Monday, July 25, 2005

My Sorry Ass

Bench on Banks-Vernonia Trail
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
See this bench made out of a log and topped with an old rusty railroad doodad? This is where I parked my clanked-out ass after riding approximately four miles on the Banks-Vernonia bike trail, one of Oregon’s few rails-to-trails bike paths.

Before last Saturday, I hadn't ridden my bike since Labor Day, 2003. Nevertheless, I had no idea that getting back in the saddle after a nearly two-year hiatus would be such agony. As soon as I started pedaling, my vastus medialis started screaming blue murder. I could hardly believe it. The trail was flat and I was not in a particularly high gear. What the H-E-double-hockeysticks was going on?

I do not consider myself to be terribly out of shape. I hike. I walk. I do yoga. What's more, I used to routinely do 30-50 mile bike rides every summer weekend. Heck, I even rode two centuries (100 miles in a day). What happened? I moved to Portland, Oregon, surely one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S., and almost completely stopped riding my bike. I nixed cycling in favor of hiking, but still...the irony.

I have to admit it was a huge blow to my ego to discover that I have somehow turned into such a duffer as a cyclist. So I simply went into denial and just soldiered on, determined to make it the six miles to the vaunted railroad trestle to nowhere, an abandoned trestle that just ends in midair and sounded—at least on paper—like something I’d like to see. B was with me, being silently miserable, having ridden his bike perhaps a total of one mile last year. On and on we pedaled through dense forest on the bone-rattling path. Before long my derriere began to wincingly register every shard of gravel and cobble I slogged over. My supposedly comfy cutaway saddle was sadly inadequate.

My interior monologue blathered away as I rode, reassuring me that, contrary to all indications, there had to be some explanation as to why I was finding this flat path so difficult. At the same time, I resolved to start riding my bike to yoga every week—a ride that involves climbing a giant hill. I just cannot accept that I have turned into such a rubbishy cyclist.

We never did get to the railroad trestle to nowhere, because we encountered a mud slick and B point-blank refused to go any further. So we turned around at about the six-mile mark. To our great surprise, however, we were able to coast the entire six miles back. Absolutely no effort required. The path had not been as flat as it looked, but in fact followed a not-so-slight incline, which of course was a slight decline all the way back. I think we covered those six miles back in about 20 minutes, feeling more cheery and capable by the second. I believe I might have said something about giving Lance Armstrong a run for his money. We later calculated that over the course of our ride we had climbed about 600 feet, which is nothing really, when you consider that riders in the Tour de France typically do climbs of 5,000 feet, but still it helped us feel like we weren’t completely hopeless and ready to be tossed on the slag heap. Nonetheless, I am going to stick to my resolve to ride my bike to yoga. Cross-training = good.


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