I stayed on the Moreton Bay Cycleway this morning to complete my ride with a high cadence. This is a recurring training session designed to build balance and strength on the bike by providing some instability.
I was approaching home when I started making ground on an older gent who was pedaling along at a decent pace. I thought twice about making the pass, because my session today wasn't about speed, and I always feel discouraged when someone I've passed gets me back. Given I was focusing on skill rather than speed, I thought it likely.
What I hadn't counted on was the conversation he sparked up with me when he did pass me back, and the food for thought he provided.
"It's good to see you keeping your cadence high," were his first words to me, as he came up beside me.
I started to explain that I found it hard work, and really frustrating, but yes, I usually tried to keep my cadence higher rather than grinding the bigger gears. I quickly realised that, like many older gents, he really just wanted to talk, not listen. So I shut up and listened. And kept pedaling.
"I've been riding all my life", he continued almost immediately. "At once stage I held the record as the highest placed Queenslander in the Grafton-Inverell bike race. Until the first Queenslander won it."
The first Queenslander, B Ryalls, won the race in 1969. So, if this bloke was competing at that level in the 60s, he had to be in his 70s. The race is known as the toughest one day classic in Australia, raced over 228kms, including climb over the Gibraltar Range. The first race was in 1961, the year after the bitumen road across this mountain pass was laid.
"I was exhausted when I finished. I had nothing left. I'd never ridden that far before, but I just kept going and kept pushing. When I finished, my handlers had to lift me off my bike. I didn't collapse, or faint. But I... I just relaxed."
"I think that some people just don't know how to hurt."
We traded a little bit of banter (me still mainly listening), but not long after that, I had to turn off home. I bid him farewell, wished him a good ride. And that was that. I never even found out his name.
But I've thought about his words many times since. I'm not sure that I know how to hurt, but I think I'm learning.