Friday, January 20, 2012

First Endurance Ride of the New Year

Today was my first long endurance ride of the new year on the mountain bike. Being that it was particularly cold and windy today, the first thing I did was bundle up in many layers and then look for my warmest winter gloves. One of the most difficult things about living in a "Southern-ish" state, is trying to prepare for and stay organized for winter rides. That's because winter isn't so much as a season here, but more of a "come and go", type of event during that time that technically is classified on the calendar as Winter to the rest of our hemisphere. Consequently, the big guns of winter cycling wear don't come out that often. Often times, I just can't find them no matter how hard I look when I actually do need to find them. I have one cycling clothing dresser and at any one time, it shares every season's wares. You'll find short sleeved jerseys, mixed in with heavy winter windproof tights, surrounded by mid-season knickers, cycling shorts, wool base layers and everything in between all sharing the same space no matter what time of year it is. It just doesn't make sense to try to have seasonal clothes separated around here because the weather can change at a moment's notice. One day it will be 65 degrees and sunny, the next day 30 with severe wind gusts and then back to 55 and raining. All in the same week. That's our winter.

As a result of this crazy winter weather pattern that doesn't like to stick around too long, I find myself constantly jumping from one season's cycling gear to another, often in consecutive days. Not that I'm complaining mind you....I love those 60 degree days in winter when others are shoveling snow up North.

So because of this, I found myself searching frantically for my good winter gloves. And failing. I finally just got frustrated and left with my short fingered gloves with a pair of small stretchy fabric gloves to pair them with hoping that it would be enough to keep me warm.

Once, I got to the parking lot, I was the only one there. Even though I had invited others to join me, with it being a weekday, I didn't have much hope that anyone else would show up. So, I pulled out my trusty Ipod and got to pedaling. I decided to do a limited edition of the former endurance ride I used to do before the riding break, both literally and figuratively. (See what I did there..."Break". Ha Ha I slay me!!) Anyway, that meant 25 miles round trip on primarily all single track on a beautiful network of trails which link up easily and minimal pavement.

As I began my ride, I decided to take it slow to really get a good warm up. It wasn't long before I was shedding my extra knit gloves and  my extra arm warmers. Unfortunately, my warmup speed seemed to be where the speedometer needle stayed for this whole ride. While I had the endurance I needed and felt as if I could go all day, I felt like I had no power. I just couldn't get myself to hammer fast for any long stretch of trail. I could really see that my ability to maintain faster speeds over long distances and my explosive power bursts for hills have pretty much faded during these 3 months of "other riding" options. It was a really enjoyable ride though even though I felt all slow-like and eventually the amount of clothing I was wearing and the temperature became compatible enough that  I finally I was wearing the ideal mix of not too hot, but not too cold.

My husband even took some time out to meet me for one of the legs of my ride although he didn't have time to ride the whole distance. That perked up my speed a bit as I am always happy to see his smiling face. Once we finished up that portion of the ride together, I still had 9 miles to finish alone to get back to my own car. So I hunkered down and did the last few miles turning up my Ipod to drown out my heavy breathing. I really started feeling tired towards the end. I sucked it up and just kept pedaling purposely not looking at my speedometer especially as I was climbing anything that remotely felt like a hill. I just finished reading Jill Homer's book Ghost Trails about her Alaska bike race. If I've learned one thing from her story, it's that dogged determination can get you through any ride as long as you just keep pedaling forward even if it feels like you are going 2mph. So that's what I did. But, I am pretty certain I was doing at least 3mph. Possibly even 4.
Oh, and another lesson I learned out of that book was that when I complain about riding in the "cold", that I don't know the half of it, but that's a different topic for another day. Truthfully, though, great book. Read it for some great inspiration.

By the time I finished the ride, I was tired, hungry and my legs were sore. All I could think about was how much I really wanted a Snicker's bar and the first store I'd be passing to buy one.  But, the best part of all was that I had a smile on my face once again during the drive home from completing my biggest accomplishment this year so far. Even though I may not be as fast as I was last summer, my endurance is still there and that's a start. I just need some time to work up my speed again over the long haul, but I have all winter to gain back that strength before Spring gets here. And, hopefully when that day comes, I won't still be wasting precious riding time looking for my missing winter gloves and trying to recall the last place I saw my arm warmers.

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