I went for a group ride on Tuesday, my first long ride on the new bike. It occurred to me how out of shape I am as I rode with a group of three B riders. The last time I rode with a B group, I actually led sections of the ride, pulling at the front for others. Not today. Not only was I barely able to keep up with them, but I was constantly getting shelled out the back on the hills. They were a good bunch of guys and took it easy on the downhills, allowing me to catch up, and even waited for me on a couple of occasions. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one who struggled that day. There was another guy who had a bit of a harder time too...but he is 66. Still, being on a bicycle is a good time to think about things.
Last year, the Harrisburg Bicycle Club lost a good guy when Steve passed away from a heart attack, coming back from a ride to Cape May. When I first made the jump up to riding with the B level riders, Steve was the first person to approach me. He made me feel comfortable about making the jump and riding with them, which I will always remember and appreciate. I rode with Steve a lot in the last two years. He was always quick witted, funny, self-deprecating in the way that cyclists often are. Steve had the most unorthodox pedaling motion, hammering the poor things like Jan Ullrich in a fit of anger, pounding the pedals, the pavement into submission.
The four of us spent some time on the ride talking about Steve, reminiscing. I didn't know him well, didn't know him at all outside of cycling circles. But, what I did know was that he loved to ride, was always quick to help someone out, and never had anything bad to say about anyone. He always seemed to have a smile, enjoyed a cold beer at the end of a hard ride, and really loved to take his turn at the front and hammer all of us. I'll miss him.
It was also my first long ride since losing "Lefty" to testicular cancer last August. At one point in my riding career, I wanted to be like Lance, but this is not exactly what I had in mind. Toward the end of the ride it was hard to get comfortable on the saddle. It's strange to think about a "lost boy" on my ride, but I did. I can still ride; I am blessed.
And, to hit the trifecta, it was also the first long ride since being run over by a truck last September. Again, the long layoff took my fitness on the bike down to zero. More than that, I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder. One of the things that has happened since the accident is that I relive it. Not a lot, but I do. I see it all in my head, and it's hard to chase away. I've long since stopped trying, and now I just try to roll with it, going back through it like a moviegoer, except that at the crucial parts, I am in the movie. Sometimes it's a total reenactment, which isn't that bad. Other times it ends differently. Worse.
I liked being back out there. Having three other riders gave me some cushion, as people give a wide berth to packs of cyclists. Still, I spent a lot of time thinking about the accident. I watched cars and trucks coming up behind me, and I watched them pass me. I made sure they saw us, moved over a bit as they did so.
So, all in all, it was a bittersweet ride. I loved being out there, on my bike, riding again. It was a good way to say goodbye to Steve, to Lefty, and to hopefully begin to exorcise some monsters. I can't wait to get out again.