Friday, May 02, 2008

Six hours of May Day

Date: May 1
Mileage: 94.3
May mileage: 94.3
Temperature: 43

Today was an amazing day. The first time I've felt strong on a bike in more than a month.

I've been fighting off a slump since late March. I haven't blathered about it too much on my bike blog, because, frankly, it had me a little bit worried. I wasn't injured or sick. I had just lost all of my edge. Everything that made me feel good and strong at the end of a day rather than trashed had faded. I was worried the edge was gone for good. It all started the day I rode an unintentional but effortless century on March 20. I felt so great that I set out the next day with Geoff and rode a 50-miler on the Pugsley. That was the day I blew up. Limped home from that ride, confused about why I felt so terrible. I didn't feel even close to 100 percent a week later, and about week after that I took a forced break from the bike, several days at least. But each day away, I just felt tired and irritated. When I started biking again, I was as bad as ever. I kept up my mileage because of habit, hope, and because it was a way to spend time with Geoff when he was amping up his own bike training. Luckily I wasn't training for anything because most of those rides I was just striving to survive them, rarely pushing very hard, although I was giving all I had to give.

Why the big slump? I never knew for sure. It definitely wasn't that century, although that may have been the proverbial straw. Geoff thinks it was a belated reaction to the Ultrasport and all of the preparation that led up to it, of which I never gave myself much recovery time, mentally or physically. It seemed unlikely to me that I was experiencing a physical blowup that long after the fact. I thought it was entirely mental. But that didn't explain why I was so grumpy when I took my self-imposed bike break, or why, even on the days I was excited about a ride and determined to push a certain limit, I couldn't coax my body to go anywhere near it.

In the past two weeks I had become more accustomed to the somewhat weakened version of myself. I got more excited about bike commuting and other bike-related goals that weren't necessarily competitive. But I did want to do this 24-hour race at the end of June. I wanted to do it as well as I could. So I planned this eight-week loose training regimen that was to begin Monday. I wheedled my way out of the first two days, and today was to be my first weekly long ride (I like to start at six hours, work my way incrementally to 10 or 11, and then pull back.)

The trails are still slush-covered. It was going to have to be a road ride. But I don't currently have a working road bike (well, I guess I have a three-speed. But none of them are speeds I like.) Anyway, I took the Karate Monkey. I figured it would be slow, but six hours is six hours. I headed north with a light east wind at my side. I noticed that, like yesterday morning, I felt pretty strong out of the gate. I didn't think it would last long. The day wasn't particularly enthralling - mostly overcast and drab. But, surprisingly, it was one of those days in which I felt better and better as I went. I didn't stop much so I didn't take many pictures. I just rode at my comfortable pace, and hit the end of the road before the three-hour mark had passed, took my short snack break (had to hurry because the recently thawed fall mosquitoes were out in full force), and turned around.

It would have totally come in under six hours - I probably could have even done a spur to make it a century - except for the wind turned south and kicked up a harsh 20 mph headwind for the last 10 miles home. I think I ended at about 6:05. About a 15.5 mph overall average, including two short breaks. I know it's not impressive for pavement, but for me, riding the big bike and its fat knobby tires, after a monthlong slump ... I'll take it.

Maybe I'm back? I'm keeping my fingers crossed.