Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Tale of Two Rides

I rode a 100Km permanent on December 26th, the day after Christmas, and then another on January First, New Year’s Day. 
waiting for daylight
Morning moolight

They were similar courses, not much climbing and as much as possible, lowland affairs to avoid the hazards one can encounter at higher elevation this time of year.  My times were similar or at least not dramatically different for the two events though the weather was not quite the same.  The December event offered milder temps, mostly above freezing, with periods of rain and occasional headwinds.  The January affair was either below freezing or slightly above, with a little more head wind, but it felt much colder than the December jaunt even without the rain.
OK, so what you are thinking: the guy rode a couple rides where, is the story here?  The story is, I felt great after the December effort, as though it was not that big a deal for me (as it should be).  And perhaps because I felt so good on that ride I pushed myself more than usual, trying to be faster, to ride a little harder, both for a better finish time and because I know that this kind of effort is part of the pathway to getting stronger.  And once I was done, I still felt great, not just reveling in my accomplishment but actually feeling little or no effect from the effort.
On the January ride, less than a week later I felt just the opposite. From the moment I woke up, until the start I just felt like I did not want to do this ride, I wanted to go home, get in bed, pull the covers over my head and be the bear in mid-winter.  Even though I didn’t feel up to the task I went ahead and rode, I know that riding against adversity is part of the training needed to complete longer events;  It’s mental; If you only ride when everything says go, you will often not start, and rarely finish a longer event because in these matters , there is inevitably a low spot, when that “what am I doing?” mentality fills you head like a black cloud.  In fact, I even made an attempt to push myself yesterday (pitiful though it may be), I figured with just 100K I would not likely do my body any damage.
There are a couple factors not mentioned above that I think are major contributors to the difference in these two rides.  First off, I was well rested for the December event.  I had been loafing for the most part for a few days before the ride, I was staying up late, (a bad habit I have) but I was also sleeping in, a luxury not normally afforded to a working man.  But I had a couple days off around Christmas and except for a few home handyman projects and some writing, I was pretty lazy.  I think the difference in temperature was a factor.  The difference between 69 and 76 degrees probably does not make a lot of difference to my performance on a bike, however the difference between  26 and 33 degrees I believe affects me a lot more.  On New Year ’s Day, the temperature was somewhere around 27 or so when we started. Not so cold that it immediately sears you through your multiple layers of wool but cold enough that after not much riding your feet are really cold.  There was also a little more tension on the January ride as well.  Even though we postponed our start from 8:00am to 9:00am it was still icy on the roads and the stuff on the shoulders that looked like snow as actually solidly frozen ice which would take you down if you were not vigilant until about 1:00 pm (in the sunny stretches!) by which time it had softened up sufficiently to be mush. I’m not sure but I think that slight, overriding tension in the hands, arms, shoulders, (your butt muscles!), anticipating that slip is sort of like a dripping faucet.  You don’t really notice it until the bill comes due, and at the end of that ride I felt like my tension account was severely over drawn.  I am sure that I have ridden 1ookm events that have taken more out of me, but this little jaunt was a quick trip in the way back machine.  I was spent when we rolled in to Starbux at the end.
I am sure that the most significant factor was rolling out with a sleep deficit.  Mrs. Dr. C flew home from her Christmas family visit on December 31st, with a planned arrival at 8:30pm.  This may come as a surprise, but there are no cross country flights in and out of Oakville AP so it is a couple hours’ drive up to Seatac.  Of course the flight was delayed so it was after 10:00 pm before we were heading back down the freeway.  The roads were pretty good even though it was dark, foggy and freezing.  I did a little slip and slide on the Maytown overpass which caused me to back it off considerably.  Long story short, it was after midnight before I was in bed and with a planned 8:00am start my feet were hitting the cold floor at 6:00am. 
As I was heading up Hiway 12 my faithful NPR station announced a highway jam up on I-5 at about the Maytown exit; tow trucks, cop cars etc, which allowed me to divert onto the well know local back roads.  Maytown, ... interesting.  I arrived early in Oly and as mentioned earlier I just did not feel like getting out of the truck.  It was still night dark and icy out so I just laid the seat back in the truck and closed my eyes.  Isn’t it funny how comfortable the cramped seat of a smelly pickup truck can seem under the right (or wrong) circumstances.  Bone tired even before the start, I knew I was in for a thrashing, and I had not even unload the bike.  I snoozed for 15 minutes, until it was too cold to continue lying still in the truck. 
I unloaded the bike, fiddled with my gear enough to let the chill soak in and then gingerly pedaled the couple of blocks up to Starbux.  I was the first rider there; I got my coffee and settled in as the morning unfolded before me.  Eventually the other three riders showed up and in discussing the conditions I made a decision that we would postpone the start from 8:00 to 9:00.  This would not assure that would avoid all the ice, but it would certainly be one less hour exposed to icy and frosty roads. We headed out in dense fog which persisted all day; the weak lemonade sun lacked the strength to burn through the dense cold blanket that enveloped us. 
I rode fairly strong for most of the first half of the ride, but it was not easy to do so, I was pushing myself. There is a stretch on Rainier road through Ft Lewis that is always a pleasure, it’s forested with big second growth timber and it was particularly lovely as a few errant beams of winter sun filtered through the trees and fog. 

Rainier Road
Before arriving at the first control I figured out that both my water bottles were frozen.  When we go to the convenience store in Rainier I bought water.
There must have been 100 steelheaders along the last half mile stretch of the Skookumchuck before the fish hatchery.  Perfect steelheading weather, rains abating, cold weather reducing the run off, the rivers are dropping and the water is clearing up.  I used to be one of those guys, a jerk on one end of the line waiting for another jerk on the other end of the line.  It made me think about the ‘polar bears’ out at Boston Harbor.  Riding a bike is not the stupidest thing you can do in freezing cold weather.  From Tenino to Case road was a challenge.  I started to lose my steam, we were into a head wind and this stretch is a real redneck highway (old 99) so lots of people driving too fast and passing too close on frosty roads.  Somewhere along here it occurred to me that I was starting to bonk, so I fished an ancient Clif Bar out of my front bag and struggled to get it open.  I felt like a groggy bear trying to get in to a well-sealed garbage can.  Eventually I got the damned thing open and started gnawing.  Despite the high concentration of fat and sugar, a frozen Clif Bar is surprisingly hard masticate.  I eventually choked it down, fortunately my water bottles which were beginning to thaw so with a little massaging I was able to get enough water that I didn’t choke to death.
Going up Case road I continued the slow death march. I watched my average speed drop from a high of 19.77kph (Woo Hoo!) down to just over 19kph.  At that point I switched to total miles, less concern for how fast I was(n’t) going and more for how much farther I had to go. On this stretch we encountered a stiff head wind.  I am sure it was a very light wind, but when there is no gas in the tank little adversities grow like shadows in the late afternoon. Put your head down and keep turning the pedals.  We eventually did wind up back at Starbucks, unlike the traditional SIR event this one ends with a downhill roll as opposed to a climb.  Thank you Lord for small blessings.   I was beat, the difference between this and how I felt when I finished the December ride is hard to describe.
I’m planning another ride on Saturday, my January 200K, out to Cosmopolis.  It appears that we will have a sizeable possè for this one, and as I told the others yesterday though I can’t keep up with most of them, more riders on the course always means better odds of all of us finishing. That was proven on our December 200K when I was able to lend a spare tire to another rider who might not otherwise have finished.  You can bet I will be putting in some extra sack time between now and Saturday morning. 

1 comment:

  1. Gotta' love those rides when someone else was clearly doing the pedaling.

    Also, "[o]ne thing I've come to understand is: a great ride does not necessarily make for a great blog post," but a struggle often does. Not always, but often.

    Thanks for the read.

    ...Martin S