Tuesday, August 19, 2008


it's all downhill from here . . .

an oft-used phrase that is extremely meaningful when speaking of cycling. but there are a million (at least) different versions of downhill, I have learned. one can coast, one can torpedo, one can press hard against a headwind, one can spin, one can have a pleasant workout, one can have a really crappy experience.

sunday I came down trapper's loop fighting. I kept waiting for that big downward swoop, the antithesis of my semi-grueling upward climb, and it was a long time coming. I pedaled, I pushed, I fought that wind, and I pedaled even harder. the signs warned trucks about the 7% grade, next four miles, and I kept wondering why it didn't feel anything like that. why did it feel like chalk creek canyon on a hot and windy august afternoon?

one of my first times coming down big cottonwood gave me the same feeling: I am working! how can this be?? I am going downhill, I should be relaxing and enjoying and instead I am pushing my heartrate and pedaling like mad. on that particular day I was riding with a small handful of men, who were far, far in front of me, so I was pushing to not fall further and further behind. but when it's just me, no need to stay close behind anyone, I still push. I feel slightly guilty when I coast. I can coast for a bit, but then I pull my heartrate right back up out of its happy zone and go to work. I know, I know. normal people would coast.
I have never claimed to be normal.

now downhill is one of those places where weight matters. when the big guys win. I am a middleweight: I'm not skinny, but neither am I as heavy as most men. so nearly all men swoop me on the downs. in addition, most men I ride with are much more confident than me on the downs. I have come a long way from my first terrifying descent down big mountain, where I wore my fingers and brakes out from squeezing so hard. I am proud to say my top downhill speed is just over 52 miles an hour (on a wide, straight descent), and I am exceedingly grateful to say that I have never crashed at a speed over 20. I'm comfortable in the 30's, and don't mind the lower 40's on a long straight downhill. but these men I know can go fast AND corner AND swoop beautifully while they do it.


this morning I spoke with my runner friend who was hit by a car this summer. she said her foot and ankle are healing well, but the left side of her body has still not recovered. but then she said, I am just grateful that I'm alive.

I am, too. and I really don't plan to hit 52 mph again, and maybe it's not so bad that I'm slower than the guys. in fact, I'm just remembering what I told a friend a few years back. he wanted to go mountain biking, and we started up a pretty steep, rocky trail that I was struggling with. after fifteen or twenty minutes of fighting it, I finally said to him, "I think that's enough for me.... I have four kids and really crappy insurance."

my mom hopes I'll remember that statement on my descents, don't you, mom?

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