Making Up for Lost Time: The Catch Up Post
The sun came out. Portland stretched and yawned and shielded her eyes.
The bike called, so I came.
On Thursday Sal and I hit the road together for the first time in a long while. We took an old familiar route south to Oregon City, around Lake Oswego, back to Terwilliger and home. The last time we’d done this ride it had been my first attempt at 30+ miles in years.
It hurt. I complained. I said, "I want off this bike!"
Sal pulled me dutifully and blocked his ears to my outcry. He said, "This is good for you."
I hated him.
Since then I have been in my own private pain cave, suffering alone, unwilling to share the agony – hoarding it all to myself. Mile after mile alone. I like riding alone – it is quiet and still and the pain rings clear and bright.
So on Thursday’s "Valentimes Day Ride" (such are the gifts we now give each other: "Here honey, I wrapped up this suffering for you.") we set out with the intention of doing what was on my workout plan.
"I will lead out." I said, "You just promise to get me back."
He came to the front a few times and my heart rate dropped sneakily. I could hear my heart inside of me saying, "Oh thank god, that locomotive of a boyfriend is up front again, she will never notice the 10 beat difference!"
I did notice.
And I pulled out into the headwind, stood up on my pedals and went back to the front until the numbers rose according to my will.
We went fast.
In West Linn we stopped for a moment at an intersection and Sal said, "Holy shit! I don’t think I have ever made it to West Linn this fast!"
Near Willamette Falls he took over again as my tempo started to drop off. The heart was still dying inside of me, so I was happy to sit on his wheel for a while.
Sal has always overestimated my abilities. At least, that has always been my position on things. When you are with someone for nine years, the Mom Factor starts to come into effect.
"Oh honey, you’re the prettiest, most talented girl in school!"
It’s the same with Sally. He always believes that I can do so much more than I think is possible. He says, "I know you can do this." and I put his comment through my Longtime-Boyfriend-on-Love-Crack translator and realize that he is delusional.
In this way, I dismiss his visions for me, because they are large and overwhelming and because my confidence diminishes the moment you set my body on top of two wheels.
This isn’t my thing, man. I’m a runner.
I have been telling myself these stories for a long time and the effect is amplified over time. Tell yourself the same thing for long enough and you will start to believe it, whether or not it is actually true.
The only things stopping me from being successful on a bike is my unwillingness to go after it. And that’s all changing.
Back on Johnson’s Creek Road there is a stretch of asphalt that goes on and on forever. The road is at a slight tilt up – not enough to be impressive, but just enough to take it out of you slowly.
I lead going into this section and as I make a sweeping right, a rise comes in earnest and the pace goes backward accordingly. I am not ready to slow down, so I stand up and breathe.
"Oh my god." Sal says behind me, "That almost made me cry."
"Don’t make me laugh, dude. I’m climbing."
The point is taken. My progress is not unnoticed.
I have no idea how I got here. It’s almost impossible to imagine that I was baffled by the way Sal’s daily schedules were built around bike rides – the way our budget revolved around cycling purchases.
Of course I plan my life around this bike. Of course I plan our money around this obsession. What else would I do?
Today I rode into a headwind by myself. I had fast miles on my legs from Saturday and they seared inside my favorite Santini bibs. My calves were shiny with embrocation. Somewhere south of me Sal was on a bicycle in a race with other men on bicycles. I knew he was going fast so I went fast, too. My body said, "Let up!" and I replied, "We. Will. Not. Let. UP!"
I turned north and the headwind became a side-wind. Suddenly, I was in traffic. Cars move so easily, I thought. They know nothing. The cars are large, lumbering idiots around me. I move through them carefully, trying to keep my little bike in the bike lane as the wind pushes me like a sail.
My vision gets small and the tunnel of it fills in slowly with pain. The sky is a beautiful blue and Mt. Hood cuts a sharp shape out on the horizon. I should be enjoying this, but I’m not here for smiles, I am here to suffer.
My legs are unruly so my brain takes over and makes them do horrible, horrible things. My brain does not let them stop until the little number on the computer is where it should be. I eat a bug. And then another.
What are bugs? This is cycling – insect meals are part of the deal.
In a four hour escape I live every hope and tragedy that I can imagine. The tailwind as I head west on Marine Drive is like a dream. It’s a big-ring, high-cadence triumph of mankind.
I am starting to get the cycling thing.
For a few minutes today, my legs separated from my body. They were tingly and light. For a moment, I thought they were asleep. They ticked off 90 rpms and then 95 with a silky-smoothness. The heart was working hard enough. Everything was happy. Everything felt bright.