Monday, May 12, 2008

Balance

Date: May 10 and 11
Mileage: 25.1 and 53.3
May mileage: 409
Temperature: 48 and 45

I've come to the conclusion that using a mountain bike for every ride is good for strength training. Whenever I'm riding on pavement, I always have this perception of how fast I should be going, not really considering the fact I need to push the mountain bike harder to get there. If I drop below 15 mph, I amp up the output. Plus, the mountain bike has coaxed me to seek out gravel and spur trails, no matter how short or rough, wherever I can find them. After two weeks of this, I've noticed a difference. I feel acute muscle soreness at the end of the day. And today, when I finally got around to shaving my legs (for being a girl and a cyclist, I don't do this nearly as often as I should) ... anyway, I noticed definite new muscle definition, especially in the lower quad region. Good things.

Tougher for me has been balancing my idea of a good morning ride with my bicycle commute. On Sundays I always have a little more time to spare, so I like to put in a longer midweek ride. Today I did a hard hill climb with a burn back into the wind, about three hours of riding that used up just about everything I had. I like it when I really push my limits like that, but the immediate hour following is always tough. I stumble down the stairs with legs that feel like a lightly charred piece of toast, about to crumble underneath me. I try to make lunch with hands that are still numb and shaking. I step into the shower and let all the effort soak in, blissfully tired and warm, and then I remember ... "Oh crap, I still have to ride my bike to work today."

I really, really didn't want to walk back upstairs and get back on my bike. But it's Bike to Work Week, and I couldn't let myself wuss out of a six-mile commute during Bike to Work Week. So I soft-pedalled toward the office until I crossed the bridge. That's when I was passed by a road cyclist.

What is it about being passed by another cyclist that so involuntarily ignites the primitive chase reflex within us all? I was like a border collie watching a sheep break away from the herd. I wanted - nay, I needed - to reel him in. Never mind that I was wearing jeans, riding a platform-pedal mountain bike and hoisting an overstuffed backpack that contained, among many other things, a frozen bag of ravioli and a jar of spaghetti sauce. All the better to crush the Lycra dude.

Anyway, the race was on, with my toasted quads and only partially recovered energy level, mashing and sweating for no reason whatsoever. When I finally did catch the guy, I just hung near his wheel and drafted off him until we reached my intersection. I don't even think he noticed.

And once I got to work, I had to go through the whole shaky hands and sweaty clothes routine, again. Luckily, I have a pretty good stash of extra clothing built up there now. But still, I'm tired, and not yet deep enough into my new routine to know how to keep the commute from becoming a few miles too many.