November 1, 2007

Shedding the Shackles

There are hearty smells in the air, and the bite of the cold air on exposed skin, the tightness in the fingers while shifting gears - the cooling rush of cold air down an unzipped jersey, long sleeves. Ahhhh.... fall!
A couple of good commutes this week, after getting re-inspired this week by a visit with the Warbird, as he comes back over the pond for a few days. Honestly, even though it didn't exactly work out, the promise of sharing a ride home was just enough motivation to actually get me in the saddle again this week. I hadn't been on the bike since October 11th, and after yesterday's commute the total number of ride I had for October 2007 is a whopping THREE. Yeesh. But, I'm getting back into a routine, finally. The cold air is not that cold anymore, and the promise of a good morning warmup on the bike is excellent and propells me through the work day. In the evening, shielded from the low sun by my cycling cap, the early spark of fireplaces and the constant crunch of fallen leaves against the asphalt of the bike trail lulls away the stresses of the day. The notion that cycling somehow had faded as a stress reliever for me was clouded by the fact that I simply hadn't ridden enough lately to allow it to happen. I have to let the release come, to stop thinking so much, to allow the miles homeward melt away the day - and eventually upon arriving at home for a hot shower and warm flannel, my day is summed up by the last first and last thing that I did -- the ride.

Mildly frustrating, however, another "first" for 2007 - but not on such a good note, on Monday's ride home from work, the first ride in almost three weeks, I got passed from behind on the bike trail. It's something that I'm not used to - a matter of timing, and personal speed that keeps most recreational riders off my six. Monday, however, a close proximity and the fire of youth got me. Upon reaching the bottom of the big hill near the golf course, I came upon a teenager, jeans, sweatshirt, skater's helmet, walking his hardtail mountain bike up the steep grade. I geared down, and never having had to walk this monster, I proceeded my laboured out-of-saddle rhythm towards the top. As I passed him, I muttered "well, THIS sucks!", to which he chuckled and replied in the affirmative. I figured that'd be the last time I'd see him, so it was my way of offering a litle encouragement in a language he could understand. What I hadn't bet on was his prowess on the downhill side of things. About three miles later, after passing under the bridge at Quivira Road, I heard it -- first the faint whirr of knobbies on pavement, just coming over the wind noise in my ears, and then the "on your left" -- it was him, passing in a flurry of pedalling cadence that indicated he was either geared out, or didn't want to shift. Talking about 120 RPM easily here, turn and burn, then coast. He didn't pass me very fast - but he DID pass me. Before I could really react or counter, he peeled off into the grass, clearly arriving at his home, or near it at least. Ugh. Safe in my small chainring, I COULD have shifted and answered easily, but I hadn't - and really hadn't seen the need to. While it kinda put a dent in my personal record of never having been passed on the trail since probably 1999 (then, a mountain bike also - and a good story in itself - Warbird knows it -- "get it on!"), I wasn't really totally bummed about it. It happened -- and while I did have the desire to answer, I simply didn't have time, and that's okay. Even though answering has changed a bit over the years, I still had that DESIRE to in my gut, which means I'm not ready to simply be complacent and allow the passings to begin. I just know I have work to do, and need to get my game back up. Why is any of this important? You have to be a cyclist to understand --- there are two types of riders in the world: those that pass, and those that are passed. EVERYONE is either, depending on the day. Sometimes you're the bat...sometimes you're the ball.

Wednesday, the Halloween Commute, complete with blue flashy pumpkin that makes an appearance on the rear of the bike once a year.

A colder, crisper morning than Monday - but full of the promise of warmth and a nice tailwind on the way home as a cold front whips the wind around to the north. It's too bad the Warbird's plan didn't quite work out, but hey - life is like that sometimes, and the stars just weren't right. Still, it was a good time, as I made a conscious effort to keep things in the small ring for the trip home. Temps were higher, the sun lower, and the leaves danced across the trail and the still-green grass waved as I passed. My body was sore from weights class, but in a good way - the kind of way that makes you want to stretch a lot, which feels great. Yeah, I'm back in the gym at work, too, and planning on sticking to my goals for once. They're going to be more personal goals, but basically they involve getting fitter and slimmer. But, MAN, that class whipped my backside GOOD, and the ride home from work was for recovery only. The tailwind was fun, but I kept things concervative and just enjoyed the hills and flats, and paced carefully up the monster hill on the bike trail again - this time no-one to pass, or pass me. The only other cyclist I saw was at the top of that hill, taking a short rest, staring off into the golf course scenery - a Boulevard Racer, or KCBC - I couldn't tell, but the colors are similar I guess between the teams lately -- anyways, a local racer, slim, fit, strong looking in his full kit and on his race bike, he was clearly doing hill repeats on the monster - confirming my notions that it's one of the steepest climbs around here, as most roads in the area have been graded flat. As I passed towards home, he turned around and descended the hill for another round of pain. It was a good day to be on a bike - chilly, but sunny.

I don't really have a good wrap for this entry, only to say that it's realy god to be back in the saddle with some regularity again. Tomorrow, Friday, I'll ride again to round out my every-other-day pattern plan for this week, and hopefully will get myself together to check out a Saturday ride for the first time since the Spring. It's the perfect season to get back into the swing of things -- the holidays are coming, and I have to be careful not to stack myself against more caloric adversity. I can feel the focus coming back, the drive, the desire to improve. The shackles of this summer's struggles are coming off. About five months until the first 200K of 2008, and only two months until I decide whether or not to make an R-12 RUSA medal attempt, which is a brevet or permanent every month for 12 rolling months. I re-read my 600K account from June, and I liked what I saw; it still seemed like it came from another rider, but I know it was me, and I want that feeling back -- these last two days on the bike, I can feel it coming back around again. It feels good! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

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