I rode the Custis and Washington & Old Dominion (“WOD”) trails today. For the first time this year.

It felt like it.

Nothing felt like it did when I rode it daily. Or looked it.

My pace, from the beginning, was cut by 2/3rds.

I cannot attack a hill anymore. Rather, I repeat to myself the admonition I drive my new-to-cycling friends crazy with – “use your gears!” And slowly, but surely, I make my way up the hills at 5-10 mph.

The uniforms at the day school have changed.

The soccer fields near the Turn-Where-The-Cyclist-Sued-The-County appear to be turning into tennis courts.

One of the many floods that happen regularly along the Custis finally took out some of the older trees along the stream banks.

I ride so slowly I am actually passed by a runner. I think I hate him.

There are now some paths around the far side of the couple of the giant light pole bases. Before, they narrowed the path against the freeway retaining wall. Now you no longer have to cringe and wish yourself skinnier when you pass oncoming trail traffic.

I am not tempted to cut through the Brandymore Castle hill woods, which is riddled with single-track trail.

There are no children on the soccer field in Benjamin Banneker Park.

The Masonic Lodge has erected a new memorial along the trail, near the spot where I once nearly caused an awful collision through my own lack of control of my new road bike.

Mile 5 brings a pain to my right knee that slows me down to little more than a walking pace. Mile 5 is usually the end of my warm up.

The raspberry bushes have no raspberries.

The “fitness station” equipment along the Falls Church section of the WOD has been painted blue.

I have to sit for a long while at my turnaround point in West Falls Church.

The Bluemont Junction Trail is finally open.

And catching the light just right at the bottom of the hill so that I can use the speed to get up the other side is no longer a convenience, but a necessity.

But not everything was different-

Taking the lane in traffic does not bother me, though I expected it to.

I can still hit 28 mph on the first hill.

I still do not cringe at the site of my worst bike accident ever, where I slammed into a concrete wall at speed.

Groups of retired Marines still run in packs during the day. They understand “on your left!”

The air is still cooler under the bridges (and will be warmer in the winter).

The firemen are still grilling outside of the fire station.

I can still use clipless shoes and pedals.

The water fountains are still working.

Other riders on mountain bikes still nod uniformly, and those on road bikes just as predictably blow by without a sign of acknowledgment.

My bell still rings loudly.

The length from my entry onto Wilson Boulevard near Bluemont until I arrive home is still the perfect cooldown ride.

And best of all, I still got the same feeling I’ve had at the end of every ride since I first tried these trails in 1997 – I feel that I am better for it.

So I guess things weren’t all that different. It will all come back to me soon enough.

Just like riding a bike, really.

Today’s Mileage:
11.89 miles

2003 Mileage:
14.18 miles

Nothing seemed to fit right today. I couldn’t get the seat to the right height, I had adjusted the pedals to release too easily, and my favorite-but-deadly-with-glass-and-metal spec mirror seems to be broken. Patience, right?