Sunday, April 08, 2007

One heavy February

Date: April 7
Mileage: 18.1
April Mileage: 25.3
Temperature upon departure: 41

I'm thinking I won't really ride today. I have residual regret from a relatively unsuccessful ride two days prior; my road bike is out of tune and rickety from a winter of neglect. I had become convinced lowering my seat would ease stress and pain, but my seatpost clamp is rusted shut. I wrench and wrench until the bolt is stripped. Now I'm locked in place. I can go as I am or give up as I should. But I already dressed up - layers of leggings, rain pants, fleece, neoprene socks, mittens and PVC shell, because bodily warmth is a hard thing to extract from the little ring. One mile won't hurt. Maybe five.

Roadie and I cut a tenuous line through a sold inch of road grit and gravel. I've only ridden a handful of times in two months, and somewhere in there I lost my desensitization to traffic. The cars come loud and close; I wobble and shake even on the shoulder. I think about how training wheels might help; my weak and reluctant legs don't even seem to want to balance the bike upright. And there's that odd feeling. That disconnected feeling. That precursor to burning and stiffness that makes me want to toss any bicycle within view - stationary or otherwise - directly into the sea. My odometer registers 1.7 miles, and I'm fearful it came too soon.

But I resolve to strike my knee from my thoughts, because there’s a difference between pain and fear, and I don’t want to be directed by fear. Not thinking about my knee is easy, though, because my whole body feels so strange ... distant. My quads ache and my hands and feet tingle against the constant pressure. I shake my wet mittens until drops of water fling out, but digit circulation is gone for good. Motions that used to feel natural are now foreign and difficult; and I’m discouraged by the realization that my out-of-shape regression is complete.

I squint against the rain and wonder how this once-familiar route has changed in two months. Winter still lingers in the blackened snow along the shoulder, and fall remains on strands of rotten moss that drip from spruce branches. Summer drifts in through strings of sunlight beyond the clouds, and it makes me think that maybe nothing has changed since February, or November, or August even. Juneau moves so gradually through its seasons that they’re nearly indistinguishable; but there's something encouraging in notion that I haven’t been left behind.

As I feel less out of place, comfort creeps in. I spin these circles not against my better judgement, but toward it. As my muscles relax, the chill of 41 degrees and raining begins to sink in. There is no refuge from the cold at 12 mph, so I amp it up. It feels better to pedal hard, as though I could push bad blood out of my system. There's ease in movement that I didn't remember, comfort in speed that I didn't expect. So the miles spin by more quickly, less fearfully, as they did back in February, and November, and August. There is always time for regret and second guessing; but there's timelessness in the notion of letting go and moving forward.

I reach the boat ramp at mile 9 and look across the water for the first time in two months, shrouded in clouds as it always is, landscape unchanged behind a translucent sheet of gray. There is travel I take for granted and there is travel that I cherish. And this, on a wet April day along my routine training route, may be one of my favorite rides yet.