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Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Uphill Battle (Part Duh)

After casting aside air quality issues and common sense yesterday morning, I got on my bike, clipped my shoes into the pedals and headed out on the Custis Trail.  I’d planned to ride to National Airport and back, about 17 miles round trip.  As I approached National my legs still felt fresh so I sailed right past and cycled another couple miles to Belle Haven Marina.  There, I began to look for a spot that would meet my stringent criteria for turning around, namely abundant and soft vegetation in case of an unsuccessful attempt to unclip my shoes from the pedals. (I am no stranger to such attempts and have become quite the connoisseur of shrubbery as a result.) 

On about-facing, it took mere minutes for me to realize I'd attributed the freshness of my legs on the front half of the trip to the wrong cause.  It wasn't my extraordinary level of fitness, it was gravity.  The ride to the marina had been almost entirely downhill.  The prospect of riding 10 miles uphill in ever-intensifying heat and increasingly unbreathable air leeched the motivation right out of me.  The imminence of an important morning meeting kept me on the bike, but I was pedaling as fast as teeth shift.

Traffic on the uphill side of the path was minimal, so I was somewhat surprised to hear a rider behind me call out, “Passing, left!”  As I shifted over to the far right I was overtaken by a beefy cyclist on a bike that looked like the one Dorothy rode in the Wizard of Oz and sounded like it came off the same assembly line as Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang.  Talk about demoralizing.

It reminded me, not in a good way, of the first sprint triathlon I did back in 2005.  I exited the swim in second place. Knowing that I’m not the strongest cyclist –at the time I didn’t even own a bike and had borrowed one for the race—I expected to lose some ground.  I dropped 9 or 10 spots right out of the chute as I was left in the dust by a group of stunt doubles from Breaking Away

About two miles later, the world’s most mediocre peloton whizzed by me, so I quit trying to keep track of my standing in the field.  But I was still in no way prepared to be passed halfway through the ride by a very fleshy competitor whose entire racing uniform consisted of a pair of Nikes, white ankle socks, and a very overworked, low-coverage Speedo. Needless to say, both he and the bathing suit earned my deepest respect. 

I'll be getting back in the saddle again in a few days. Evidently I still have quite a ways to go before I win back the bike.  



  1. Love it! That hill on the way back up the Custis is killer. And in this heat...