It’s early – far too early – in Mid City Des Moines. Winter has cast down one of its last attempts to freeze us out for the season but has only been able to muster what could best be described as slush, kind of an insult to the beautiful snow storms that had blinded the city just a month ago.
I step out of my beat down old blazer, a first step toward Spring, really. In just a few weeks, we won’t even be thinking about the cold, and it is time to get in fighting shape for all of those glorious, sunny days just around the corner. Cycling is one of my favorite hobbies in the warmer months; God didn’t grant me the patience for winter cycling, but the joy of hitting the trails on a weekend or even the commute to work is hard to match in the warmer months.
That being said, I have foolishly made it my goal to ride the week of RAGBRAI* this year, and believe you me I am not anywhere near being able to complete a day’s ride let alone the week long ordeal that is the annual ride across Iowa.
I’m no dummy, though, and know I am quite out of shape and need to seek some assistance in the matter. And that is what has brought me to the corner of 11th and College at 5:30 this morning. The John R. Grubb YMCA offers an early morning Spin class, which is perfect for us 9-5ers, on Wednesday and Friday. A spin class consists of a small group, riding on stationary bikes, all lead by an instructor (read: crazy fitness guru or caffeinated early-morning-riser) through an imagined bike ride.
I haven’t been to a spin class since the last transition to spring, but I figure my lungs and legs will see me through the next hour unscathed. The instructor is of the caffeinated variety, and she starts us off with a good stretch on the bike. From the creaks and cracks of the riders around me, it seems that at least some of them are coming out for the first time of the season as well.
The first hill is great. I am up out of the saddle, attacking it with great fervor – even adding more resistance than our fearless leader has prescribed. RAGRBRAI is going to be easier to get ready for than I thought.
The beat changes, the pace quickens. Now there isn’t that nice big hill to deal with, we are hitting some flats intermingled with small climbs. Still not too bad.
Twenty or thirty minutes have breezed by, and the song has changed to a slow Beyonce tune. There is a massive hill ahead, more like a mountain. The method for riding has changed though. The instructor has told us to get out of the saddle and lean into the handlebars. This mountain, our Everest, will be ridden with no bouncing. With my torso staying as motionless as possible, it is up to my legs to hold nearly my full weight in a squat, still pushing on with the rhythm, and continue on with an ever increasing resistance.
After just seconds, my thighs were ablaze. I now know where Prometheus took that fire when he stole it from the gods, it just ignited in my quads.
I just barely make it to the top of the mountain and am told to take a quick rest. Still peddling, she says we’re going into surges, basically standing sprints. At this point, I surge for no one – my Sargent from Marine Corps JROTC could walk through that door, tell me to surge, and I would have to respectfully decline. The rest of Spin will be a series of light sprints – in the saddle – and some easy jogging.
Like Ulysses or Hercules before me, my hubris has caused me to be stricken down when most vulnerable. But like them, I will return again and again, having learned my lesson.
If you are interested in getting involved in a Spin class, or one of the other great classes at the Y, check them out:
John R. Grubb YMCA – 1611 11th St – (515)246-0791
*If you are ignorant of the existence of RAGRBRAI and have lived in Iowa for more than 6 months, you are most likely in a coma, a newborn, or have no excuse.