Last year, I started commuting to work by bike. I waited until the kids were out of school – so between that and some mechanical problems (my old Fuji 10-speed had seen fairly little use since the late eighties), it was really mid-June befere I could start biking regularly. And given that it had been 17 years since I’d biked regularly, it took me until mid-July, probably, before I was in any kind of shape.
Still, it was a great investment of time – and it got me into the best shape I’ve been in in years (which was not an especially high bar to jump, but as the man said, from small things big things one day come). Most of all, it just felt good; a brisk ride in the morning is a great wake-up; a vigorous ride home at night is both relaxing and a great way to keep your energy up.
So this year, the goal was to try to get on the road by the beginning of April. Naturally, we had blizzards, unseasonable cold and miserable slop well into the first part of the month; I didn’t really manage to get on the road much before the middle of the month, squeezing in part of a decent week of biking before the trip to New York.
But since then, it’s been pretty steady going. And dayum, it feels good. My evening commute features one long, ugly uphill climb; it took a few weeks of steady effort last year to climb it without getting off and walking it.
This year? Well, it’s still a long hike, but I’m gratified to say my legs held up OK over the winter; I made the climb on my first day, and haven’t had any problems since then.
Not that it’s fun, per se.
But yesterday, I was reminded of the enduring, world-conquering power of testosterone.
I was sitting at a traffic light at the beginning of the longest, ugliest leg of the climb, in my sweatshirt and windbreaker pants. A twenty-something pulls up next to me in full spandex biker regalia, with a “Obama” sticker on the side of his backpack.
Now, the guy’s a real, genuine biker, with legs like tree trunks – kind of like mine were 20 years ago, when I was biking constantly.
As we jumped off from the light, I got behind him and followed him up the hill. He started pouring it on; I kept on going, staying about four feet behind his back tire…
…and BOOM – we were up the hill! Done! Blammo! Just like that! Barely breathing hard!
I stayed in his slipstream for probably two miles, pacing him pretty nicely. Now, for all I know he had mononucleosis and felt half-past-dead and that was the only reason I could keep it close; I am, after all, 45.
Still, that long, ugly hill practically vanished.
So my conclusion; without testosterone, humankind would still be sitting in caves gnawing on grass seeds.
I hope I can find some unwitting nemesis for tonight’s ride…