Yesterday, when I found that the snow had not reached this far north and that the weather, while cold, was predicted to be sunny with winds that were not very strong for this time of year, I decided I would ride a century. In the winter months, one never knows what week-ends one will be able to ride because of the fickle weather. As Steinbeck pointed out, "The best laid plans of mice and men," and that includes winter rides. I debated whether to post and seek company or not. Posting a show and go or captaining a winter century has potential risks: people without the proper preparation showing up, people showing up who will hold me up, people showing up who I will hold up. Rides in winter are just harder for some reason, and it seems I will never know how I will feel that day. In winter, I despair of ever again having summer's strength.
I decided to post and got one reply: Mule (Steve Rice). He is a stronger rider than I am, particularly in the winter months, but I also know he knows how fast I can ride and would not commit if he wasn't willing to ride at a pace I can maintain. He is one of the riders I know I don't need to worry about. The pace will probably press me a tad, but that is good for this now overweight body. I think how it is good to have friends with the same interests.
At 8:00, we leave the firehouse. I have no route planned and asked about looking at some of the new brevet routes, but as we head that way we find that there is some snow and ice of the road. We ride on thinking maybe it will fade as we head to the west, but when we get to Liberty Knob, we decide to turn around. Meanwhile, my big chain ring froze. Attempting to emulate Mule, I try to kick it over to the small chain ring without dismounting. My foot gets sucked up and caught. Luckily I am able to unclip and tilt to the other side. Mule grins and asks me if I remember what Skippy tells me, and I say yeah, not to follow Mule I manually move the chain to the small chain ring vowing to keep it there the entire day. In my head I vow I will practice this move with no audience in the future until I master it.
We head back north as I know there is no snow that way having come from the north east yesterday on my return from Cincinnati and having ridden 39 yesterday on my short jaunt. We head toward Brownstown. I am comfortable despite the cold, maybe even a tad overdressed. By now my water bottle is frozen solid and I wonder why I bother bringing water on a winter century. I think maybe this is one of the things that make winter centuries harder, having to go without water except for store stops. On 39, the water has receded leaving the ice above. I know it will glitter in the sun like diamonds if we return this way, but who knows if this will become our plan.
At Brownstown we stop at the gas station for a snack and drink, then decide to head northeast. We pick our route from the map as we go. I have never been to Freetown before, so we head in that direction. Surprisingly, it is a fairly large town with a couple of stores. We don't stop, but I store the information for future use. We then decide to head to Seymour. I have been to Seymour before, but never by bicycle. I am dragging and feel much worse than last week-end despite the fact that there was double or more climbing last week-end. I am glad when we stop. This will be our last stop before home.
The restaurant reminds me of a small town restaurant. The people inside are amazed that we are riding our bicycles in this weather. They are even more amazed when they find we have ridden 70 miles and intend to ride 30 more. One woman comes to the table and asks if we can eat all we want since we ride so much. If only this were true. Mule tells her it is not true. I think that I wish it were true. I also think that this is another thing making this winter century harder: the winter weight gain. The food is good and I feel more able to face the inevitable west wind that I know we must face to get home.
We head south and west in chunks so that we aren't in the west wind for miles and miles. I am glad we did not do my Half and Half Century as it has a such a long haul straight west. I apologize for my pace, but he assures me he doesn't mind. When we finally pull in to the fire station, we are a few miles short. This doesn't bother Mule, but I need to the 100 to get century credit for the ride. I decide to take a break and get something to drink before finishing it out.
Once in the house, it was so tempting to just let it go and quit. After all, I have my January century in. It is warm here. There is unfrozen liquid to drink here. But I know that if I once again intend to do PBP, I need to be able to get back on the bike when I am tired of the bike, to get back on the bike when I hate the bike, to get back on the bike when my eyes feel like they want to roll upwards into my skull, to get back on the bike when sleep seems the sweetest ambrosia on earth. So.....I force myself back out to ride it out, to head once more into the west wind. Yes, there definitely something a tad off about those of us who love distance cycling when the description somewhat resembles torture;-) I comfort myself with the thought of re-entering the womb in my bath tub, sloshing in the hot water, completely at rest.
Back at home, I wash my hair quickly in the shower and then treat myself to a hot bath. When I come back downstairs, I am clean and sweet smelling. It is 4:45 p.m. My husband looks at me. I tell him that you know you are getting old when you have your p.j.'s on before it is even dark outside particularly when it is winter and dark comes early. I am glad I have vegetable soup left from yesterday as the last thing I want to do is cook and/or do a lot of dishes. I am beat, but it is a good tiredness. I am glad I got the chance to ride, and I am glad I had the company of a friend.