Thursday, April 21, 2011

The joy that nearly wasn't

The plan was to use the weeks following the marathon as a bike focus - a way to recover from the run and get my cycling legs, largely neglected this winter, going again.  The weather, however, isn't cooperating.  Monday we awoke to an inch plus of snow. Tuesday was rainy, cold and dreary.  Wednesday found temps hovering around 40, with a stiff NNE wind and the roads still wet from an all night rain and intermittent showers that just didn't want to give up. I knew that to take the road bike out would be nothing short of miserable.

Having one recovery run and a good swim in the books I was OKto call it good, but something just kept nagging me, calling me - ah, the dirt...  So I opted instead to take to the dirt roads on the mountain bike.  Initially discouraged because I had to bundle up like it was February, once on the bike I found a rhythm and settled happily into the ride.  My standard winter dirt road loop is about one hour in duration, and I figured I'd get that done and was toying with perhaps a bit more if I stayed warm.

After thirty minutes of heading north and west, into the wind, I turned east and found a bit of easy speed with the wind pushing me along.  The bikes down tube was collecting a good coating of mud, as were my shoes, and I could feel the streak of mud forming on my back as well.  I was cold, wet and muddy, and I was happy.

A favorite spot on this loop is when I cross Amrstrong, or is it Armstrong?  Depends on which side of the road sign you look at.  This just makes me smile every time I ride or run past...

A Mr. Strong?

or Lance's street maybe?
Thought a quick shot of Maxfield Lake might capture a little bit of how dreary the day was, but this picture really does not do justice to the cold wind coming off the lake, the ominous looking sky and the periodic spit from the clouds.

Tempo Mile 2

Those that paid attention to my Saturday morning tempo runs over the winter may have noted how much slower my second mile always was in comparison to the others.  This might help explain, the mile is about 80 percent up a series of rollers (the last and biggest pitch is out of sight), and finishes with just a subtle give-back.  Tough yes, but always one of my favorite challenges.

Once rolling, and thinking I'd be ok past the hour mark, I got it in my head the route I thought I'd try.  Little did I know it would take a solid second hour to complete and finish with a long section into the wind.  I got a bit bonky, and pretty darn cold, and when I did finally get home my wife greeted me at the door with "I was just about to send out the search party!"  I said, "as long as you're here, this ride is worth capturing on film..." :-)

The photos don't truly capture how wet and muddy I was, but I was also in a place of pure ecstasy.  Having been off the trails for most of the winter, and doing most of my marathon training on pavement, I completely immersed myself in this experience.  Starting out with such low expectation, I finished on such a high.  Being on the dirt, whether running or riding, brings a simple joy that makes all else fade away. 

Those that know, know.  Those that don't, well, it just can't be explained...

Press on friends.

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