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Embracing the Suck…


It is a journey for me. Finding ways to battle off the easy excuse for why I choose one thing over another. Why I watch T.V. instead of write or study – Why I eat instead of diet, why I sit instead of ride.
Today was an easy one. Sitting instead of riding would clearly have been the smart thing to do and nobody would argue with me. I road yesterday when the temperature was seventeen and that was a feat – but despite the balmy twenty-two degrees today it was windy. It was very windy.

The Tri Cross in full winter colors

Winds like today on a sunny day in June would be discouraging. Winds like today turn a flat stretch of road into the equivalent of a ten percent climb and a ten percent climb into a battle to stay on the bike.
I have developed routines to avoid the excuse engine. Getting dressed for a ride on a day like today takes a while. It’s like putting on a space suit. Gear for harsh conditions. I found myself thinking of a medieval night putting on chain-mail, then armor as I slowly and carefully donned layer after layer of high-tech polly. The challenge is to stay warm but not cook while engaged in fairly vigorous activity. It is almost impossible to be suited for a long climb and a long descent in weather like this. I do have it figured out pretty well now – and one less excuse – I have the proper clothes to do this.
One problem that I could not surmount was my feet but I think I have that beat back as well. Today I had made sure to have a very light lace-up on the shoes – almost falling off. And the clincher was instant pocket warmers layered in between sock layers on my toes. My toes were cosy today. It was the rest of me that was a challenge.
I should have known better.
My ‘standard route’ is one I have quite literally done hundreds of times. Having just done it twenty four hours before, I was pleased with my pace on the run towards the ocean. I was flying. I even thought that I would be turning in a record winter pace today. It was only a moment later that I realized that I probably was enjoying a boost from the wind. I did not realize that the jet stream itself was pushing me towards the sea. It was sunny.
My standard route is a great little ride all things considered. Today the sun was out and I was feeling great. Not much competition for the lane on a day like today. It has been weeks since I have seen another rider out. Not since the January thaw. At one point I was looking down at the fan of salt extending from the edge of the road into the lane. It looked like my helmet strap in the way it faded from black into crusty white. There was so much salt that in spots it almost looked like a dusting of fresh snow. I then noticed a tire track in the salt plane and was warmed by the notion that someone else was crazy enough to be doing this. I was not alone. A moment later I realized that the tire track was mine – from the day before. Still, I did not feel alone and was some how comforted by following in my own footsteps day over day engaged in something that was effort enough in good weather – but something altogether different in early February.
I was hammering towards the sea. Really flying. My pulse was up there, and I was working up a sweat and breathing hard. Holding nothing back. If first hit me as I turned left – about halfway into my standard ride and the first real shift in cardinal direction. There it was. A big kiss of a stiff breeze. Not so bad. I can hack it. Soon, a second ninety degree turn had me now one hundred and eighty degrees from my run out and head first into a winter gale of a wind. The roads on my route are at times solitary ribbons of pavement through sweeping farmland. Nice views and open sky. Today the wind was slipping across the snow and ice covered fields with just the faint stubble of grasses in spots to impede its full frontal furry as it slammed into me.
In the summer I would be up on the 53 along these sections where now I was sporting a 47 and all the way up-town in the back. Slogging. Thats what I was doing. I was slogging along and leaning into the gusts like a party goer relying on someones support after imbibing too much. A post-ride peek at the wind chill chart has me figuring that the effective temperature was anywhere from zero to eight degrees. Nippy. Wind Chill
It’s not like I was doing anything super human – Hardly worth writing about really – My journey here was about continuing to develop methods of motivation to get out and ride and todays experience was on the surface not re-enforcing my decision to go out as a positive one. But beneath the surface I was beaming with pride. I was out here. Head first into some serious wind in the middle of winter with my studded tires clicking along as I pound out the tempo to the songs in my head. I was doing this. I was rooted in the journey. I was NOT doing the easy action of in-action. I was engaged
And it was sunny.
The last five miles were the worst. Almost as if my cliche resolve was being tested by some greek god of weather, the wind I had been facing had increased and was full on for the ten to thirteen percent hills to get back home. Earlier, as I slogged along the farmland, I enjoyed refuge from the wind in the shelter of the little rises in the road way. No such like this time. A cold merciless wind was pouring down the hill like a river. At one point I was nearly stopped. The fabric of my outer jacket is flapping so violently and loudly it sounded like a helicopter was hovering over me. My speed was a whopping four miles per hour. My legs were burning from the climb and my body freezing as the wind invaded any weakness in the armor I had dawned only hours earlier. This sucked and I was embracing it. I was not unique in my passion for this, nor in my dedication. I was a member of a group where the price of admission was simply going out on days like today.

I always said that if you did not take a nap after a hard ride, your ride was not that hard.

Later when I woke up I enjoyed a walk with the dogs, made dinner, and just now had a fabulous hot tub. As I lay back with sounds of Bach’s Prelude to Cello Suite #1 as performed by Michael Hedges mixing with the steam rising from the tub an floating up to a fabulous canopy of starts.. I realized I could do this again.

Some days are better than others.

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