In like a lion, out like a lamb.
Today’s ride was c-c-c-c-cold. The 26 degrees wasn’t so bad, it was the blasting headwind, gusting strong at 30+ MPH that was tough to take. I stayed closed to home and took it slow at times, steady most of the ride. I really didn’t enjoy this ride, and mid way through I found myself just wanting it to be over.
This winter is the toughest I’ve had on the bike in some time. The temps have been extremely cold, and whenever I do have an opening in my schedule to ride, it’s often snowing. I’ve been dabbling with the trainer just to get some energy out and to keep my legs in some kind of shape, but I’m really seeing why the pros just move to California during the winter months to build their base miles.
Anyway, I climbed the Notch, which isn’t the hardest hillclimb but it’s not something I usually do in January. Hills are my friends, hills are my friends, hills are my friends. I’ll be grateful come summer when I’m faster for it.
The title sums up how my last 3 rides have been. Pretty flat. After months of intense training and racing cyclocross, I decided I was for all purposes done for the season. I started riding “for fun.” And that was–I thought–a good plan.
It should have been a good plan. I started mountain biking. Lower mileage, because mileage no longer matters. I passed my goal of 2000 miles a couple of weeks ago so I really laid off the gas and transitioned into riding for pleasure. The problem is, it hasn’t been.
Of course that isn’t ALL true. But there is something missing.
I wonder if it’s just the natural low following the high of my freshman ‘cross season. Although I admit, I needed the break. My muscles felt frayed and tight. Overtraining was mentioned as a possible problem. The weather hasn’t been ideal either. I’m riding in temps that flirt with freezing, and the days are so very short.
I’ve even tried changing up locations. Today I went to Hatfield to ride. A picturesque farming community. I liked the stately homes in the middle of the small town. The road followed the Connecticut river. A fine mist was falling and it was about 40 degrees. 12.2 miles, a short ride, and my only elevation gain was 36 feet. Dreadfully flat…..just like my mood after these rides.
I’m not sure what to do about this. Should I take a real break? Stop riding altogether for a couple of months? Enter the one last cyclocross race offered in New England on the weekend of the 15-16th of December? I already feel my fitness slipping. And lets face it, snow is almost certainly on the way. The idea of isolating my workouts to the trainer is a bit soul-crushing.
Suggestions? I’m all ears.
Last winter we were buried under a few feet of snow by this point. The last few winters have been pretty standard New England style winters–harsh, cold, and plenty of snow and ice. I finally broken down and bought a new pair of skis to re-enter the sport of skiing during the off-season.
But this year? We’re all scratching our heads. We started with a ridiculous snowstorm on October 29 with major tree damage, downed limbs, split trees in two, dropped live power line and rendered most of my valley without power for 4 days (some went as long as 9). Since then we’ve had one cold day–otherwise we’re hanging out in the 40’s, which is really no big deal. I should be riding my bike more–really, there is no excuse.
The best winter riding when there is an absence of snow is mountain biking, in my opinion. The ground is hard and fast and the trails are relatively free of foot traffic. But here in New England, we are still–yes, still–cleaning up after the freak Halloween snowstorm.
Fortunately, the cycling community here is active and went to work quickly on one of the best network of mountain biking trails in the area. Bachelor Street is well-known by the MTBers in the area as *the* place to ride. A few weekends after the storm, I was out for a road ride with my friend Gail and we met up at Bachelor’s dirt parking lot as a central location. We were both surprised to see a small group of mountain bikers chatting post ride by their cars. We asked how the trails were out there–expecting everything to be a hot mess, when we learned they were out clearing the trails for rides, and reported a long list of clear trails. We thanked them for their dedication–it’s folks like them who give freely of their own time all for the love of the trail. Most of us hadn’t even finished picking up our yards and this group had already cleared miles of trails on one end of the Holyoke Range.
Although I haven’t been out to Bachelor this winter–I know it’s in good shape, and will think of that little group of men and women, happily chatting by their cars on a cold November day after one of the most talked about New England storms of my lifetime.
Originally uploaded by sipclip&go
I am not a wimp.
Really I’m not. But I admit it, I will seek out warmth over cold. Soft over hard. Comfort over pain. Which is way I’m not a fan of winter rides.
But to prove Heather wrong (because I cannot back down from a direct challenge–it’s against my genetic code), I went out for a ride this week.
When I first struck out, it was cold, 32F. Gaining speed, the wind bit my face. I made the mistake of leaving my earrings in (double pierced) and rediscovered what a wonderful conductor of temperature gold is. By the end of my 2nd mile, it felt like I was getting my ears pierced with icicles. My lungs coughed with the shock. My toes grew numb. This was not just uncomfortable, it was distractingly painful.
At mile 5, that all stopped. My body had reached a state of adjustment. My cheeks felt thick and solid, like chunks of wood–but they did not hurt. My toes and fingertips were chilled but constant wiggling kept blood flowing. I was working hard on the bike which warmed me up. I stayed in this state of adjustment for most of the ride, and it occurred to me the parallel between physical and emotional response to changes in environment. It’s not the state itself, it’s getting there. Humans find comfort in the predictably familiar. Transitions are painful–physical or otherwise.
At the end of the hour I was transitioning again. The happy medium I had found was slipping away and I felt the numbness in my toes pass the balls of my feet and approach mid foot. My gloves couldn’t hold anymore heat in, and I was getting tired just staying warm. I cruised into my driveway and stumbled off the bike, footing compromise by my cleats and lack of feeling (where’s the floor? I can’t feel it). It took me an hour and 1/2 to feel normal again, another odd, yet more pleasant transition.
Then I had one of the best naps ever.
If you read this blog with any consistency, you may have picked up on the long-standing tradition of challenge and one-upmanship between myself and my co-blogger Heather. That tension was largely absent in 2009, mostly because I was the only one riding a bicycle, while Heather was off riding her V-Star.
Now that she’s back, she’s back with a vengeance, and has wasted no time slipping back into her provoking ways. Last post she commented that she only will blog about a ride if she does it OUTSIDE. This of course was meant as a slam to me, who is much too delicate to withstand the frigid temperatures of a New England winter. Nevermind that I log more miles spinning on the trainer out of the ice and snow. So when I mentioned I planned to ride OUTSIDE this week, unconvinced she remarked “yeah, I want video.” Well, ask and you shall receive!!
Ride Category: Rising to the occasion.
First, let’s not hold me to any specific number of posts or anything. Structure is my enemy. Now that we’ve cleared that up.
My hand is dirty because I switched out the tires on the Diamondback ascent. The Nokian Extremes are back for winter 2010. I would like to bring to your attention that surprisingly, there is no blood in the above photo. I decided to go outside and bomb around the neighborhood. Here’s a photo of the new Franklin County Speedway (aka my backyard):
I did not make any resolutions or set any goals for 2010; see the first paragraph re structure. I am planning on doing the Warrior Dash as well, but that’s not a goal. There is beer, so no need to explain any further. Hmmm, maybe I’ll challenge Karen to double or nothing.
Distance: Several laps around the FC speedway
Temperature: 20˚ F
Ride category: First official run of 2010 for the Nokian Extremes