On a fine recent Wednesday evening, I went for a bike ride with my friend Jake.
Jake is a lot younger. Heís a lot thinner. And, unfortunately, heís a lot fitter. I knew this going in and came into the ride rested and ready to go to the red line. Even so, I used guile to take some snap out of his legs. As we started up the Troy Street hill on the north side of town, I taunted him and mentioned Strava, and he bounded up the thing like a golden retriever.
I maintained a steady, solid pace and finished about a half-mile behind him. As he circled back, he complained a bit about how much it had hurt. ďThatís good,Ē I said. ďNow maybe I can keep up.Ē
Wrong. For the next 26 or so miles, I chased him up and down hills northeast of Wausau. A year ago, I could have outclimbed him, or at least kept up. But no more. Two nights later, I was in a walk-in clinic with a 103-degree fever.
ďJake broke me,Ē I wanted to tell the physicianís assistant who was treating me. Instead, I talked about the ride and didnít exaggerate. I struggled, I said, and I was tired. The day after the ride, I jogged and walked a few miles in the morning, and did some stand-up paddleboarding in the afternoon. Is is possible I was just suffering from heat exhaustion?
Not really, she said. Instead she talked about things like leukemia, blastomycosis, Lyme disease or, most likely, a weird virus my body was fighting off.
OK, so Jake didnít break me. But Iíve come to the conclusion that Iím just not as young as I thought I was. Iím not talking about my actual number age, 47. Iím talking about the age I feel. The struggle to get into summer shape this year has been particularly vexing. I donít seem to have the speed, the snap, the simple oomph when Iím biking or running this year.
My times at various rides or races are similar, but I just canít seem to take that next step. Thereís a feeling you get when you feel in shape, and it has eluded me. I think itís simply nature taking its toll, although the lack of time to do long runs or bike rides might have something to do with it.
Either way, I think I just might have to get used to looking at the back side of Jake.
Keith Uhlig can be contacted at 715-845-0651 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter as @UhligK.
Keith Uhligís blog veers toward outdoor silent sports, running, biking, kayaking, etc., but also can be about eating cheese, growing up and living in central Wisconsin and life in general. You can reach Keith at email@example.com.