I’m not even sore

Happy Monday. And to make your Monday just a bit more tolerable, we’ll begin with the site’s most popular weekly feature, the weekly check in with the kitties. This weekend they have been quite the cuddle cats. That could be because the heater was, for some reason, turned off on Friday and it was midday Saturday, when it never got warm inside, before I noticed.

They’re also loving and needy little things, that’s a part of it, too. Last night, I wasn’t sure if they would let me go to sleep, for all of their “Pet me. Pet me. PETME,” demands.

In our house, there is a mid-grade residential carpet pad. And on that carpet pad sits a nice, low shag carpet. And on that carpet there’s a throw pillow. And on that pillow there’s a folded pair of jeans.

And that’s where Phoebe is choosing to nap.

What I love about this picture is that it demonstrates Poseidon’s ability to anticipate, and his understanding of the sun’s direction of travel. He’s not half in the shade, he’s waiting for the sun to come around.

That’s a smart cat move.

This was the weekend of going uphill. That’s not a metaphor. I was actually going uphill. Virtually uphill, anyway. It’s a silly thing, but there was a series on Zwift this weekend, a three stage showdown of some of the more demanding climbing routes. And since I am trying to ride all of the routes anyway, I figured, why not?

Friday evening I rode the first of the three stages, climbing 2,500 feet. Knowing what was to come, I was determined to take it easy on Friday. And I was largely successful with that, but I felt too good late and so I pushed a bit on that last climb. I have no idea how to preserve my energy over time. Most people don’t, I think, so that’s OK. I set two Strava PRs on Friday, celebrated by putting on the compression boots and got ready for Saturday.

Saturday, there was the Alpe du Zwift, the game’s (apparently realistic) take on the legendary Alpe d’Huez. This stage was harder, and it has 3,900 feet of climbing. I decided I was going to pace myself up that beyond category climb because Sunday’s route was even more demanding. So on the alpe I set seven Strava PRs, including taking more than seven minutes off my best time up the climb.

I’m no climber. Really, I’m not, but the progress is progressive. But my avatar looks great descending!

At least the switchbacks on the alpe actually provide a little relief on the ascent. No such help on Sunday, on the hardest route of the weekend, punctuated by a slow climb up the vaunted Ventoux.

Ventoux or d’Huez, which is harder? They’re both a big challenge. Ventoux has a bit more of a gradient, and it’s almost continual. Eight percent is the norm, and there’s a lot of 11 and 12 percent, and there’s no accelerating up that. Plus, leg fatigue is, of course, cumulative. The only thing Ventoux has going for it on this particular route was that the finish line came about two miles before the summit. Even abbreviated, the route had 3,953 of ascent, and Strava considers it another beyond category climb. I was pleased with the earlier finish, though. Long before that, I was hoping to just finish well.

It started out great. If you look to the right of this graphic, you can see where I am in the field. For a brief, brilliant, shining moment, I was at the front of the field, pushing on at 30 miles per hour.

When the climbing started, I fell away pretty quickly. I am not a climber.

But I was happy to finish in the top 50.

I was happy to finish 50th.

I was happy to finish.

After finishing all three stages of Rapha Rising, I believe 249th overall, I had another 10,400 feet of elevation gain in my legs over the last three days. (That’s a lot for me!) I earned a day off. My Zwift avatar earned some Rapha kit. The only time I will ever afford Rapha is when it’s free.

The 2023 Zwift route tracker: 76 routes down, 48 to go.

This is where I stopped reading last night. Willie Morris has spent four pages talking about riding around Texas with W. Lee O’Daniel. He’d been the governor of Texas from 1939 to 1941, running and governing in the all-too-familiar populist demagog style. He went to the U.S. Senate, beating LBJ in a special election, for the rest of the 1940s. Then he returned to private life, running a ranch in Fort Worth, and making money in real estate and insurance in Dallas. In the second half of the 1950s, he ran for governor again.

It’s a poignant, bittersweet thing, Morris’ detailing of three days canvassing Texas in an air conditioned Cadillac. O’Daniel was aging, and he knew it. Morris saw him as an old man “trying to retrieve the past.” His constituency was aging, and he knew that too. Or they were dying off, and he could see it, in the dusty, small towns he visited. Not that he was the same draw as he’d been as a famous radio host back in ’38, but also, the makeup of the state had changed underfoot. Not because of him or in spite of him, just around him, a colorful character with much of the color washed away by time.

I say this every time I return to his work, but I love the way Morris writes.

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