Sunday, March 4, 2012

(Nearly) Every Day in May - Part 1 (May 2011)

On the first day of May I became optimistic again.

The unseasonably cold weather of April was now behind me.  It was time to stop muttering to myself “eight measly days”.  That was all either the weather or my work schedule would allow in April.  Eight days.  Ten hours in the saddle.  One hundred and forty nine miles on the odometer.  This was a very disappointing start to the season.  I turned my hope to May.  Spring would surely arrive in May.  It had to.

One thing was certain; I was not riding inside again.  So long stationary bike.  Goodbye Y.  My three to four days of cardio were going to be performed outside.  Whether it was a 30-minute sprint around the forest preserve loop or a two-hour ride over the backroads of Barrington, I would be on my bike, taking in the fresh air, and constantly moving forward.

I awoke that morning in a hotel room in Minneapolis, fumbled for my phone, and pressed the icon for the day’s weather.  Thirty five degrees?  Mornings are usually colder, but thirty five?  That’s barely above freezing.  The temperature would most surely rise as the sun came up.  This was not a good omen for the start of May.

Just as I started feeling sorry for myself I remembered all the people who had signed up to ride the Iron Man and Iron Crotch rides that day.  I had run into several of them at the bike expo the day before.  Many had traveled from out of state, excited to kick off the season with an epic ride.  This was Minnesota.  It was early spring.  A little cold and a little wind wouldn’t stop anybody.  Snow would literally be icing on the cake.

That’s when it hit me.  If you want to ride, you need to get over yourself, take what the weather gods serve up, and just get out there.  No more excuses.  So what if you need to wear tights?  Who cares if you need to pull on a long sleeve jersey and jacket?  You’ll warm up once you get moving.  Get out there and ride.

I kept checking the temperature as I ticked off a day’s worth of to-do’s at my desk in the hotel room.  Hour after hour, it didn’t budge.  Thirty five and overcast.  The wind was gusting up to thirty five miles per hour out of the northwest.  Meanwhile back home in the Chicago suburbs, the temperature was climbing through the mid sixties.  By the time I got on the road shortly after noon, Minneapolis was locked in a winter day and I wouldn’t arrive home with enough daylight to enjoy a spring day.

I had vowed to myself to ride every day in May.  No exceptions. 

May doesn’t begin on the 2nd or on whatever day is convenient for me.  I needed to find a place to ride while driving home.  I decided to stop in Reedsburg and ride the 400 Trail.  Forty eight degrees with a strong wind gusting up to twenty five miles per hour in Wisconsin was still better than thirty five degrees with thirty five mile per hour gusts in Minnesota.  Yes, I was still wimping out  by choosing Wisconsin over Minnesota.  What can I say?  I just don’t have that Nordic blood.

For the next eight days I would squeak in a ride whenever and wherever I could.  A fast seven miles on the Paul Douglas Trail, a few thirteen mile jaunts to and around the Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve, a longer ride on the Paul Douglas with a stop for a haircut, and a nice thirty four-mile road ride.  I even carried my bike along on a trip to Macomb when I visited the Western Illinois University campus with my son.  While I didn’t have much time, I still managed to log nearly ten miles on rural roads with some pretty steep hills.

Then I got hit with a twenty four-hour bug.  My limp and achy legs weren’t going to spin a block, let alone a mile.  My head was so congested that it felt as if it were in a vice.  Not an ideal physical state for riding a bike.  The chain had been broken.  It would now have to be “nearly” every day in May.

Why should missing one day matter anyway?  If I didn’t ride another day over the next twenty three days it would still be the same as all of April.  Sure it was only one hundred and twenty one miles, but that’s still fifteen miles per day.  Why wasn’t that enough?  Why isn’t it enough if I don’t ride every day?

As with everything else, I guess there’s a long and a short answer.  The long answer likely involves my purple Spyder bike, missing out on the 90’s, and suffering a heart attack at 43.  There’s probably more than one blog post involved in finding the long answer.

As for the short answer, short is the answer.  Available daylight in spring is short.  A warm enough temperature during available daylight is short.  Time spent not working is short.  Summer’s short.

My patience is also short.  I can’t wait until the weather is warm enough for both early morning and early evening rides.  I daydream of Saturday mornings along the Fox River Trail with my long-time friends who take cycling a little less seriously than I do.  I imagine the faster pace of a Sunday morning group ride originating from one of my customers’ shops.  Then there are the all-day fundraising rides and all-week adventures like Tour de Kota and RAGBRAI.  

These days can’t arrive soon enough for me.

As I sit here, nearly half-way through May, I find myself contemplating whether or not to brave yet another sub-fifty degree day with winds gusting up to twenty five miles per hour just to keep the latest string going.  I was lucky earlier in the week with back-to-back eighty degree days followed by another back-to-back pair in the seventies.

Has an early taste of summer made it impossible to put the jacket back on and suffer through spring?  I guess we’ll find out in part two…

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