Well, yes, and no.
I've noticed in the past 5 or 10 years that it takes me longer to recover from muscle soreness, whether from lifting, riding, or even doing core exercises. I got used to that low grade soreness while walking down the stairs in the morning.
This summer, though, I haven't gotten very sore at all, not enough to notice.
To me part of this meant that I haven't been working hard enough muscularly. If my legs aren't sore then I'm not breaking down the muscle fibers. I understand that it's not always good to be sore, but I'd expect some soreness after harder rides.
I pushed bigger gears, pedaled at lower rpms, and pushed pretty consistently, doing two laps of my Quarry Road Loop. The first lap I stayed mainly on the tops, trying to stay on top of the bigger gears.
There's one little rise, literally a 2-3 pedal stroke "hill", on the loop. It's a little test, insignificant really, but an indicator of where I stood in terms of overall riding goodness.
Sunday I found that I went over it at about 20 mph. In 2010, when I weighed 20 pounds less, I'd regularly roll over it at 24-25 mph. For me this was a concrete example of what weight gain (and loss) does to my riding. I thought to myself that losing weight over the 2014 winter would be a good thing.
I did the second lap mainly on the drops because, frankly, my back was hurting and it felt much better on the drops. I actually rode it pretty well, covering the same loop about 45 seconds faster. The first lap I get a 35 mph running start into the first bit of Quarry Road (because I come off of a descent) so to do the second lap faster was significant. It meant that I pushed the whole time. It also probably meant that I was more aerodynamic in the drops, which makes sense also.
I arrived home pretty spent. My back ached pretty badly - it's really the only thing I noticed when I climbed off the bike. After cooling down and taking a shower I took "inventory" - legs were fine. Back was not, and in fact I couldn't lift Junior very easily.
The Missus noticed that I was favoring my back and tried to cover for me. The fact that I was that bad led me to think about how I haven't done any core work for a year or two. I did core stuff regularly in 2010 and didn't have back issues even with a lot of riding. I stopped, had such back issues in 2013 that I couldn't shovel snow, and in 2014 the Missus got me to buy a snow thrower so that I wouldn't have to shovel.
My thought is that my core strength is so low that it can't support the workload my legs. This is why my legs don't get sore after a race - I can't work them hard enough.
My back, on the other hand, has been bugging me this whole season. Therefore I need to work on my core. This will give me the base necessary to get my legs back into the mix, to work them hard enough to get sore.
The other thing is weight. My bike weight doesn't vary that much between racing and training wheels yet it feels really substantial. To lose six or seven times the difference would be astronomical yet I haven't done it.
When I went out on Sunday's ride I was wondering why my legs didn't get sore after some very hard races. I realized during and after that ride that it went further than that.
So for me the answer is clear.
Work on my core.
Work on losing weight.
See what happens in 2015.