My legs ache. Like I knew they would.

On Sunday I repeated Saturday’s early morning bicycle ride – the loop on Blackwell with the killer hill. Except I did it in the early afternoon, after the morning rain had cleared and the sun had come back out and the roads had dried.

And then last night I added half again to the mileage I’ve been riding in recent days. You normally wouldn’t do that, but with the embarrassingly small base from which I’m beginning I knew it would be okay.

Except that it would hurt.

The start of a bicycle ride is just like a run – it sucks for the first couple of miles while your muscles slowly warm up. Your body has a reluctant torpor to it, a dull feeling of not wanting to do this. And your legs pointedly remind you that they’re still tired from yesterday. But then it slowly gets better as the sheen of sweat builds across your body. Sometimes a lot better.

My rides during this getting-started phase have been marked by a press to incrementally increase distance and pace. My heart rate has averaged within 10-15 beats of my heart’s maximum. That’s too high.

So I dialed it back just a bit, riding with just a hint of deliberateness.

The epiphany came late in the ride, when I was into a distance I’ve not seen before this year. When I should have been getting more and more tired. When my speed should have been slowly declining. When I should have been riding in lower and lower gears, sapped by fatigue.

Instead, I got stronger.

It’s the first time I’ve ever felt that on a bicycle. When the burn in your legs and the heaving of your lungs after a hard climb give way, not to growing fatigue, but to renewed strength. You coast for a few seconds. Then you click into an easier gear and just spin easy for a little bit. It only takes moments. Then your legs recover. You click back up into a higher gear, rolling steady now, pressing to keep your speed up. And then on the next rise you lift up out of the saddle and are surprised by how great it all feels. How strong you feel.

There’s a miracle in there somewhere.

Today, my legs ache. It’ll be a rest day.

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