When the road says full gas but you take it easy
The associations our minds have with some roads are pretty strong
The return of Daylight Saving Time means the return of Birmingham’s Tuesday Night Worlds. The weekly ride that’s the closest you can get to a midweek race without pinning on numbers and promising not to sue someone for the stupid choice their oxygen-deprived brain makes at 30+mph. I wrote about these rides here last summer.
But today, on this Tuesday, my plan was for a two-hour endurance-paced ride. I chose the same TNW route, creating the polar opposite of what we’ll see each Tuesday until the end of October or so. It was actually nice to take in the scenery for a change on a rare 60ish day in early March. Kind of like taking a Sunday cruise around a race track.
I’ll admit that there were times when today’s easy effort didn’t feel right; the mental associations with particular pieces of road were strong, almost physical. When I see the gentle slope away from Golden Rule Barbecue in Irondale, my body is accustomed to a full gas effort to stay with the A group (almost always futile) and a gasping recovery past the Gas-A-Cheap station as I get swallowed up by the B group. Today I just cruised. Where usually a red light is an opportunity to catch on to the back of the group ahead, today they were annoyances, keeping me from maintaining a steady easy pace.
On the long stretch down Rex Lake Road we’ll try to keep the rotating paceline tight and smooth. Keep the pace up and the gaps small. First few weeks we’ll fail miserably.
Stripped of the stress that we bring to the road, and the stress that rush-hour drivers add, it’s really a beautiful route. One stretch dips down to the Little Cahaba River, past a small cabin on a point where the river bends around it, shaded by pines.
We won’t see that next week. We’ll be setting up for the small climb ahead and the attacks that will try to split the group. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s the lead group or the last group. There will be attacks. Just not today. Today the challenge was dialing back the effort.
I just hope this will be my slowest ride on this route this year.
The ride: Strava