Friday, May 18, 2007

Making 10 miles count

Today I got to ride 10 miles. I like my new incremental cycling plan, because it keeps me happy without feeling too reckless. I self-impose mileage maximums, and as long as I force myself to stick to them, I can convince myself that no harm has been done (whether or not actual harm has been done is, I think, secondary to perceived success.)

This morning, however, I looked outside and knew that keeping to my maximum was going to prove a huge challenge ... not a cloud in the sky, sunlight pouring down and a thermometer that had climbed above 60 degrees. These warm, sunny days are so rare that I can't say I've seen a second one in all of the nine months I've lived in Juneau. It was not the kind of day to spend spinning on a road bike for a half hour. So I thought ... how can I turn eight miles into an excursion that would fill up an entire morning? I came up with a four-part plan:

1. Pick a technical trail that I know will keep me slow and honest, like Dredge Lake.

2. Stick to the tightly-wound singletrack. While squeezing between tree trunks, I almost crushed my fingers more than once. I am so out of practice.

3. Take a lot of extended sightseeing breaks. I rode this trail system often in December and January, but everything looks completely different now. It was like discovering a new place.

4. Actively seek out anything that will make me slower. The trails traverse a swampy glacial moraine, so I hit a lot of stretches that looked like this.

I love this kind of stuff. My bike's drivetrain does not love me.

I had planned to ride only eight miles, and technically I did ride only eight miles on my bad knee. I bailed off the trail at mile 8.2 and took the road back to the trailhead. For good measure, I unipedalled the entire last two miles. I pushed hard with one leg and kept my speed above 13 mph. It was the best lung workout I've had in months.

I bought a new camera yesterday, so more than anything, the ride was an excuse to try out my new toy. I went to Costco and drooled for a while over the 10 megapixel Canons with 10X zoom and detachable lenses. I wanted to get something nice that would take great pictures. In the end, I bought the bombproof compact model. It's an Olympus Stylus 725 SW, waterproof to 15 feet under and shockproof up to a 5-foot freefall. Today, after spontaneously whipping it out of my pocket while swiveling my handlebars through knee-deep swamp water, I knew I had made the right decision.

Depending on how this ride goes over, I think I will bicycle 12-15 miles on Sunday. It's arguable that eight miles of singletrack and two miles of unipedalling does not exactly equal a chill 10-mile ride, and I was not exhibiting as much self-control as I'd like to think ... but I'll leave that verdict up to the jury of perceived success.

Now ... off to enjoy a picnic, a short walk and the rest of this beautiful day.