I rose SUPER early ... like 2:15am ... and got ready for a long, slow ride to Pleasanton, KS and back on the Free-State Border Patrol permanent route, card-in-hand. Full intent, to ride all 217 kilometers of it, at a very low, small-ring only effort, for base miles.
The injuries of the last seven months fading into the background finally in the last week after final "eureka" tweaks, I'm glad I decided not to try my hand at a very hilly Liberty-Platte City brevet last weekend. Part of me REALLY wanted to be there, but the issues and the weather just didn't portray it being a good time. I'd made the right choice... as much as I hate missing one of Bob's rides. Heck, as much as I miss riding with PEOPLE.
Makes sense that I'd plan a solo ride at such a ridiculous hour, right? Part of it is the magic of a late/early night ride: stars, solitude, peace. The other part is being back home with some day left.
My spring-bounce out of bed at first alarm was indication, subconsciously, that I still have a passion for riding. I'm not burnt out, that's for sure: I was ready - even at the ghastly hour, to get moving.
Food, shower, dress, 1st control, and away! I didn't see a SINGLE car for the first 18 miles. I *love* that!
The skies were clear - for the first time in what seems like weeks. Not balmy, not the "beat-the-heat" kind of pre-dawn temperatures I'd prefer - but upper 30's to mid 40's aren't bad. It was - as sometimes happens on these early starts - warmer when I started than when I got home.
Oh yeah... that deserves explaining.
Though I didn't see a car in 18 miles, I did get some reminders from my right leg about taking it easy. Not full-blown pain, but reminders. I have a knot or lump in my right thigh, outside part, below the illiotibial band (thankfully) that I believe is a tweaked or partially torn hamstring... er, help me Google, not the biceps femoris?.... but the... uh, okay - doesn't matter. It hurts "here" (points to leg).
There is some bruising beginning to surface - so whatever I did to it during last week's likely-too-vigorous training session must've been deep, and more intense than I realized.
It's getting better, though. Slow, easy progression, stretching, and doc's advice are being continued. Being told to take it easy is better than being told not to ride at all. He even agreed to the distances involved, so long as I didn't push anything too big. Cool, I can fly with those orders.
When I've got no indications of pain or residual anymore, I can give it the beans again. Heck, I always go out too hard, so this is better training than I was doing for myself ANYways.
The reminders were enough to give me pause, however. Knees? Fine. Ankles? Fine. Most everything was "fine". However, by the time I reached Louisburg, KS under the heavy blanket of this moonless morning I was beginning to think... "you know, if something DOES flare up, wouldn't it be wiser to stay closer to home?" The control card felt heavy in my pocket, but I began considering playing my first DNF at a permanent... and my first DNF at a RUSA or ACP event since 2002. I had a DNS last August when all this injury and life-commitments mess began. So, at least this time I STARTED. AS I was pondering all this, I saw the road closed signage and slowly blinking amber beacons clustered against the horizon near 295th street just south of Louisburg, and that was enough for me. Even with teh signed detour provided and maybe only a handful of bonus miles on tap, there was no sense fighting it when my body was still fighting back. Last week was too early...those hills north of Liberty would have torched me until June with my lack of preparation this year. This week, I was better prepared, but still bordering on impatience and pushing the issue. March just wasn't in the cards... April... ok, the first weekend in April... maybe wasn't either.
Last post I recalled the March 2010 Border Patrol, where I basically came off of 2009 with zero randonneuring events since February and came off of a longest-ride of 100 miles in September '09 at the MS-150 to a full 137 miles in March 2010, right out of the gate after nothing than commutes for training. Classic "dude"... heck, it's what this blog was founded on: using commutes to train for long-distance rides. It worked last year, and I survived the ride and went on to ride 5 more in succession. But, this year, since September of '10 my longest ride is barely 100km, not 100 miles... and commutes? Well, because of the injuries, there haven't been that many since October. Arguably, all the driving I've done made the injury worse because I never worked-it or rode-it out. Diving right into brevets with such little base... foolish. Not as young as I used to be, and I need to get back up to that distance again carefully this time.
Smart choices, finally... against the classic "dude". As if this blog wasn't tiresome enough, now I'm becoming sensible? Yeesh.
With the double caution of the tentative limbs and the road closed, I took it as a sign and turned around for home. Difficult as it was for me to leave those next few control boxes unchecked on my card, I gave myself confidence knowing that I was leaving them blank only for NOW.... at the benefit of LATER. With a slight, slight tailwind now I turned for home - tail only slightly tucked. This was planned as a possibility from the gate... but I hadn't actually considered that I'd be smart enough to prevent myself from heading farther and farther south towards the hills which might have gone against my bodies' healing efforts. Instead, I turned on my phone's internet radio player and allowed a faint back-pocket ooze of ambient down-tempo tickle my eardrums against the wind noise of my forward movement, while I consciously kept the revs high and the speed low. No cars, no dogs, no traffic, and no weight on my shoulders whatsoever. I made the driveway before dawn, after picking up a few groceries at the corner c-store for a post-ride breakfast with the family. A metric before dawn? Not a bad way to lose a little sleep, in my book.
By the time I got home the pain - or any echo of it - was gone. Who knows what might have happened later - but, why dwell? Sixty miles is plenty, and things finally feel pretty good. Don't push your luck... next time, 75... then 85-90 miles.... then, I've got my May permanent scheduled already - and I will be ready. Instead of being wrung-out and exhausted from going too long too soon, I now faced the day just as fresh as if I'd not missed a wink of sleep.
Then, later, something amazing happened.
Back when I started riding as an adult in '98, and especially after the bug bit me really hard, I was pretty confident that my wife wasn't going to ride with me. It just isn't her thing. She knew I loved it, but she didn't really "get it". I was cool with that, because as is the case in most marriages you just don't have exactly the same hobbies and interests as your partner. That's normal - and like any guy that plays golf or flies model planes or goes fishing or hunting, cycling has always been just "my thing". No worries... but, yeah, it'd have been neat.
About a month ago, I got an email from the wife while sitting at work, which read: "Just wondering: what would it take to get that other bike working? I think I am ready to try bike riding."
I read that email maybe four or five times before the words really made any sense, considering the source. It wasn't April 1st when I read it, so that couldn't be it.
Suddenly, sitting there at my desk, I began to day-dream; and I could see very clearly the scene opening on a long piece of rural highway, who-knows-where. The sun has just started to rise and there is a pinkish/orange glow filling the backdrop and I can hear birds just waking up and singing... and then I hear a few clicks of gears, and see a puff of foggy breath from behind the crest of a hill as a lone tandem appears to rise from behind the hill against the disk of the rising sun... 60 miles to go on the last morning of the local 600k brevet.... dude, and wife-of-dude still hammering it out.... (shudders)
Then I snapped to. Easy, dude.... easy.
Reading that email, I think I was less excited about her saying "yes" to our first date.
Today, after cleaning up that small-sized mountain bike, tightening the bottom bracket, fresh chain lube, saddle adjustments, tutorials on shifting and how it works, the difference between coaster-brakes and hand-brakes, airing the tires, fitting her first helmet - the usual preparations - we all piled into the family box and headed to a quiet stretch of bike trail. Today was her first bike ride since her childhood.
The interesting thing about destiny and fate, whatever you wanna call it: I honest-to-goodness didn't plan this and only realized it an hour ago when I replotted the route to show her what she'd accomplished. Today's ride took place on exactly the same trail as MY first adult bicycle ride in 1998. When we got in the truck to "go to the trail" I just kinda went that direction... not sure why any other stretch of trail wouldn't have worked, like Monticello Park or whatever ... but I picked 87th Lane and Woodland Road. It was there, from that same parking lot, that I'd ridden my Trek 820 mountain bike for the first time since losing weight, and after about six miles I'd realized that I was pretty tired - but had forgotten that I'd have to ride all the way back to the car. That ended up being a tough 12-mile ride. Today, I watched my wife take her first, shaky pedal strokes on that same trail.
It's pretty cool... and that's far too lame a way to describe it, because I can't find better words. The kids showered her with praise and support, and I was beaming. She may not polish off any brevets in her lifetime, but she's tougher than I am - and I'm immensely proud of her. More importantly, I could tell she was really proud of herself. She wants to ride again. My next couple of LBS purchases won't be for me. That's cool.
This afternoon's bike trail ride blew this morning's permanent-attempt clean out of the water.
It's not something any randonneur plans for, the DNF... and it's certainly hard to make "not finishing" into a GOOD thing... but I'm SO glad I DNF'd today.
Today was a very, very good day.