Monday, September 15, 2008

A Break-Through Ride
"Remind Me Not to Cut My Hair"

Last night, a few minutes after 6 p.m., I began a ride by pedaling a flat third of a mile. That took me to the base of steep section of Edgemont Avenue, just north of Los Feliz Blvd.

Edgemont Ave. ends only about a half mile or so later, but before it does, there is a steep stretch hitting about 14% for several yards. The street dead-ends, after a final steep section, at a gate that apparently was designed to match the look of the entrance to "Jurrassic Park."

Over the past several months, I've made this ride several times, usually on my mountain bike in a gear with something like 32x28. With only a 60-second or so warm-up, the hill always seemed a good challenge.

Last night, though, was different. I was on my road bike. I first began riding this bike in May, and the gearing is considerably higher than what I am used to employing on my mountain bike. So when I first climbed Edgemont on my road bike, I used a 30/24 gear, almost the lowest gearing available on my bike, which is equipped with a triple. There was, as I gulped for breath, a sensation of almost near-panic, a fear that I would burn out in a higher gear. Now I wonder if that wasn't in my mind.

I wonder, because over the past four months, I've gotten so strong that last night I had no trouble using a 39/27 on Edgemont.

Returning to the base of Edgemont, I continued generally north of Los Feliz, climbing more steep hills, eventually ending up at the Griffith Park Observatory. My arrival preceded a hazy sunset by a few minutes. Total elevation for the ride was about 1350 feet, over about 8.75 round-trip miles. And the more I rode last night, the stronger I seemed to be.

There wasn't a hill, I discovered, that I couldn't ride in a 39/24, no matter how steep, and that included hills with a more than 12% grade. It wasn't that I was particularly faster than ever before - far from it, at my age - but certainly until last night, I didn't seem capable of pushing the gears I used at the pace I kept. I was nowhere near blowing up. I haven't felt this strong in years - OK, decades.

Why didn't I notice this ability to climb stronger - to accept pain at a higher level - the last few times I rode? Could I have ridden this hard, if not four months ago, then a month ago? A week ago? Is it all the riding, or is it that I haven't - Samson-like - cut my hair in a while? Is it a talisman, like my new helmet?

I'll have to test out this new found strength and endurance on a longer ride.

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