Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hard Ride

It's hard to just ride a bike. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done. And again today I was out in the cold weather trying to do it again. I found it almost impossible. I can usually accomplish just about anything I set my mind to within reason. But I could not manage it today. I could not ride my bike. I was constantly failing over and over again for almost 20 miles. Why is this so difficult? Why can't I do this? Why can't I just ride my bike?

I managed to ride my bike for moments at a time but then I could not do it anymore. Things would be going along just fine and then not. Fail. I don't think I got more than a quarter mile at any given moment during the almost 20 miles I spent on the bike today before I couldn't do it anymore. I could not catch the moment where I was riding and then I ceased to be riding. I could not notice my failure to ride and so I could not prevent it. Then I would get to the point where I would be wondering how long I had not been riding my bike.

That was frustrating me today. Things were not going the way I wanted them to. I wanted to just ride my bike. Should be easy. Right? The plan was to ride up Butterfield Canyon. To see if I could ride to the top. I know I can make it to the top as I've done it many times. It is a painful ride and very steep but it's only about 8 miles up to the corner of the valley where the real climb begins and then the real climb is only 7.5 miles long. So to ride up there and then back home is about a 31 mile ride.

To climb to the corner of the valley is only about 500 feet of elevation gain and then, after the real climb begins, it's about 2600 feet of elevation gain to the top. About 3100 feet of climbing on the new(er) bike. Easy. I should be able to do that while riding my bike. I thought the hard part might be the snow. I knew there would be some. I just didn't know how much and so I didn't know if I could make it all the way to the top. I didn't know if I could get up there. Might be too much snow but I was hoping the road would be clear enough for me to ride to the top.

Well as it turned out the snow wasn't the problem. The 3100 feet of climbing wasn't the problem either. Nor was the 35 degree temperatures. My fitness was not the problem. I felt great on the bike today. The bike was fine until it wasn't fine but the bike wasn't the problem either. The road is closed to vehicles in the winter so traffic wasn't the problem and the people walking their dogs weren't the problem. I was the problem. For some reason I could not ride my bike. I could not do it. I was the problem today.

Somehow and for some reason I kept crossing that line. I was slipping from riding my bike to training on my bike. I didn't want to train today. I just wanted to ride my bike. I wanted to just ride my bike but I could not. What the heck? My cadence would get to 80 and I would shift down the cassette to make myself pedal harder to get it to 80 again. I kept looking at my speed and when it would drop below the level of not wasting my time on the bike I would intentionally smooth my pedal stroke and power back up to speed.

I could not just ride my bike. What the heck is wrong with me. I wanted to just ride. I wanted to just ride real bad. I did not want to train.  But I kept slipping from the one to the other and not noticing it either until it was too late and then I would wonder how long I had been training when I really really really just wanted to be riding. From one to the other. Constantly. Fail.

The sad part is, I knew I was having this problem - this inability to just ride my bike today. But I couldn't stop taking myself from riding to training. I could not stop it. I wanted to stop it. I wanted to just be taking it easy. I wanted to just ride up the hill not worrying about my cadence or speed or the angle of my elbows or the roundness of my circles of pedal strokes. I just wanted to ride my bike. Just ride. Not train. I could not do it.

I had to constantly remind myself to back off. Slow down. Don't push. Stop training and start riding. I decided not to stop and carry my bike through the man-gate at the start of the climb where the road is closed instead choosing to ride on through in the dirt and gravel. As I'm going through there I found myself clicking through my computer getting to the timer. I watched in bewilderment as I reset the stopwatch and started the timer. Somewhere inside my training brain I wanted a benchmark for next spring when I get back on this mountain to start my season like I do every year.

Somewhere in my riding brain I'm wondering what the heck I'm doing. I was just going to ride up this hill today. I am just riding my bike. I am just riding my bike. I am just riding my bike. Over and over I'm trying to remember that I am just riding my bike today. Why can't I just ride my bike today? So the herky-jerky ride train ride train ride train ride today carried on up the hill impervious to my efforts to just ride my bike.

I love the way it sounds when my bike rolls through icy snow. I wish I knew how to spell the sound it makes going through that kind of snow because it is a cool sound but I have no idea how to spell it or even really describe it. It almost sounds like what you imagine an electrical shock would sound like if you could hear it. It sounds cool and I heard it a lot today going up the canyon. Ride train ride train ride train. Crunching electrically through the crispy frozen snow on the road as I was just trying to ride my bike today.

I can usually hear a flat before I can feel it and today was no exception. It sounded like the front tire was leaking air and it distracted me from my effort to ride not train so I glanced down at my tire and it looked fine. After a moment I could feel it flatting and had to stop and change the tube. My ride train ride was over. I decided to put on my rain jacket and turn back down the canyon to head home once the flat was repaired. I was hoping to just ride home. I always have found it easier to not train and just ride when I'm going downhill.

Going back down it was much easier to just ride my bike. I confess I did a lot of coasting. Not much training. It was simply way too freezing cold to go too fast. My face and hands were frozen. My knees were getting cold too. Its harder to control your bike when it's that cold and your knees are stiff and the snow was making things very interesting while coasting at 25 mph too. Going down it was too cold to go too fast. Too cold to train. Going down it was much easier and much safer to just ride. So going down I made up my mind to just ride my bike. Just an easy ride home. So I didn't train. Much. I just rode my bike back home. Some.

1 comment:

  1. I've enjoyed these posts. I thought of this, and oddly they posted it on Facebook today....Rule #16 from Bicycling Magazine: "Take 56-year-old mountain-bike legend Ned Overend's advice: Rest often. And if you're feeling cooked after a 30-minute warm-up, put it in an easy gear and spin home. "No workout is set in stone," Overend says. "Your training needs to have structure, but it should be malleable based on how you're feeling." Which might explain why, 10 days before he won the 2011 Mt. Washington Hill Climb, Overend was surfing in San Diego."