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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Brevet Season Approaches: Thank You January.


 "Behind every beautiful thing,
there is some kind of pain." 
Bob Dylan


It is one of those rare, winter days that is a gift from the cycling gods:  blustery, but blessedly warm after a cold start.  Of course that always means that there is gear to take off and carry as the day progresses, but I can't complain about that.  I am thankful that I have friends to ride with, that I have a bicycle to carry me, and that I can get another January century in.  It is not every year that weather allows three January century rides.  And it is nearing brevet season.  These miles and these leg hardening hills will make the brevets much less painful.

Oh, I don't delude myself, I know that the brevets will hurt.  Kentucky courses are always challenging, and due to the rides being early in the year, weather is inevitably an issue.  But brevets, at  least longer brevets, inevitably hurt at some point.  I suppose that is one of the delights of brevet riding, as strange as it may sound, the challenging yourself to tough things out, to work through the pain, mental and physical, to prevail.  If you do, you have the thrill of the victory, knowing that you finished what you started.  If you don't, even if this was the wisest course, and it often is, you deal with the questioning of yourself, your decision, and your ability.  I suppose if it were easy, it would not be so satisfying.

I meet Steve and Bill at McDonald's and we head out on the Lawrenceburg Loop.  As we ride, it is like old times:  I have ridden so many miles with these men.  Things have changed, we have changed, but some things remain the same, and despite the time that has elapsed when we rode regularly together, I have memories with them, ties to them that cannot be denied.  I remind them of the caterpillar who did not make it across the road while we waited for a flat tire to be changed, of Bill's comment to Larry about his camera.  Past moments along this course flood my brain.  And more memories will be made today, like the store clerk grabbing Bill's arm and saying that while he is old, he is sooo strong;-)  As always, Bill takes our teasing with good grace and humor. 

Coming out of the first store stop, layers begin to be shed and it is a treat not to have a cold, wintry blast slap your face making you want to retreat back into the warmth of the store.  The miles pass and I realize how much I have healed since the last time I rode this course.  Time undoubtedly is a balm to all wounds.  And bicycling has  played its role.  Thank you, love, wherever you are for buying me my first bicycle.

The day ends too quickly for my mind, but  not for my legs which are begging for surcease, for rest to heal and strengthen.  Now if only February will cooperate.  Brevets are coming, and despite my moaning, cursing, and complaining, brevets can be beautiful things. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winter Sloth: A deadly Sin but like most sin, quite alluring


"He who conquers himself
is the mightiest warrior."
Confucius

 I think it is time to pick a new goal and move forward.  It is always so very difficult to motivate myself in winter.  I hate the indoor trainer, but it is COLD outside and the wind whistles and howls bragging of what she will do to me once I am at her mercy.  Without a goal, it is too easy to grab a cup of tea, a book, a cat, and vegetate. Yes, conquering myself and my own tendency toward sloth, laziness, and poor eating:  that is the battle. 
I have been internally debating about what I want to do for a few months now.  Do I want to do a long brevet, a triathlon, or turn to bikepacking?  I am unsure if my hip and foot will hold up to the rigors of triathlon training, but I do miss long runs and the solace they bring.  Should I begin and see what happens?  A friend e-mails about possibly riding the Colorado High Country 1200, and the die is cast.  At least, I will register and see how the qualifying brevets go.  I have never been to Colorado and the photographs are beautiful.  Perhaps this will be the goal that is the turning point for a return to myself.

Bill has e-mailed about riding a century today, and it is cold and dreary.  Relief is not predicted.  The high is supposed to remain near the starting temperature of 32 degrees, and the sun is not supposed to bless us.  The winds are not excessive, but it will not be a windless day. 10 mph is predicted, but I also know how winter predictions go having been caught out more times than I can count.  As I struggle with the urge to e-mail and say I have changed my mind, I worry that I am not as tough as I used to be, and I suspect that it is mental, not physical weakness.  I have ridden centuries is much colder, windier weather, and I have done them back to back.  Still, I have not been on a bicycle other than a couple of spin classes since my century two weeks ago.  I talk myself out of being a candy ass and get ready to meet Bill.

We head out and soon are climbing Leota Hill.  As we do this first climb, I speculate that I am overdressed, something I never worry about again, even on tougher climbs later in the day.  Indeed, I am cold for quite a bit of the ride, even on climbs. In Pekin, I have a rear flat.  I had not realized my tires were so worn, and I just replace the tire only to find that the tube has a valve problem and won't inflate.  My hands are quickly becoming less and less nimble when a saint emerges from the book store we are stopped in front of and tells us we may come in to fix the tire.  Bicycles and books, some of my two favorite things.  In no time, it is fixed and we are back on our way.  It is so hard, though, to leave the warmth of the book store and face the road.

I can't really say that I enjoyed the ride.  Occasionally I would note the beauty of the winter landscape, but it did not reach my soul as it sometimes does.  I did enjoy Bill's company.  And I enjoyed the taste of the sandwich at the Mennonite Restaurant. But I was glad to see the ride end and I was glad to immerse myself in steaming hot water filled with bubbles to thaw.  Inside, there was a core nugget of self satisfaction that I had conquered myself, at least for today.  A long time ago, before my first PBP,  someone, and I think it was Bill, told me that if I weep in the dojo I will laugh in the battlefield.  May I continue to force myself to weep some more.  Thanks, Bill, for today.  It is good to have a friend that encourages you to push your limitations.