January 30, 2011

Does fun equal fast?

Okay, I suppose Sunday and Monday won't be too bad - but for the 29th day of January, 2011, it nearly touched 50 degrees.  Felt awesome outside, so after a few chores around the house I ventured outside and onto the bike for the first time in over a month.  
I've ridden, sure - but it's all been indoors, slowly rebuilding and letting the left leg heal.  After getting smacked with a fairly heavy-duty upper-respiratory infection that has taken three rounds of antibiotics to destroy, I was told by the doc to take this last week as FULL rest (as opposed to active rest) and lay off exercise entirely.  Ugh.  That sucked.

However, it's those down-times that promote healing in many senses and allow muscles to rest.  OK, sure - I'll keep telling myself that.

Today, though, I could resist no longer.  A full week of at-or-above normal temps missed, and a fairly slow-moving winter storm coming next week - it was looking like "now or never".  I took the bike out of the trainer, dressed up, and took to the road.  

Thank goodness for fenders.  A lot of cyclists ask me:  why run fenders?  "you're still going to get wet if it rains," they say - and they're right.  However, this time of year is when I can confidently point to the salty snow-melt constantly running across almost every lane-mile of pavement in the metro and say "that's why."  Summer rain without fenders doesn't really bother me unless I'm on my way to work where fenders do keep me CLEANER if it's wet out, but this time of year when the rooster tail one gets without fenders is laden with salty chemicals and is only a few degrees above freezing... well, if I don't have fenders, I don't ride.  Besides my comfort, let's not forget the chain, cogs, cables, bottom bracket cups... all the things that really don't need to be sprayed with salt-wash.  Fenders.  Fenders.  Fenders.
Whenever I get the nutty idea to "save weight" and remove them, I ride on a day like today and remember why I put them on in the first place.

The wind was light, and the sun was out -- this was an awesome day to be on a bike.  I was buzzed a few times by flocks of geese as they tried to figure which fields were fields, and which fields were lakes.  I conquered the mile-long steady climb from 187th to 199th on Ridgeview without any muscular "noise".
I played "chase the train" on Woodland Road near Spring Hill, KS.  I lost.  
Even as I tried to "take it easy" on this short 25-miler, I found myself with a pretty decent average speed - a number I haven't produced in months, no matter how hard I'd have been pushing.  Sure, it's only 16.2 MPH average for 25 miles, mostly flat to rolling along Ridgeview to 199th, to Webster, to 223rd, to Woodland and back home - but, that's honestly the fastest I've been since... yikes:  September?  August?

I had a blast today, breathing deep, taking turns spinning up some climbs and standing and grinding out others.  The sunshine felt awesome, and the sky was really pretty - birds were even signing.  Heck, even traffic was friendly.  I think that feeling of freedom - freedom from the trainer and that little tiny room off the garage - was propelling me forward, just a little faster than on previous rides.  The training from the last month or so has indeed helped, and - while I won't dwell on this subject as promised - the leg was feeling stronger and engaged... though it did "tweak" a little, just for a few minutes, after I got home.  It went away immediately, however, so that's a good sign.  What felt really good was being able to breath cool air deeply without hocking up a lung... so, the chest is on the mend, too.  It's been a nasty month for such things, and I have heard many echoing that lately.  

I know, I know... average speed:  it's not supposed to matter, but to me it does.  It feels good to be able to go a little faster than the "normal".  Even though I've shelved my massive goals for a while until "whatever" happens I still find it interesting that my average speeds, annually, since 2004 have dropped.  I log miles primarily for component tracking, but I do track average speed - the website I use at BikeJournal.com does the rest of the calculations and averages, so I find myself looking at them from time to time.  My average speed in 2004 - my fastest year - was 16.78 MPH.  Last year it was 14.68 MPH.  This is because of many things:  I ride solo, don't tend to push myself, there is seldom someone to chase when I ride solo on non-commute rides, and commuting generally equates to low averages because of traffic, the bike trail, etc.  If my distance riding happens to be a permanent, it's usually slower - because I may usually be alone.  If it's a brevet, I tend to be a little faster.  In 2004, I was living closer to work - but somehow didn't commute that much.  I did a lot more recreational club rides on the weekends that year, and - for example - I haven't been to a club ride in a LONG, LONG time.  

So, last year and in '09: more commutes & permanents = slower speeds, yes.  But, more commutes - lets be honest:  sometimes commuting isn't the "funnest" thing in the world.  I can only take that same stretch of bike trail for so long, and options are as limited as the time I usually have to get home.  I think if I only wanted to commute and that was my only goal, it'd all be good.  I'd focus on consecutive days or something, and be content -- but I'm a dualist, a conundrum.  I'm still coming to grips with the notion that maybe I can't really have my commute and ultra-race, too.  A big part of me still has that competitive bug eating me from the inside out, but to really accomplish both, I have to ride smarter in '11.  Someday, I won't care nearly as much - but, right now, I still want to try and get a wee-bit faster, commute, and do some ultra-events.  I can tell you this:  the word "fun" does show up a lot more often in that 2004 block of ride entries.  There is something to that.  But I know enough to know that I don't have more fun because I'm faster... I think I'm faster because I'm having more fun.  Attitude.

Still looking forward to March and a 200km brevet attempt.  Hopefully, only a few more weeks of nasty weather, only a few more weeks of questions marks in the leg department, the roads will begin to clear, the sun will get a little higher, the gloves will come off - in a couple ways - and spring will arrive at long last.  If I play things smart, this year will be lower in mileage, higher on fun, and maybe a bit faster.  Here's hopin'.

Thanks for reading, all - and thanks for the waves out there today, my fellow cyclists.  Good to see ya! 

No comments: