Despite these measurements, I remained skeptical about all the drugs until March 29, when I rode an event along the central coast of California, the Solvang Double Century, at what for me was a fast and hard pace, finishing in around 11.5 hours. About ten hours in, it dawned on me that something was definitely happening. Sure, I’d been training hard, but I’d done enough of that to know what to expect. All around me were riders—good, strong riders—who looked as worn out as you’d expect after ten hours in the saddle. I was tired, but I felt curiously strong, annoyingly talkative and fresh, eager to hammer the last 40 miles.
The last time I’d ridden 200 miles, I felt awful the next day, like I’d been hit by a truck. After the Solvang race I woke up and felt hardlya touch of soreness. I also felt like I could easily ride another 200, and I realized that I’d entered another world, the realm of instant recovery. I’ll be frank: It was a reassuring kind of world, and I could see why people might want to stay there.
When I checked in with the good doctor soon after the race, he wasn’t surprised about what I’d experienced. “With your hematocrit levels higher, you don’t produce as much lactic acid, which means you can ride harder, longer, with less stress. The growth hormone and testosterone help you recover faster, since you’re stronger to start with and recover more quickly. All those little muscle tears repair much more quickly.”
He shrugged. “It works,” he said. “It always works.”