On Saturday, I decided to try an old ride I used to do to challenge myself. Up to Skyline on King's Mountain Road, down Tunitas, out to the coast, and back. It's about 50 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing. I was nervous. I hadn't done it in a long time, and I wasn't sure I physically was able.
After a nice breakfast (toast and eggs), I headed out on Pandora. I warmed up nicely and felt solid. I began climbing King's, trying to stay positive. Very quickly, I realized I had underestimated this climb. It was much harder and steeper than I anticipated. Sweat poured down my face, and I downed water. I tried to prevent the anxiety of the second climb from creeping it to no avail.
According to our plan, Alan left the house 20 minutes after me to see how long it would take to catch me. He caught me about a mile from the top, near the archery range in Huddart Park. Even though I knew that this would happen (he's a much stronger cyclist), it took all the wind out of my sails. It didn't help that he caught me during the steepest section at the top, where it took all my concentration to turn the pedals over. Meanwhile, he cruised along easily, trying to have a conversation. I just couldn't. I felt so insignificant next to him obviously struggling as he seemed to be having a walk in the park. He wanted to know what the plan was for the rest of the ride, but I couldn't think straight. Instead of planning on reconvening at the top, I waved him off. Basically, I told him to leave me alone and go ride on his own. So he did.
After he left, instead of feeling better, I felt abandoned. Frustrated. Defeated. What the hell was I doing? Why was I doing this? I didn't want to climb Tunitas on top of King's. This was enough. I reached the top of King's and turned around. On the descent, I beat myself up about how not worthy I was to be riding my bike. I told myself I sucked and thought about how I was going to mope around the house the rest of the day. I also realized, my legs had begun to recover, and I still had gas in the tank. I started thinking. What if...? Maybe I could still salvage this ride. I saw a doe and her fawn on the side of the road. I took it as a sign. I wasn't going to climb Tunitas today but I could something else.
At the bottom, instead of turning left to go home, I turned right. I decided to try to climb Old La Honda and ascend to Skyline again on a different road. It wouldn't be quite as challenging as Tunitas, but it would be a good challenge. Plus, I could always bail and just turn around and go home. I started feeling optimistic and excited as I neared the second climb.
Old La Honda was hot and steep, riddled with narrow switchbacks, but my legs kept turning the pedals over. I knew I was going to make it. I felt good. It didn't matter how slow I was; I was doing this. Eventually, I reached the top, just as I emptied my final water bottle. I felt immensely proud.
As I rode home, I could feel the fatigue set into my legs. My butt, hands and neck ached. But it didn't matter. I had salvaged the ride and proved to myself that my setback was all in my head. Next week--Tunitas!