Rare treat, I suit up and bite the bullet on a late-morning ride. I don the exact same kit as I wore on the April 300k, to eliminate variables, and head out into a brisk east wind. I figure I'll push into the wind and then enjoy the tailwind back towards home.
I tell ya, I've been a nervous wreck with this new fit. On the one hand, my knees feel better. They never hurt before this, but - yes - they somehow feel better now, stronger. My quads and hams seem more engaged. After a week of setteling in, my ability to spin up climbs and power the flats has not neccesarily gotten stronger, I won't be that bold, but I can maintain pace for longer. Riding in the drops seems slightly more comfy. The saddle feels like its in the right place, and I don't look or feel as stretched out.
On the flip side of that, my shoulders are killing me. Let me clarify: they were killing me BEFORE the fit. Posture at the computer at home and at work, and - how can I put this mildly? - a bagload of really ridiculous stress at work that I'm not even allowed to discuss, which makes it EVEN better to deal with. I really need a chiropractor or a massage to get this knot worked out, and I really should have done it before changing the bike fit. Even though on video capture and by seat of the pants, the fit is brilliant, my shoulder hasn't quite dropped into place. Doesn't really even hurt while riding, but at night I'm running low on Advil.
Been here before: this is familiar pain, its always in the same location on my left shoulder, and I've had it off-n-on for years - mainly because I can't relax very well at work. Times of stress and sensitive projects always have yielded this result for years. The only bike thing that ever made it worse was the old Schwinn Passage, rando-season number one. Too low and long a stem, and too little time at distance, and a camelbak on: small wonder. The following year I'd changed to a taller, shorter stem and the problems (even with the camelbak still on) vanished. The minute changes here on the Kogs don't worry me too much, assuming they go away. It's just been a tough month at work.
Still, there is a rampant paranoia in me that was mildly outlined in the last post about the fit, so when embarking on the longest ride since the changes perhaps my nervousness was creating even MORE stress. I need to quit coffee again, I think. No. Really. As I pedaled into the wind heading east with my sights on Longview Lake, I caught myself fixating on my hands, my shoulder, my nether-regions, just waiting for something to scream out "put the fit back"....
... And it was really detracting from the ride. This was at a distance that didn't even exceed my commute distance, so WTF, DUDE? I exhuast myself. If you see me on the road, hold back, don't bother slowing up to talk to me: I will bore you to tears with my absurdities.
It was really cool to get out to places I hadn't ridden to in a while. Feeling good, and not hampered too much by the wind, I rolled into Missouri at 143rd street and Kenneth road, and made my way through Martin City, the smell of BBQ deep in my nostrils. Ahhhhh..... and on south to 139th and evetually Arrington road and Grandview via the back door. I meander through Grandview on the roads that make up the last 3 miles of the 600km brevet, and my mind flashes back to 2007 for a few miles, and how good it felt to accomplish that. I'm a little sad that this year might not happen: not the right way to find out the fit isn't right after all, so maybe a 200k is better first. There's always next year.
Who knows, because I'm feeling strong still, granted only 25 miles in I think at that point, but the notion that the fitness for 600 might be there is hard to ignore. I cross over US-71 and on to Byars road. The Summer Breeze route looms to the south, but I don't wanna get too nuts. To the north is the entrance to a trail I've never ridden, though I've ridden past it plenty of times. I dive onto the narrow blacktop and into the unknown. Several scenic miles later, I've popped out at a park near Longview lake itself, so I head back to Raytown road to continue north around the lake loop. Then I see him.
I'll call him "Local Lance". Every weekday ride has one if the timing is right. As I look left for traffic, I see a figure standing on the pedals rising the hill I'm near the top of. "Okay, let's see if I can hold him off," I ponder aloud, knowing he's far enough away that I'm not being rude, but close enough that it won't be too easy. Worst case, he catches me and we chat a bit. I shift, and start to ramp up the revs and speed. I don't bother looking back. I make short work of the next hill and actually feel like I'm holding up a respectible pace... Until...
On my right (we're on a very wide shoulder, so this is normal here) a very fit-looking guy on a Cannondale Six-13 passes me at about a 3mph advantage. "ahHA" I belt out... No reaction from "LL", no iPod, either... Hmmm. When one is so focused as to not exchange plesantries, well : its annoying. So, I rev up just a touch more, now that I know what I'm pacing. 23mph....25.... Ok, now we're matched. I purposefully stay out of his draft, to the point where he knows I'm not drafting him. A slight cross-tail wind here helps matters. A hill comes up again... Shallow and long, my favorite. Without having to rev more, I begin to overtake him, but he's not pleased. He stands, shifts, and pushes until the spacing is in his favor again, but he won't escape me. I feel the effort, but the hill is over - and "LL"s turn has arrived, he whips wildly to the left, across the shoulder, my front wheel (safely), and both traffic lanes to get into the turn lane there. The light turns
yellow, so we have to stop. Separated by two lanes, but not out of earshot, I offer "almost got the light..." Nothing. Ok, LL, ok...you're ALL that, aren't ya? You just got matched by a non-racer in safety yellow and ankle bands, on a 25 lb. lugged steel bike with fenders and generator lights. I hope you gain two pounds so your team jersey doesn't fit anymore. Har! I notice he tweaks his left leg at the knee a few times while waiting for the light... Pain? I have none... I am fit. Har-ho!
Drama over, I come to grips that I am about near the halfway mark of my ride, at least the farthest-east point. I continue around my beloved Longview lake loop, across the dam enjoying the view I haven't seen in years, and then south to hit the bottom leg of the loop back westbound. Tailwind time!
After my favorite old 40+ mph tucked descent back to Raytown road, it's time to get outta Grandview, and find Prospect road to get out in the country for a bit. Along that road, another rider is spotted wearing a Bicycle Shack jersey, and I reel him up. This won't be another "LL" story: the Bike Shack crowd is pretty cool. Its why I still say the Saturday AM Longview Lake ride is the best in the area.
I pass him with a "howdy" and a wave, and he waves back and says "hi". Normally that's plenty - but he continues by asking how far I'm going and where I came from. I slow up and we chat for about six miles, a nice guy named Dennis, former wrench from Wheelers, once upon a time. We talk bikes, rides, the area itself, good routes, just enjoying the new sunshine as the clouds of the morning finally part.
We part ways at 187th street, and I continue south to 195th and then State Line and 199th for the final jaunt home, and much needed water-refill stop and quick snack. During the ride so far I had ingested... well, I had breakfast this morning, so most of the late morning was banked on that intake. On Scherer Road south of the lake I had an Oatmeal Creme Pie. How-DIE-datsgooood. Had another one shortly after parting ways with Dennis, and with 12-14 miles to home, I just "needed" one quick top-off. Maybe some PB Crackers, and some Gatorade. Yeah... not he best fare, but rando-fare nonetheless. What else do I know how to eat?
Crosses my mind that they need a McDonalds at K-68 and Metcalf in Louisburg.
I stop at Stilwell Grocery and get my Gatorade and PB Crackers, a quick restroom break, and a bench to sit upon. A nice gent in a pickup, cutoff sleeves and a full-on straw cowboy hat chats me up about riding, hard work, life, traffic, land values, and the weather. It's an interesting moment considering my dress of choice at the moment and my method of transport - but he's interested and not afraid of conversation. He heads on back to his waiting field, and I mount up for home...
But not quite yet.
Shoulder or not, it's a rare day. I look along 199th street, towards US-69, and think to myself -- you know, I've done that road this year. Like three times. Fit issues? Well, aside from the shoulder, getting back on the bike seems good, feels "right"... nothing lingering or making me WISH I was closer to home, so why rush things? I turn south onto Metcalf, and head towards La Cygne on the Border Patrol route.
Now, before you get all excited and think that I went off half-cocked and knocked of a 300K on a new fit without even considering the consequences or the lack of RUSA credit, lemme be clear. Yeah, for HALF A SECOND I thought about it... maybe just Louisburg... ok, ok, ok... 223rd street. That'll work. Haven't ridden that in a while, and it beats 175th street hands down for scenery anymore, and traffic noise. I ride off to the south, fighting the wicked crosswind which had grown since I'd turned west last, and made it to 223rd and enjoyed a wild shove from the gale. not much to stop the wind out here, and I was wishing I'd brought the drogue chute for extra thrust. Before I knew it I was at Woodland Road, staring at the not-quite-complete RR bridge over the road at Spring Hill, KS.
I pointed the bike north, and zig-zagged my way back north and east to Olathe. Now, my shoulders were really starting to bother me. I stretched, shrugged, and drank more liquids to stave off dehydration, and was happy - overall - with the result of the ride.
Yeah, I had to do a fair amount of stretching in the garage afterwards - something I'm not used to doing, and really should do - but, I could feel the tension popping OUT of my shoulder finally. Even as I sit and type this, there is a little awareness of that knot. But, the OTHER side of my upper back is fine, my legs feel tired - but good, and my knees are fine. Even my hands, which I'd thought were fatigued from the new position, are feeling fine now. I think what we have here is a little acclimation happening, and - yes - I do need to give it more time, perhaps. With the feeling of power, the improvements in many areas, I'm certainly not switching anything back to where it was - but I feel like I'm safe tackling a 200K now. 600? Errr.... that might be risky. If anything presented itself negatively, that's a long way from home. Today, however, with 75 miles in the bank and a 16.0 MPH average speed - which I can't complain about - I feel pretty darn good about the changes....
... and the day itself. A GOOD day off on the bike...
Thanks for reading!