I hope you all enjoyed my blasts from the past with the “Best of Chronicles of McCloskey”. I tried to use those to transition to the new season of blog posts following the winter posts and winter activities. As I made my last turns of the season today at Whiteface in the Adirondacks, I felt my usual melancholy of another ski season coming to an end. I know that it has been a long, tough winter for a lot of folks, but I love the winter and I love to ski and it always makes me a little sad when I make the final turns of the year. But, spring is here and the anticipation of the spring and summer activities makes the transition a little easier. Or does it?
If you look at the picture above of George Hincapie suffering in the Hell of the North- Paris Roubaix, it reminds us all that the Spring Classics in Europe are under way and that the suffering that the pros endure will trickle down vicariously to our spring rides on the road and mountain bikes. In the days when I used to race a bike, I paid for all of those ski days and light fitness maintenance in the winter when I dragged the bike out and climbed up that first hill in the spring. I suffered trying to get into shape the best way I could but there is a huge difference between riding rollers and running flat trails in the winter, and actually getting back on the bike and climbing a real hill again. The spring brings back painful memories of trying to shed the winter pounds and getting some miles in on the road and mountain bike.
I can remember clearly doing some early time trials on the road bike with our ACA Bicycle Club and feeling horrible as I pushed myself to my first posted times of the year. I can remember the unpleasant feeling of throwing up all over a tree at the end of the trial and laying on my back wondering why I tortured myself this way. I remember my Greenlee Mountain Bike friends convincing me to do some early season races like the event up in Coburn,Pa where the climbs were painful and muddy and the fire roads at the top of the ridges were still frozen. Guys were dropping like flies as they slid on the ice into the trees and it was all I could do to keep the bike upright and descend in one piece. I was conservative and took my time but it was still an early season, hair raising, rude awakening. It took a while but eventually I was able to get into some reasonable shape but the early season suffering was always something I did not look forward to after a long, fun winter of skiing.
Fast forward to today and the 59 year old kid has a different philosophy. I don’t pressure myself to ride hard to get into shape. With age comes patience and I know that eventually I will get into shape but when the pain on a climb becomes too much, I back off to a reasonable pace and enjoy the ride instead of keeping the back of some guys jersey in my immediate vision. There is no rush anymore to get into shape as quickly as I can. At my age, you can “ease on into it” and I encourage any newcomers to the sport of cycling to do the same. Also, if you are a grizzled veteran like me, I encourage you to do the same and enjoy the ride with me. Let the fast guys go and kill themselves. We have earned the right not to do that anymore. We are not the fast guys- we are the fun guys. Enjoy the ride. I tell anyone who is embarking on an exercise program to always ease into it because if you push yoursef too hard, you will find an excuse not to do it. But if you have patience and slowly develop your fitness base, you will not only enjoy the fresh air, scenery, and exercise, you will also benefit from the mental well being of being on a bicycle. Ease on down that road or trail. You can push yourself eventually and you will know when you feel like you are getting into some decent shape. But for me, there is no need anymore to blow lunch on that tree. I would rather have a nice ride, get into shape and eat that nice enjoyable lunch afterwards.
One other thing that Chris Crowley says in his book,” Younger Next Year” is to get the best equipment that you can afford. Good equipment in any sport makes all the difference in the world and gives you an opportunity to enjoy your sport with the confidence that you have a good ride under you. What the heck, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow, why deny yourself? Something that you are going to ride 3-4 times a week or more should be something that you look forward to using. Old guys like me usually have good equipment but guess what- we need it! Chris Crowley also says that if you keep the same regimen in life, you will be able to do the things that you like to do well into your sixties, seventies, and even eighties. Carpe Deium folks- it’s spring! Thanks for reading.