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.


  1. F- it girlfriend. Starting at square one (or a little behind it) is just a chance to kick all that ass again from the beginning. I am trying to approach my rehab/fitness training like listening to a great album left in the closet for years.(Surfer Rosa?) Same pain, same hurdles, brand new eyes.

  2. That's your road bike?

    Girl, we need to talk ;-)

    Seriously, that weather behind you doesn't inspire. Kudos to you for getting out at all. Weirdly, I say this from our temporary home here in NE Ohio, where ordinarily this time of year I'd be the one snickering because I was turning my 500th sleeveless road mile. But no! Hasn't stopped snowing since Thursday. Three feet on the ground and it's still snowing.

    Pining for AK...

  3. glad you got in a good ride. it sounds great!

    just remember to take it easy.... :)

    peace out, yo!

  4. Good to see you out on a bike, Jill!

  5. You look happy take it ez and have fun =)

  6. Thanks guys ... not such a good ride, but I didn't know it at the time. Or six hours later, whenever I actually posted this. I didn't realize until that night, when shots of pain started waking me up again. It will probably be a little while before I try biking again.

    Anyway, I realize that's not actually a "road" bike, RKN, but it's perfect for what passes as "road" for nine months out of the year in Juneau (and I mean the summer/spring/fall months.) Six-inch deep puddles and a continuous layer of wet gravel put even that hybrid touring bike to the test. But it's a tank, and about .3% faster than my mountain bikes, so I'm happy with it.

  7. Jill, I completely understand. I lived in Anchorage for 17 years prior to moving (temporarily) in summer '05. I know all about crappy Alaska "roads." And the wet and slop that goes with them 9 months (or more) of the year. The bike I used as a commuter while living up there was setup up similar to the one in your picture. Didn't intend to be critical (thus the wink ;-)), just didn't want to have to imagine you doing the Fireweed 400 on that bike.

  8. Nice and style. Or, also known as, "Don't fu&* it up more and make it even worse."

    Best of luck with the healing process.

    Just letting you know I got the wee stake parts to the bivy today---thanks for remembering them and sending them along!


  9. What is the make of the bike you are holding up??? I like the fender look and look a regular fork!!

    John from CA

  10. Wow, that looks like it was quite the adventure. I've never taken a trip like that before. Anyways where you were looks very lovely!


Feedback is always appreciated!