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Saturday, February 20, 2010

February Century Ride

Snow and ice have covered the roads for all of February making me wonder if I would be able to get in a February century. I have ridden a century every month since November 2003, and this was the first time that I ever really worried about being able to get the ride in due to weather. Strength to complete it has worried me about my ability to complete a century in the past, but I don't remember such a long spell of days that were not safe to ride. I can deal with cold and I can deal with rain, wind is a challenge, but I have learned to adapt and not fight with it; however, I do not have the bicycling equipment to ride safely on ice. Early last week, the prediction was for more snow and/or ice today but God smiled on my endeavor and sent what turned out to be a wonderful day.

Last night I worried that Steve might cancel today. Of all the ride captains, he is least likely to do this but I also know he does not want to risk any significant injuries before Hell Week next month. I worried even more when I went out to the car this morning and found a thick layer of ice, but I kept telling myself that I was heading south and it would be warmer there. Fifty miles south did make a difference. While there was a thin layer of ice in the parking lot of the park, it was not enough to do more than cause a bit of worry. The ice was melted on the road exiting the park and other than the occasional patch, was not a problem. I was thrilled when the sun came out for a bit and I even got to see some blue sky. I have to admit that while I am tired to the bone of snow, it was beautiful seeing it covering the fields.

The course took us to Frankfort. There were no plans to eat at the expensive shack that serves such delicious garlic potatoes, and while I love the food there I am glad as the pocketbook grows thinner. Chris and Tim took off, but Steve and Dave stayed with me. It is a wonderful feeling being that comfortable with friends and we spent a good part of the ride sharing memories of PBP. We talked a bit about the link to the u tube video Steve had posted on the list: I told him how I didn't understand that the video made me more determined than ever to go back and that there is something definitely wrong with us for wanting to subject ourselves once again to the challenge. He laughs and agrees that they look miserable. I can't wait to return and I hope I am successful. Dave and Steve understand this. During the ride I think how much I treasure their friendship, and I mourn the day in the future when long distance cycling is no longer for me. Women like Bernice and Gay give me hope that the day can be postponed for many years. One reason I do the century challenge is that it gets me out the door. It is so easy to be seduced into sloth.

At the end of the course I still had to add six miles to get my century. I was a bit worried about the car that was parked in the park lot as I would be returning alone, but I wanted this century. I said nothing to the guys as I did not want them to feel like they had to ride the six miles or wait for me. It warmed my heart to find Dave waiting at the end to make sure I got into my car safely. Like me he had gotten a bad feeling about that car and told me that it had left and then returned. I am blessed to have such friends.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It feels as if it has been snowing for days. I shoveled the walk twice today, and still the snow continues. When I ran yesterday, the snow was just starting and it was beautiful, this transformation, but today my body aches for my bicycle and the freedom it brings and my eyes long for color, for that yearning that spring brings, undefined and unnamed, but there and always just out of reach.

The garden lies dormant and waiting and the bees are patient in their cluster. As I shoveled, I wondered how many of the hives will make it through. The seed catalogs have arrived over the past few weeks, and I think that I will spend the afternoon leafing through them, dreaming of summers bounty. Sometime, perhaps when I retire or perhaps sooner, I would like to have an herb garden as well. Coming inside, I grabbed a frozen bag of green beans from last summers garden and put them on the stove. A jar of home canned tomatoes hits the refrigerator as well. A bit of summer's warmth comes up from the basement with them and I thought the sweat of spring and summer was worth it.

Life requires patience and appreciation, and sometimes I think I am lacking in both. But thinking of an e-mail from someone who was no longer riding their bike due to the dangers involved, I think it also requires some risk if one is to savor it down to the marrow. Our time here is so short. I wonder sometimes if I will think it is worth it if I suffer a debilitating crash on my bicycle. Packman says he would do it again, but he is not me. What is it that makes us get back on our bikes again and again from the time we take our first tumble? Maybe it is like the garden only instead of green beans and tomatoes, I will bring out my memories from time to time when my body will no longer travel the roads my mind would like to and once again I will feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my shoulders.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow and Trainers

Yesterday the snow floated through the air, as graceful as a ballet dancer performing a pirouette, transforming the world into a fairyland. It was the kind of day where you just want to fix a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, grab a book, and snuggle up on the couch with a blanket or in your bed to dream. It was the kind of day that makes you wish you had a library with a large picture window between some of the bookshelves and a big, roaring fire and a comfy chair so you could watch the world transform in snatches between chapters. It was not the kind of day that makes you want to go outside, clean off your car, and go to work: but such is life. Sadly, it was not the kind of day to go for a bike ride unless you have a mountain bike with studded tires. Even more sadly, it is no longer pristine and picture perfect but will be here for quite awhile, so I had to get on the trainer with Coach Troy tonight:-( Maybe next Christmas I will ask for those studded tires.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A February Snowfall

Out of the bosom of the Air, Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken, Over the woodlands brown and bare, Over the harvest-fields forsaken, Silent, and soft, and slow Descends the snow.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Last night the rain came, gently sounding on the roof of my home while I lay warm and bundled in winter's blankets. The sound a lullaby to lull me to dreamland, a familiar sound from childhood and my earliest memories there is a comfort here. I thought of the ride I had gotten in earlier in the day, after a day at work but while the land was still dry. The clouds made a mockery of the suns attempts to reach me, but still I was happy there. Sometimes it seems I am happiest when on my bike exploring the road, feeling the rhythm there, watching the landscape change as the road unfolds before me, onwards and onwards. The only thing that limited me today was the thing that limits me most often: the lack of time. Somehow I strongly suspect that the very limitation is part of what makes it so precious. Eventually sleep claimed me as it claimed Kitti who guarded my feet, a job she does quite well.

On the way to work this morning, the radio forewarned of freezing rain and snow to come, and I desperately wished the prediction wrong. I would like to ride this week-end. The temperatures remained warmer than predicted and the ice did not come, but near the end of the work day the snow began, soft and dreamlike. I got home just as the snow started sticking to the ground, covering everything familiar and turning it into an unknown fairy land, as if clouds have come home to roost. It is funny how very different and unfamiliar everything seems when it snows. When I reach home, I give up a prayer to the heavens thanking God for allowing me to be home before the roads became slick because I am not a good driver and snow driving frightens me. I always think of the time I went off the road with two young children in tow. Nobody was hurt, but Jeff was barely walking, Tiff was small, and the snow was deep. Imagination got us home as we fought battles to reach the warmth of the kitchen where we would wait for my knight to rescue me and bring my steed home. My husband jokes when he says he can't die because I can not survive alone, but sometimes I wonder if he is not right. As I have been there for him, so he has been there for me. Relationships are in trouble when you begin to measure who has given more.

I debate whether to go ahead and cancel the century ride that I have scheduled for either Saturday or Sunday and decide to wait for the weather forecast before making the call. The snow deepens outside my window, blurring the sharp edges of the trees and grasses. I think of how I used to love to run in the snow and toy with the idea of taking a walk, but it is getting dark and I need to hear the forecast. I think briefly of the time I was driving in the snow with my children to the local movie theater before it closed when I suddenly realized I could not see through the wall of white. My daughter was old enough to drive and somehow got us home.

After listening to the weather forecast, I decide to cancel. The snow is to fall all night, though through the window the snow seems less substantial and appears to be lessening. I find I am not upset by the cancellation the way I used to be or perhaps still am at times, perhaps because I got to ride last week-end or perhaps because I am wiser and have learned to be afraid of being responsible for others when the weather is wintry and wild. I think of the Christmas Century in 2008 and how it felt like a century despite the fact we turned around at the first store stop and only made it 50 miles. It is not a time for road bikes, but a time for mountain bikes. I wish I had learned that skill when I was younger. My fear of re-injuring my shoulders in the light of my goals will keep me road bound. Perhaps I grow old and less adventurous. Just last week-end, Mule and I briefly discussed how injuries interfere with sleep and recovery. I grin briefly thinking of his comment that soon he will need to sleep standing up and wonder at those of us who ride despite injuries. I don't think there is any painless way into old age, however, and I would not give up these hours on my bicycle spent in friendship or in solitude. I may, however, be more cautious, maybe;-) As Mary Chapin Carpenter says in one of the her songs that I like, "I think fate should not tempt me."