Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting my road legs back

I basically just shot this silly photo to illustrate that, despite my retro-grouch pretensions, I am capable of wearing full-body spandex and clipless pedal shoes.

Date: July 15 and 16
Mileage: 42.2 and 53.8
July mileage: 391.3

I spent the last two months exclusively riding my mountain bike. I did so because: a. I was spending a lot of time on trails; b. I was training for a mountain bike race; c. My road bike was in poor, poor condition. Now that a. The trails are soaking up water again; b. I feel like I am killing time while I wait for a good weather window so I can go nuts on the hiking season; c. My road bike has been upgraded to poor condition ... it seemed like a good time to tempo-ride on pavement.

The 30-mile ride along Douglas Highway and back has taken me as long as three and a half hours to pound out. Those rides were among my most exhausting - rolling the balloon tires through six inches of unplowed snow into some ungodly cold windchill. In the summer, on a good day, those same miles are nearly effortless. The way to inject effort into them is to crank up the speed - something I'm not good at focusing on for any length of time because I too easily slip into daydreams and find myself riding on autopilot (my autopilot is slow.) But when I noticed a light wind and strong-feeling legs Tuesday morning, I thought I should try to crank out a faster-than-normal pace. Those tiny (28 mm) tires coasted over the tarmac, and after I crested above Douglas City, I was able to keep the speed over 20 mph for most of the eight miles to the Eaglecrest cutoff. After that, I fell off my pace a few times while daydreaming, and dropped a bit more climbing the last hill and then turning to face the wind ... but when I rolled home the odometer still clocked an 18.2 mph average. I was back in an hour and a half. Certainly not blazing fast by roadie standards, but not a bad start. I began to have crazy ambitions about time-trialing the route and establishing a standard that I can laugh at longingly as I launch back into my three-and-a-half-hour slogs this winter. But before I get any ideas about road time-trialing, I should probably think about getting a bike with some drop handlebars ... one that doesn't have a rear rack ... or fenders ... or fork-mounted bottle cages ... and weighs less than 28 pounds.

But I still felt good about the Douglas ride, so I set out today for more road riding out to the Valley. I made a few stops so my average speed wasn't as high, but I did take a lot of silly pleasure in leapfrogging a single city bus for most of the 12 miles between Auke Bay and downtown. Every time I passed it, I would look up at the windows and try to catch the eye of one of the bored passengers trapped inside. I hoped they see me and think, "Wow, this bus is so slow that even a person on a bike can stay ahead of it. Maybe I should ride my bike to town next time." Yes, I do have a rich daydream world.