Fairmount Loop

On a bicycle ride–my usual after-work 13 mile route, only it’s Saturday morning (and I don’t have a job right now).

I had just turned off of Terwilliger onto SW Westwood Drive. Which means the climb up to Fairmount was starting. I was checking in with my legs, my breathing, how I’m feeling on the bicycle, thinking about the hill and how hard I planned to push it. A song played in my head as though I were in spin class; a steady beat to my pedal strokes. Double checked my form: shoulders down, neck relaxed, elbows in; breathing heavy but not overly hard.

Left right left right 1 2 3 4 to the beat of the song.

The road here is choppy from multiple construction efforts badly patched together. So between the song, paying attention to form and breath, and avoiding holes and gravel I was in my own sweet space.

After the hard right onto Westwood View, I hear him. Glance back. Blue jersey. Carbon fiber.

10 yards back.

How long he’d been reeling me in, I don’t know.
”Car up!” I warn – it was coming at us down a blind curve and blue jersey carbon boy was in the middle of the road and may not have seen nor heard the quiet hybrid. No acknowledgement.
5 yards back.
I provide another car warning. Nothing in response.

5 feet back.

Still nothing in greeting. I keep going my own pace, knowing how the grade is going to get steeper in a jiffy, knowing what I have in reserve, hoping that maybe the guy would just pass me.

2 feet back.

Now he’s in the middle of the road, front wheel parallel to my rear wheel. Usually at least by this point, there’s some sort of, “hey! this hill is a real doozy!” or “great day to be on a bicycle!” or if he was observant and noticing I was out of gearing, “how about that compact crank set…wish I had stuck with the triple. [gasp] on this frickin’ hill!?” but nope. not this blue jersey carbon boy.
 No word.
 He’s breathing hard.
 Really hard. Maybe he doesn’t have enough in him to even grunt a hello. I forgive his lack of friendliness. Almost.

I click up two gears on my rear cog and slide out of my saddle for 15 or so pedal strokes.

It was a considerable increase in pace.
 And yet he’s still right there. Seriously? If he were riding his own ride, he’d have
a. passed me by now or
b. be back a good 10-15 yards.

I sit back down and keep going. In the same (remember it was 2 clicks larger than before?) gear. Behind me, I hear even louder gasps. He’s past “happy dog pant” and has moved into the “about to puke” zone. Whatever. I tap into my reserve for the final push up to Fairmount.
 Ah, what the heck. He’s annoying.

I go up one more cog, get out of the saddle and about 30 seconds later hear….

I turn left, go about 25 yards and look back. There he is, panting. Off of his bike, holding on to the street sign. 
More than half-way around the loop I see him going the other way. He glares at me. Finishing the loop, 10 yards from the Mitchell stop sign, we go past each other; he’d ended up doing the loop a wee bit faster. He nods.
 His first glint of friendliness. Was it because he “won” the lap around Fairmount? By all of 2 seconds? What about the car that had pulled out in front of me and then idled for a bit while trying to figure out where to park that I had to follow for 25 yards? Being competitive with someone whom you don’t really know always baffles me. I was actually racing against my own clock. The fastest I’ve done that loop (with over 700 ft of elevation in 13 miles) averaged 15 miles per hour. Today was not that day.
Back when I was starting to run, I remember one of the fastest distance runners in the nation encouraging me with, “don’t worry how fast you’re going. That’s not the point. The cool thing is that you’re out there doing something we love. If you’re going to race anyone, the only competitor that matters is yourself.”

Sounds tripe, but it stuck with me. I suppose others haven’t been blessed with the same lesson.
Soo…..for the crickets out there….what’s my point?
I ended up having a good, though not my speediest, ride. He did add something to the experience.

In conclusion, the lesson to myself is this.

If this happens again:  I’m on a ride, I get out of my saddle and crank it up a notch and carbon fiber boy is still there, it’s clearly an indication, albeit unspoken, that we are now on this ride together. Otherwise, he’d have stayed at the same pace which means he’d have been dropped. Or he’d have passed me long before (that happens quite often on that hill!). If this happens, I will engage in small talk, pleasantries. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll ask him straight out: “race to the top?”

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