Friday, November 02, 2007

Warming up to the gym

Date: Nov. 1
Mileage: 13.2
November mileage: 13.2
Temperature upon departure: 42
Rainfall: .58"

I had some time to burn this morning before I had to pick Geoff up from the airport, so I headed up the Perseverance Trail again. The snow was mostly gone, which was not surprising. Driving rain today, and wind, charging north at a steady 25 mph. More of the same tomorrow.

As I'm working on forming a plan for my winter training schedule, I feel like I have to make concessions for the paradox of this common weather: Juneau is just warm enough to be unbearably cold. When the temperature drops below freezing, and precipitation turns to snow, it's much easier to stay warm. When I was a completely uninformed winter cycling novice, I used to pedal around Homer in single-digit temperatures wearing fleece pajama bottoms and three pairs of cotton socks. Totally happy. Now I have a tough time staying warm when the temperature dips below 40, knowing that as long as it stays above 30, I probably never will have a chance to feel warm.

Having tested every piece of gear I own, I know I can stay comfortable while soaking wet in 35-degree weather for about two hours, maybe three if the wind is light. When it comes time to make longer, slower training rides - and I've already blown off a couple - I'm at a bit of a loss. I can't afford expensive new gear that might actually keep me dry (and I have too many doubts to take the gamble). I've actually been scanning the classified ads for used wetsuits. My jokes about riding a bicycle in a single piece of neoprene have crossed over into serious consideration. Then there's my other idea - carrying a complete change of clothes in a dry bag. Or at least some extra layers that I can bulk up with when the barriers start breaking down.

It's an interesting conundrum that I didn't run into much last winter, partially because I lucked out with the weather, and partially because I didn't do many daylong rides. I have more aspirations for longer rides this winter. After stalling last weekend, I was hoping to start the series tomorrow with a simple, four-hour ride. Right now, I can all too easily picture myself blowing it off again, but hopefully I'll make a good-faith effort. Maybe I'll give that dry-bag thing a try.

Sorry to blog yet another weather rant. It truly is, as my co-worker describes it, homicide-inspiring. Geoff came back from Utah today, and I don't think I'll be able to talk him into staying in Alaska if this weather lasts much longer than another week. On the plus side, I am really pleased with the progress I have been making at the gym. I slog through this stuff twice a week, thrice on good weeks, in the back of my mind skeptical that it's working at all. But today I made a bunch of additions to my lower-body weights, with encouraging results. My leg extensions have been by far the most promising. My physical therapist last spring recommended I do these lifts to improve my VMO quad and other knee-supporting muscles. Throughout the summer, I couldn't even lift my legs from a sitting position, once, with no weights, and not feel pain. In late September, I resolved just to wince through the uncomfortable knee crackling and start with a set of 3-5 reps, at 5 pounds. In six weeks, I'm up to three sets of 12 reps with 20 pounds, and no pain. That probably still sounds pretty lightweight, but this is an area of my body that, at least according to my doctor, had atrophied down to nothing as recently as late April. So as far as I'm concerned, I am now Superwoman. Bring on the rain!