dizzy and felt overheated. Overheated in the dark, gotta love the Midwest!

It took awhile to cool down, but after a cool shower and then sitting in the AC under a ceiling fan for 40 minutes, I finally stopped sweating. That was probably the best 35 mile workout I’ve gotten in quite awhile. To say I am worried about the 150 mile Gravel Worlds in Lincoln coming up in two weeks is an understatement.

Feed Your Monkey!
Eric

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