After all it was just one of those perfect days when the sun was warm without scorching the skin, the breeze was pushing softly against my sweaty body like a gentle caress, and the bike, Oh my God, did the bike feel fast.
I was at about mile 42 (or about 30 miles from home) when the four girls I know from the local Boulder women's bike team passed me on a gentle uphill. These young women were fit and buff...Boulder buff.
Please let me explain. I really don't mean any disrespect to anyone from other parts of the world, but Boulder is different animal when it comes to endurance sports. We have world class athletes that train here including the Olympic women's marathon winner from Beijing, and the boys from Garmin Chipolte bike team.
So when I say these young cyclist were Boulder buff, I mean they could easily be some of the best riders in their sport when compared to 99.9 percent of women of the twenty something age group.
They passed me doing about 25-miles per hour while working together as a team. I knew this because I sped up to 25-miles an hour and I was now keeping even with them, but about a quarter of a mile behind.
They had the advantage when it came to working together but I had one small glimmer of hope. I was riding a truly fast triathlon time trial bike with some wicked carbon Zipp race wheels. My main advantage stemmed from the fact the I knew that the country road we were now riding made a gentle sweeping uphill left turn followed by a gentle three mile downhill before it T-boned into the main North South route back home.
I was in the foothills of the Rockies surrounded by rolling farms, horse properties on a road with no shoulder and no cars. I was riding with my fast and fit wife, but she was doing her last 100 miler before Ironman Wisconsin so I knew she wouldn't keep up with me. She needed to go slow and steady as she still had a much longer brick ahead of her today.
I looked up, saw my competition, and in an heartbeat I decided to go for it. I would not only catch the bike team but pass them in true triathlon fashion...blow by them in my areo position without so much as a glance back in their direction. In the same manner they had just passed me. It seemed only fair. I had three miles to do it, on a gentle downhill with the wind in my face.
I watched the Power Meter jump from 200 watts to 300 watts as I took a firm hold of the areo bars and began to pump my quads.
"Grrrr, Grrrr, Grrrr," the bike growled back in rhythmic agreement as the rear carbon Zipp began to flex its muscle. There are very few sounds in the world that are more pleasing to me then the roar of a carbon wheel in full flight.
"Grrrr, Grrrr, Grrrr," the bike hummed as my speed jumped to about 30 MPH. The wind began to whistle in my helmet as the road beneath my pumping legs became a blur of black tarmac.
I crested the hill and noticed that the girls had split into two groups of two. I was rapidly catching up to the tail group, but just barely keeping pace with the front two. I didn't need to look to know that I was red lining my heart rate, the pounding in my ears told that true story.
How long could I keep up this effort, I wondered as the sweat began to roll down my face? At 30 MPH, three miles goes by in just a matter of a few minutes. I remembered a story I read about Lance Armstrong. He knew he was ready to race the Tour De France when he could sustain 450 watts all the way up Alp d'Huez in training. If Lance could maintain 450 watts up the almost diabolical 14 kilometer incline to the top of the French mountain, I could hold 300 watts for three miles.
"Grrrr, Grrrr, Grrrr," the bike growled in approval as I watched the trailing two girls get closer and closer.
It's a funny thing getting old. Sometimes the most important races are the ones that only you know about. Because it's not like I'll ever compete in the Olympics at anything other than curling at my age. No, by far the small victories are the ones that mean the most.
And at this moment in time, all I wanted to do was pass the two girls just ahead of me. I pushed the pace even harder. My heart felt like it was about to jump out of chest. Sweat was pouring into my eyes. I squinted and watched the power meter painfully climb to about 350 watts. And then in a blink on an eye I shot past the girls like they were standing still.
"Grrrr, Grrrr, Grrrr," the wheels growled in satisfaction.
"Ahhhhhh," I silently screamed as my quads felt like they were about to melt down. I peered ahead and I could now see the intersection. I had only about a mile left to pass the first two riders. Ignoring the pain in my legs I pushed even harder against the clips on my toes.
The speed slowly but surely increased to about 37 MPH while the power meter edged toward 400 watts. At this point I was out of gears. I was in my highest gear pushing my legs, the pace, and the bike as hard as I could.
I looked ahead and began to make out both the stop sign and calves of the two women riders ahead of me. Both were made of steel. It was going to be very close as to who reached the intersection first.
The funny thing is that if I image myself looking down at the "race" from a helicopter, you would see two very fit and very fast women being chased down by a very sweaty, hairy legged, and somewhat biggish guy on a bike about two pay grades above his skill level.
But to me, at that very moment, in that very instant, I was Lance racing the final and most important time trial of my entire life.
"Grrrr, Grrrr, Grrrr," the bike growled in a frenzy of speed and adrenaline.
And just like Lance, in a the final moment of pain and fury, I roared past the girls and hit my brakes hard so as to not fly into the intersection and past the stop sign.
I made the turn, slowed to catch my breath, wait for my wife, wait for my legs to fall off, and wait my heart to explode. In the meantime the girls on the bike team grouped up again and rode by me chatting away as if nothing significant had happened.
And really noting significant had happened. They were still much faster than I ever was, or would be. The sun was still shinning, the birds were still singing, and I was still about 27 miles from home and now completely blown.
But for about ten brief magic minutes, I was Lance, and my Swiss made BMC Time Machine was eating up miles the way the designers had intended it to do.
But more importantly, at the age when a lot of my friends have slowed down and switched to golf, or the occasional leisurely jog, or gentle game of tennis, I was able to match and even beat some of the youngest and best in the sport.
I guess what I'm saying is that at 45 years of age I'm blessed to have the good health and fortune to be able to go on long bike rides with my beautiful wife and still be able to feel the raw energy and strength of youth. To feel the air rush through my lungs, to feel the blood pump through my heart, and to feel the goose bumps on my skin as the adrenaline rushes to my muscles.
I am truly blessed and lucky to be able to do all that plus sustain a significant amount of power output and not die, or cough myself to death after the effort.
FYI: In fact I was able to ride the 27-miles back home in relative comfort, and enjoyed what turned out to be a glorious summer day in Colorado.
Not bad for an old guy who today jumps into the 45 to 50 age group with both feet.
"Grrrr, Grrrr, Grrrr," the wheels growled in satisfaction.
Post Script: I don't mean any disrespect to all of you who love to play golf, tennis, or jog, or even go on long walks around the neighborhood. I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of that myself...just not quite yet.
On a another note, I'm now two thirds of the way to my B-Fit B-Day Challenge. I've got the bike and run done (I ran five miles this morning) and now it is just a matter of swimming 4-miles (old school) in the next two days. It looks like I'll be going for bronze this year. The good news is that just means that I can go for silver and/or gold next year.