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Inspiration abounds

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By Greg Woods

Inspiration abounds for the old guy

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a couple of stories I did on local athletes combined with the pain I experienced refereeing some middle school basketball games had motivated me to get back on my bike and start exercising again.

Well, almost a month later I have ridden about 10 times with most of the rides being only 10 miles long.

At this point I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Only 10 miles. Are you kidding?”

But two years ago I was routinely doing rides of 20 or 30 miles. To me a 10-mile ride is like a one or two mile jog around the track.

I was determined not to start out too hard this year. I knew that I was a long way from the condition that I was in two summers ago. The first 10-miler was not as bad as I thought. I took it fairly easy and tried not to race all out. For some reason, I always look at my rides as a contest against myself. No matter how I hard I try not to, I always am checking the little computer on my handle bars to see if I am ahead of the pace that I did the last time out.

So for me, it is hard to start slow. But that is what I did. A few ten-mile rides at a moderate pace before I upped the ante a little bit.

Finally, I decided a couple of weeks into training to go for my favorite 16-mile ride down to Sulphur Dam. I’ve probably done that ride more than any other. It is one of the prettiest places in the county if you ask me, and the road is sparsely traveled by vehicles and those that do pass me are almost always very courteous.

The mild weather we have been experiencing made it a great day for a ride and when I returned home I was very pleased with the fact that I was able to make it in just under an hour.

Last week was even better riding weather so I did a 12.5-mile ride on a much tougher course that took to me to Providence Church and then south on Hwy 55 to Lake Road and then home on US 421. This was a day after riding my usual 10-mile ride down Fallen Timber Road. Even though my legs ached a little and the hills were tough on my out-of-shape lungs, I thought the ride was pretty successful.

That led me to try the 16-miler to Sulphur Dam again.

Sunday I went out and forgot to follow my new policy of not competing with myself. When I started the ride, the plan was to do an easy ride just to get some mileage in before regular Kentucky summer weather came back this week.

The temperature on Sunday wasn’t that high but it felt a little muggy out. When I started the ride I was pacing myself to make the climb back out of Sulphur a little easier. But something happened somewhere along the way.

Maybe it was the fact that I had just watched another exciting leg of the Tour de France. Or maybe I was thinking about the 18-year-old kid with cystic fibrosis that I had seen on television getting to live out his dream through the Make-A-Wish Foundation by playing for the Seattle Sounders for the opening minutes of an exhibition game with London’s Tottenham Hotspurs or maybe it was just the old competitive me creeping back in. About three miles into the ride my legs were feeling great and I was keeping a pretty high tempo. It was cloudy and the humidity was not bothering me much and so I pushed the envelope a little bit.

I reached the halfway point of my ride and looked down to see that I had averaged 18.7 mph. That is way too fast, but in the moment I was excited. I thought to myself that I only needed to average about 14 mph to beat my last time by a large margin.

So as I made the turn for home I put the hammer down and started pushing it again. Then I reached the first slight incline on the way back. It was a gradient that most people would not notice in a car. But for me, the lack of training began to show immediately. I slowed down to a crawl… and I still had 7.5 miles to go.

And then the sun decided to peep out from behind the clouds and the increase in temperature and humidity was immediately noticeable to my suddenly tired old body.

The new, more level-headed old guy began to return. I slowed the tempo down even more on the flats and down hills. I began to feel a little better but my legs were done with pushing up even the slightest hills. I had to go to a very low gear and grind away at each little gradient.

With about five miles to go I came to a bump of a hill where some little dogs always greet me with barks and bared teeth. Those sweet little fellas always get my adrenaline going. I immediately found the reserve to push the speed back up until I got past my little motivators. I looked down as I sped past the last dog and saw that I had reached 28 mph! I didn’t know I could pedal that fast going over a small hill.

As the barks faded in the distance, I suddenly realized that I had used my last reserves of energy and still had 4.5 miles and the worst of the climbs to go. I drank from my water bottle at a rate that would drain it before I reached home. I poured a little over my head as the sun continued to beat down on my helmet. I pedaled along at a snail’s pace.

The last thing I wanted to do was to get in a position where I had to call my wife again to come bail me out. The memory of my keys dangling in the ignition of my locked car was still fresh.

Finally with about two miles to go I had to surrender to the heat and my failing body and get off the bike for an extended rest in the shade of a small tree beside the road.

After about five minutes, I attempted to climb back on the bike but my body resisted. I sat back down.

Finally, I was able to climb aboard and head for home. It was a humbling experience. My ego had gotten the best of me. I let a little early success in the ride lead to a foolish decision. Worst of all, it proved that I was not nearly back to the condition I was once in.

I was a little down the rest of the day. Some of it was that recovering from overheating makes you feel that way. Some of it was disappointment.

And then my wife and daughter decided to watch a movie called “Soul Surfer”. Many of you are probably familiar with the story. It’s the story of a teenage surfing phenom who gets her arm bitten off by a rogue shark in Hawaii. Said phenom recovers from the horrific incident to become a successful surfer again.

It was just the motivation I needed. I can’t wait to get back on my bike.