Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tough to quit

Date: Feb. 24
Mileage: 29.9
February mileage: 401.7
Temperature upon departure: 18

Today Geoff and I went to lunch at our favorite semi-organic greasy spoon, Cosmic Kitchen (there are two types of restaurants in this town - the swank places that welcome Xtratuf-wearing locals with open arms, and the carrot-juice-brewing hippie places that also serve beef and cheese burritos the size of your head.) After months of hugging the horizon, the noontime sun ventured toward midsky, bathing the whole restaurant in white light. We took our plates into the glare of a south-facing window just as a family settled in next to us - only on the other side of the window, where snow-covered picnic tables lined the balcony. There they sat for nearly an hour - sipping coffee, munching on corn chips, soaking in sunlight - with steam pouring from their burgers and breath in the subfreezing air.

That's when I decided it would be a great day for a bike ride. I left work a little later than hoped, but I still thought it would be good to go out for an hour, absorb some vitamin D through that narrow slit in my balaclava, and come back with time to spare before Foreign Film night.

But one aspect of the Susitna 100 that I didn't anticipate letting go was this whole training thing. Giving up the multihour, four-times-a-week bicycle rides I've become so accustomed to almost feels like losing a job. I fear that suddenly I'll find myself sprawled on my coach, pouring through classifieds for used bicycle parts and struck with that hollow feeling that my life is slowly sinking into uselessness ... meaningless ... joblessness. Sure - I could get some other hobby. Find a new passion. Maybe even get a life. Sure - and while I'm at it, I could apply for new jobs. It's not as easy as it sounds.

That said, my one hour ride turned to three, as simple as cranking those pedals and wishing I had decided to bring my Camelbak with me, especially as I was laboring up the 1200-foot-vertical, 3-mile climb the locals call East Hill (I don't typically bring water on short rides, because bottles freeze in about a millisecond and the Camelbak seems like overkill.) The whole time, I had this freeing feeling that I was riding for fun again - spinning down the snow-dusted bike path on the Spit, bouncing through the surprisingly technical ice boulderfield created by snowplows along East End Road. I was riding like I wasn't trying to put in miles, so the miles just came.

Before I knew it, the sun was slipping below the horizon. It was so far west that I could only see streaks of orange light reaching above treeline - a long way from its position in the south that I've become so accustomed to. And I knew what it felt like to be that family eating their lunch on the balcony on a 20-degree day in February. Despite all appearances, it felt good ... a rare and much appreciated afternoon in the sun.