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It's shit getting old!!

It’s shit, getting old.

The miles in your legs when you get to 50 are a double edged sword. You’ve survived all the on-road situations that new riders experience today for the first time. But you don’t come across them so much any more because you’re ten metres behind.

I staved off the effects of ageing until today. Today is when being 50 caught up with me. I know this for certain because I read it in the bible of modern cycling, Allen & Coggan’s ‘Training and Racing with a Power Meter’. It’s a great book, and it is not wrong when it states casually that its seminal Power Profile tables were compiled using data from young adults and that readers over 50 may as well forget using them because by the time you get to 50 your muscle mass has started to shrink and so all bets are off.

I observed these effects this morning the first time the road turned upwards. One second I’m riding with my friends having a perfectly lovely time. The next, smoothly and without fuss, I watched them ride up a slight incline in front of me. I pedalled as I’ve always pedalled, I pushed as I’ve always pushed. My HR rose as my HR always rose, before I was 50, effortlessly into the 160s as my body responded to the effects of gravity in that old familiar way. Except that it didn’t. Unless my friends have all been secretly training in Majorca this winter (they haven’t… they’ve been out with me every weekend) there must be another reason for my sudden inability to climb.

Shrinking muscle mass. It’s staring me in the face. Damn you, Allen & Coggan.

At first I was surprised… how can I have become a bad rider overnight? I’m out of touch, out of form and I’ve not trained as hard as I should have done lately, but I’m not a bad rider, I know this, so how is it that I can’t keep up any more?

The second time it happened, I was embarrassed. The sight of my soon-to-be-former friends waiting for me at the top of the hill, shamed me into even greater effort. HR 170, 172, 175… and still they waited. I forced myself into the calm exterior every cyclist inhabits at moments of extreme stress as I muttered an apology and my thanks for their patience.

The third time it happened I was angry. At myself, for my inability to cycle faster, for having pudding at dinner last night, for my childlike levels of self discipline and avoidance of self-sacrifice. At fate, for the deleterious effects of ageing. At Allen & Coggen for pointing it out.

The fourth, fifth, sixth and countless other times (it was a hilly ride) I was ashamed. I wanted to give up and go home on my own, at my own pace, to spare my friends the agony of watching me struggle while they chilled in the wind at the summits.

I don’t know if I’ll ride again, alone or with others. I think I’m just going to sit here and watch myself shrink into a pool of my own self-pity. At least this way, we’ll all be spared the torment of watching an old man suffer.