Friday, February 02, 2007

15 pounds extra

Date: Feb. 2
Mileage: 58.5
February mileage: 70.6
Temperature upon departure: 28

I had stopped yet again to readjust the dry bag that was hanging off my back rack when I spotted another cyclist riding toward me on the icy bike path. This is the second cyclist I've seen on the road in at least eight weeks - the first was a bike commuter who nodded at me as we met blinky light to blinky light in the hazy evening. But this one looked like he might actually stop to talk to me. I was very excited for our prospective conversation. Since I was readjusting my bag, I was sure he'd ask me about it.

"So what are you carrying in there?"

"15 pounds of dumbbell weights."

"Um ... what?"

"Four weights, three pounds each, and a two-pound bar, and I wrapped them in a towel, and stuffed them in this bag with a bunch of clothes."

I had our entire exchange scripted by the time he rode up next to me, nodded with a hint of a smile, and pedaled away. No "You need any help?" No "Nice day, isn't it?" Maybe he was just in a hurry. Maybe I exude competence. Or maybe I just exude crazy.

I did, after all, spend the afternoon pedaling north with a bunch of iron weights in a dry bag. It was a great idea I had to practice riding with the minimum weight requirement of the Susitna 100 without actually packing all of my stuff - and getting it dirty, and wet, and possibly ripped. Plus, by loading up 15 pounds all on the back rack, I could test how strong it really was.

The largest difference I noticed riding with extra weight was how much more difficult it was to hoist my bike over snow berms or push it through extra icy stretches. I also seemed to go noticeably faster when the conditions were favorable - tailwinds and downhills. Uphills and headwinds, however, felt like more of a grind. I don't know if it was psychological or if the weight really made that much of a difference. My overall average speed was a few notches faster than it was during my 100-mile ride last week. Since I tend to ride fairly consistently regardless of how long I'm out, I take this as an encouraging sign.

Beyond the weight, today's ride was smooth and comfortable. These longer rides make me feel strong. To go out and ride 60 miles, then feel no different afterward than I would on a typical weekday ... it's definitely a positive feeling. Competency and control. I know the state's not permanent, but it's satisfying while it lasts.

Now all I can do is watch the weather report and wait patiently. If trail conditions are magically similar to today's ... glare ice coated in frost ... I figure it would take me about 11-12 hours to finish the race. And if they're like they were yesterday, it will take me closer to 40. I'm gunning for something in between.