Saturday, December 16, 2006

Get in mah belly

Date: Dec. 15 and 16
Total mileage: 35.1
December mileage: 225.1
Temperature upon departure: 26

I always read with great amusement other cyclists' accounts of mid-ride hunger attacks - knocking on a stranger's door to ask for crackers, pocketing Snickers bars at a gas station or fashioning a bicycle pump into a weapon and using it to hold up the nearest McDonalds. These stories have novelty for me because I don't suffer from this problem. If anything, I suffer from the exact opposite. I have mid-exercise food aversion. As long as my heart's pumping, the thought of digestion repulses me. Once, while sitting near the top of Kings Peak in Utah, Geoff actually force-fed me a cheese sandwich after I had spent the entire day refusing to eat breakfast, lunch or snacks. To be fair, we were huddled under a rock during a lightning storm, and I didn't think I was going to survive long enough to require energy for the hike down.

If a bike ride is long enough, I will (usually) force myself to eat. But if I'm planning on being out for two hours or less, I don't even bother bringing anything, knowing the only purpose it will serve is gooing up my pockets. Now that it's the dead of winter, when bottles freeze and camelbaks give me shoulder pain, I often don't even bother to bring water (I know, I know. Feel free to lecture.) But that's how I set out today.

Conditions were a little closer to awful than not. At 11 a.m., we were in the midst of an heavy snowstorm that had dumped about two inches of new snow so far. Where I rode, on the shoulder of a narrow highway, the plows had pushed chunky piles of snow that ranged in depth from 2 inches to 7 inches, changing often and without warning. Riding in loose, uneven snow is fairly unpredictable, and the proximity of traffic forces me to keep a straight line, which means I have to slow down when I'm not sure what's ahead. Add to that the icy blizzard and a fierce gusting-to-40-mph headwind that brought windchills, well, far enough down to create a solid ring of ice around my face mask ... and I have what Geoff calls "perfect conditions for training for the Susitna 100."

Anyhow, it was tough. Covering 24 miles in two hours - because I was riding on a road and expected to go at least that fast - took about all I had to give. Despite the aforementioned facial ring of ice, I was sweating buckets while riding into the wind and even tore open my coat and thin fleece layer, exposing the bare pink skin around my collarbone. I was really that hot. I was in deep focus, earning ever pedal stroke through the deep stretches of snow and occasionally correcting a wild fishtail. I hardly even noticed the miles go by.

When I got home, I couldn't strip fast enough. I tore off clothing, leaving a trail of ice-caked layers on my way through the house. And standing in my bedroom wearing only a pair of socks, longjohns and a sports bra, I first noticed that I was wicked thirsty. So I went to the kitchen and started chugging warm water from the tap. And when that craving was abated, I started to feel something else - something that started deep in my head, a distant cry that fired over my synapses, rushed through my blood stream and emerged screaming from the depths of my stomach. It screamed "ice cream." And without even making a conscious decision to do so, I grabbed a half gallon of huckleberry swirl out of the freezer and began shoveling in large spoonfuls right from the carton. I did not even bother to mine the boring vanilla crap for the swirls of sweet, sweet huckleberry. No. I ate it all. I mean, I didn't eat the whole carton. Really. I promise.

But I did finally have a taste of what it's like to need a particular food so badly that the subconscious muffles out the rational voices and pushes a person toward instinctual gorging. I know it's not rational because after I finished inhaling about 500 empty calories of sugar and saturated fat, I felt intensely guilty. But not enough to skip lunch.