26 August 2023

Archival footage: When did you get slower?

The following essay was originally posted to the Fifty+ Years Old forum at mtbr.com on 25 August 2023.

Am I slower? I really don't know. That's the honest answer.

I mean, I've got almost a dozen years of Strava data that conclusively says: maybe?

How do I really know? And how much do I really care?

Facts are facts: My bikes have all changed for-the-better by several iterations in the aforementioned dozen-year time-period; fires, floods, and new construction have radically changed our local trails, in some cases for-the-better; technology, frame- and tire-design have all changed my riding style and abilities for-the-better a thousand-fold; and sure, inevitably, so has my body changed (tho not always for-the-better) as well as the way that I sometimes feel before, during, and after I ride (again, not always for-the-better)... So, which of these variables am I looking at when trying to determine if I'm slowing down?

I still get the occasional Strava PR, though they're certainly fewer and further between these days... but does the interval between improvements mean I'm getting slower? Maybe? Or perhaps I'm just drawing closer to the top-of-my-game given where current technology and new, better-built trails have gotten me.

I know I'm getting older, and maybe I am slowing down some. But, hand-on-my-heart, having done this mountain-bike thing for 30-plus years, I've never enjoyed riding more than I am right now, in the present moment, at my present age. I know one of these "days" my last ride will ultimately literally be my last. But for now I'm committed to try to "live to ride another day" and to savor each moment of each of today's rides, and push against the unavoidable envelope of entropy as best I am able. Rage, rage against the dying of the light, right?

So slow, fast, or somewhere in-between doesn't really make a lot of sense to me anymore. Sure, I still like to check where I stand in the Strava pecking-order after most rides... and I'll be honest, I'm never the KOM, but when was I ever, really? Nevertheless, in general my times going up and going down are, to my mind, well within the respectable range and nothing to be ashamed of for a hairy-legged 200-pound 56-year-old dood on a hardtail.

But, to tell the truth, despite my somewhat voyeuristic interest in where I stand on the segment-achievements list, my heart-of-hearts simply wants to know after each ride:

Was it Good?
Did it Flow?
Did it get Rad?


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey