Thursday, December 11, 2008

Solid investment

Date: Dec. 11
Mileage: 64.4
December mileage: 264.2

I rode hard for five and a half hours today. Started in the late morning, finished after dark, got rained on, slushed on, fought a cold wind and finally some real snow. All in all, a good training ride. The plan is to ride at least seven hours tomorrow, also at a motivated pace.

I'm excited for tomorrow's longish ride, but wow, I feel pretty wiped out for having only put in five hours and change and a measly 64 miles. Every winter when I really start investing in these long rides, I always come away disappointed in my mileage. I can't help it. I worked really hard and rode mostly pavement and, huh, can't even average 12 mph? It was easy to maintain 17 with the mountain bike in the summer. But it's amazing - slap some aggressive studded tires on a bike, ride in the road shoulders where the surface is mostly covered in soft snow and slush, and fight the wind and slush shower just to keep your body temperature near normal, and suddenly cycling becomes a lot more work for less payoff. So I have to remind myself to stop looking at the raw numbers and focus on how I feel immediately afterward: Pleasantly tired, a little hazy, and completely content. Perfect.

And if I spend enough time out on a bike, even on a marginal day like today, I always see some intriguing things:

I was pushing my bike into the Dredge Lake area in a fruitless search for hard-packed trails when I came across two state troopers who had been lurking in the woods. One was wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying a huge rifle. The other didn't have a weapon in his hand, and eyed me suspiciously. My immediate thought was that they were hunting a rogue bear. But then I remembered that state troopers don't hunt bears. Wildlife officers hunt bears. State troopers hunt people. I lingered several seconds, worried or maybe hopeful that some "Cops"-type perp was going to burst out of the forest shadows, clad only in socks and briefs, and lunge at me before the troopers tackled him. But that never happened. The troopers just slunk back into the woods and I was left wondering what they could have possibly been looking for. I even checked the police report and didn't see anything related, so I may never know.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I started to notice the sky clearing as I moved north, which always perks me up.

One of my favorite benefits of winter (and, oh yes, winter has many benefits) is the extended sunsets. For more than 10 miles I watched the sky cast varying shades of pink and orange light on the snow-covered trees, the sea water and the glistening, icy road. Gorgeous.

I raced the last few miles before twilight in an effort to reach an opening in the trees in time to witness the moment the blazing orange light of the sun finally slipped below the horizon. I just missed it, and I only made it as far as the obstructed view. Still, the sight of blue sky made me happy. I think it bodes well for tomorrow's seven hours.