Monday, December 10, 2007

Whipping up a slushy

Date: Dec. 9
Mileage: 18.1
Hours: 2:15
December mileage: 227.4
Temperature upon departure: 36
Rainfall: .26"

Some days, my rides are less about physical fitness and more about psychological endurance. Unfortunately, I never know which one it's going to be until after I leave the house.

Within two blocks, I had no doubt about what kind of ride I was in for today. The roads were an absolute nightmare. Still mostly unplowed, a continuous cold rain had saturated yesterday's snow, which traffic stirred up into a substance that is best described as a dirt-flavored slurpee. I don't believe there's a bicycle invented that can efficiently navigate this stuff, or a car for that matter, and I found myself walking (walking!) my Surly Pugsley on the road (on the road!) to reach the trails.

The trail itself was devoid of traffic of any kind - not a footprint, not a pawprint, not even a shuffling porcupine track. Not a single soul had attempted to slog up the trail, and that wasn't big surprise. Imagine taking six inches of already wet snowfall, letting it melt a little over night, then injecting it with a quarter inch of rain, and you have a thick blanket of sludge that is only slightly more pliable than peanut butter, but a lot more slippery.

I walked for a while up the trail, holding out eternal optimism that any moment it would become rideable, and muttering my mantra that trudging with a bike is an important skill to forge. But even without me on top of it, the bike occasionally slipped out and fell over, or I slipped out and we fell over, and the whole thing was so stupid, and I was glad nobody was there to tell me so.

But it true Pugsley form, running the tires at about 5 psi no less, we were actually able to ride most of the way down. I slid around often. But not enough to crash. It was more like semi-controlled falling ... fishtailing fun ... like when I first took up snowboarding and learned that true control was an illusion, but true disaster was easily avoidable.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I don't just give up on rides like today's, rather than pushing through two planned hours on the cusp of either laughing out loud or screaming obscenities. I think it's because I believe that any hardship, real or perceived, is good for my mental fitness. I also fear that once I let myself give up on one thing, no matter how minor, I'll start on that steep and slippery slope that ends in me throwing in the towel on the whole Iditarod dream.