Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I think I'm ready

Today was just another day getting between home and work via bicycle.  It's definitely my favorite way to commute for a number of reasons. The foremost of which is that I love riding my bike. 

Sometimes I forget that.  When I'm tired or when it's absurdly hot out.  Or on those days when for some reason the bike just doesn't seem to fit right and I can't get comfortable. And of late, I've been spending a lot of time officiating, so part of me hasn't been happy with the fact that I haven't been on my bike on a weekend since I don't know when - ok, so I just looked it up, it's been a year not counting computrainer time or the spin classes with the ABRT juniors on Saturdays last winter.

This evening, I left the office and cycled over the Hains Point to get some miles in.  The first lap was pathetic.  I had no energy and contemplated a one-and-done but then a friend pulled onto the loop ahead of me.  We rode together for several laps, picked up Chris for a while and a fellow we didn't know but who had the simple courtesy to ask if we minded if he tagged along.  Nice enough guy who was happy to hang with us - I wasn't going to tell him it was a Zone 2 sort of night.  Mother Nature threw some large rain drops at us, but nothing much really.  But I kept an eye on the sky anyway and noted the growing storm up river.  I bid the others farewell, hoping I was guessing right about being able to ride fast enough to stay ahead of the storm.

So I take off, pressing the pace, once more riding at a speed that would scandalize many of the members of my recreational bike club. In other words, I was exceeding the 15mph speed limit on the trail.  Oh dear. ;-)

I notice that my tail light isn't working.  Batteries don't last forever.  Just wish tonight wasn't the night it gave up - it's getting darker and darker as the clouds chase me.  Love my new headlight. Running it in daylight flash mode because it's not dark enough to need it in headlight mode.

I cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge - it's just a hair over 2km long (2053m to be specific).  I glance to my left and see that DC is looking night-dark with heavy clouds dropping a shroud of rain on the city. I looks cool but I'm more interested in getting to my car before the weather gets to me than taking a photo.  The winds are starting to pick up.

I hit the final climb and throw a lot of watts into the first, steepest section.  When I push, in my head I'm often off in the land of pros.  Tonight is no exception.  I hit that first part of the hill and I'm Joe D flying up Mt. Baldy.  The grade lessens just as my body points out to me that I'm fast twitch, not slow twitch... in other words, I'm a sprinter not a climber.  Ok fine, I'm not Joe D, I've simply delivered him to the final phase of the climb.  As I continue to push myself up the final segment of the climb, my phantom Joe D is flying up ahead.

The traffic light at the top of the climb even cooperates and turns green just as I arrive.  As I back off to sort of cool down for a few hundred meters, I realize that I'm ready.  Time to reach out to my old coach and talk about prepping for the TT championship in August, because I'm ready.  Not only do I love riding my bike, but I love pushing hard on the bike.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Visit to a Far Corner of Sufferlandria

It's been quite a while since I've been here to blog. Things are just too busy. No time for this. But since I had an "epic" ride on Friday...well, I feel compelled to share.

Usually when we talk about a ride being epic we're talking lots of miles, daunting terrain, thunderstorms, twisters, etc. Not quite the case for me on Friday, but epic in its own way nonetheless.

I was all set to ride home, feeling a bit queasy but ready to hit the road, had just clipped my helmet strap when I lost the fight with queasy. Yeah, lunch didn't get digested, it got flushed. Along with every ounce of water, etc. I'd imbibed. So my system was depleted, emptied, the fuel gauge was below E. And the rest of me wasn't doing a whole lot better. Mental focus and coordination were a challenge.

13.5 miles by bicycle. Yeah, I probably should have used my GRH but I had visions of my bike hanging out the back of a taxi cab trunk that I just couldn't deal with. So I strapped my helmet on again, and hit the road to discover a corner of Sufferlandria I'd never before visited.

Worse than any bonk, driven solely by the need to get home, I negotiated through traffic in Georgetown and maneuvered around runners, walkers and tourists, generating a leg breaking 60 or maybe 75 watts with the occasional surge into triple digits. Ever so thankful for the tailwind. Yet every pedal stroke of the way was pure suffering. I needed to stop, to pause, but I didn't dare, that might mean not being able to get back on the bike, not being able to get back to the car and home.

The ride is very scenic. I didn't notice. It was a cool, but clear beautiful evening. All I noticed was the cool part which was pushing to cold in my super-bonk state. The last 3 miles of my ride include a very rough (though very new) section of pave, a drag of a hill, a small descent, a Z-ramp up, a corkscrew ramp down, a section of recovery and then a three-quarter mile hill that on a good day hurts even when I try to keep the watts down because its the end of the ride.

On the pave, Paul and Phil pop up in my head, describing the move, the attack, I'm making, dangerously far from the finish. But it could be brilliant if it works because no one's gone with me. My speed drops precipitously on that final ascent, 6mph, 5mph, but I manage to stay upright and moving forward. I hold them off for the stage win. (Come on, would they really be describing my struggle to beat the time cut?)

I make it to the car, on the verge of tears, barely able to dismount. But I have to stay at it a bit longer. Gotta pack up and drive the couple of miles home and get into the house, were I can strip out of the gear and crawl into bed. By the time I get home, I'm cold, shivering violently. I change into the warmest clothes I can lay my hands on (thermal shirt, heavy sweats) and crawl into bed. I drift in and out of sleep, still deep within Sufferlandria.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beautiful Morning

This morning was beautiful. The break in the heat and humidity ever so welcome. I've said it before and continue the practice...my commute is not a race, it is not a training ride, it's just a ride. I respect the 17 stop signs through Alexandria. I am patient with slower riders, walkers or runners, waiting until it makes sense to pass. I take pause, exercise caution, in areas where I know other riders have a tendency to be a bit irresponsible.

Today had some very good examples. When I ride in, I cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (the I-95 crossing of the Potomac River). To connect to Royal Street to cross Alexandria, I go down alongside the bridge and under it. I don't bomb that descent for two reasons. One is the very tight left hander at the bottom into a path with jersey wall separating directions of travel and chainlink fence on the other side. Not enough room to take it with a lot of speed The other is that I regularly watch others come out from there too fast, swinging their right hander wide as if there was absolutely no way a rider could be coming the other way. Sure enough this morning, one such rider came blasting out of the right hander. I watched it from halfway down the descent.

As I cleared the narrow trail - construction is on going and the slapdash pavement they threw down is lumpier than packed dirt/gravel was - two commuters who can only be described as Freds rolled past me. They aren't aggressively blowing through the stop signs, they aren't riding fast enough for that, but they aren't slowing at all either. I am amused, as their pace doesn't distance them from me much while I respect the stop signs - no I don't full stop, but I do slow significantly. I look ahead and shake my head. He's wearing brown corduroys (or so they appeared to be) without having rolled up the right leg. No it's not getting caught in the drive train, but it's getting very greasy. Doh! She's got her capris on, her helmet at something of a jaunty angle.

Beyond them, I see that they're working on the road, narrowing it to one lane, with a solo flagger working the traffic control. The Freds are a few bike lengths beyond the intersection, waiting for the flagger. I chuckle as I clear the stop sign and move into the service road proceeding unhindered by the construction and the flagger. Strange, they never caught back up to me.

At the far end of Alexandria, I opt to stay on the road rather than ride a small section of trail that is narrow, the foliage isn't cut back and it has a fair number of root heaves. I stop at the red light where I'll make my right turn to hook up with the Mt Vernon Trail a block down and parallel the GW Parkway along the river for a while. It's a no turn on red intersection because you can't see what's coming - angle of the bend in the road and landscaping give you no sightlines at all. No problem. I grab my bottle. A Porsche Carrera pulls up next to me, windows down, sun roof open. "Swap you for a day," I offer. The driver chuckles. "I don't doubt you could handle this car, but I don't think I could handle your bike." We chat about the weather, how many miles my commute is, that sort of thing. Both of us are simply enjoying the fabulous morning. While we're chatting, one cyclist, then another, opt to go around us, ignore the no turn on red sign and ride away. Well, they sure showed me! After all, I was having a great time, enjoying my ride and the day and a chat with a random stranger...surely they're decision to ignore the red light, no turn on red and the risks to themselves and others was the right way to go. After all, the second one made it all the way to the next red light before I caught up to him.