Saturday, November 17, 2007

Six hours of wind

Date: Nov. 16
Mileage: 77.8
Hours: 6:00
November mileage: 407.5
Temperature upon departure: 40
Rainfall: 0.56"

The morning weather forecast can say a lot of things I don't like to hear, but just about the worst is "Wind Advisory." Especially when such advisories are followed by specifics: "East winds at 35 mph, gusting 45-55 mph." Ga!

Because of work scheduling conflicts that revolve around other people's Thanksgiving plans, Friday was my only day off this week. So it was the only day I had to squeeze in a weekly "long" ride, which I've been trying to bump up by an hour since the beginning of the month. First week was four; then there were five. Today called for six. And a wind advisory. An east wind, which is a cross-wind both ways (the single long road here in Juneau runs north-south.) Oh, and there was a 100 percent chance of rain. And temps in the high 30s. Ga!

So I left in the morning with a somewhat shaky resolve, convinced I was going to be miserable and determined to hate this ride. It's just that I need these long hours in the saddle. If they're hard, well, deep down, I know that's good for me. Riding into a 45 mph wind? Yeah, good for me too. You know what else is good for me? Wheat Thins! I don't eat crackers often anymore, and had nearly forgotten how tasty those little beige squares are. Those were one of three really good decisions I made today. Another good decision was to break out the new PVC rain jacket I just bought because my old one finally shredded into two pieces (The new one proved, as most brand new jackets do, to be completely waterproof.) The last good decision was to strap my handlebar mitts (i.e. pogies) to my road bike. They looked completely ridiculous, like huge floppy dog ears hanging over a wisp of a front tire. But they kept my hands dry, which kept my hands warm, which kept me happy. I stuffed my ziplock baggie of Wheat Thins inside the pogies. Any time a big gust of wind hit, or I was pelted in the face with a blast of rain, or something else happened that made me feel the tinges of grumpiness creeping in, I stuffed a few morsels of salty carbohydrate goodness in my mouth. And surprisingly, I began to feel better.


Several times to road curved enough to direct me straight into the wind. Gusts would hit with debilitating force, threatening to push me backwards if I let off the pedals at all. I would clench my teeth and accept my fate without frustration - because the wind wasn't really hindering my goal. My goal was not to "ride 80 miles" or "make it to the end of the road." My goal was to ride for six hours. The wind at times slowed me to a pace only slightly more productive than walking, but the clock was still ticking, and I was still riding, so all was going according to plan.


The wind only grew stronger toward the end of the ride, and I hardened with it. In the last flickers of twilight I felt completely empowered by that stupid wind. I welcomed the gusts and fought them into the darkness; fought them back with bursts of strength that were surprising to discover after six hours in the saddle; fought them back with anger and with glee. The way I feel immediately after a ride like this is tough to describe. I feel a mad rush of energy. I want to write poetry and punch in walls. It's what I imagine the "runner's high" must feel like - pumping endorphins, feeling satisfied and strong. I remember now why I continually seek out these mad conditions. I could obtain just as much fitness benefit - arguably even greater benefit - by riding a stationary bike for six hours in the climate-controlled calmness of my gym. But then I'd never know what it's like to conquer the roughness. And that, for me, makes the whole idea of indoor workouts seem so unfair. Even more so ...



... because no matter how rough it gets out there, it remains beautiful.