Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On toughness

I ride in all weather. I rode this morning when I was pelted with freezing rain and then watched it switch over to fat, lazy flakes drifting down and melting on the wet pavement. The roads are wet and sandy and disgusting, and I arrived at work with sopping shoes and sand caked up and down my pants legs.

That doesn't make me tough. Toughness is a thing you see during races like Paris-Roubaix or the Tour de France. I am not in the top 30% of tough bicycle riders, probably.

And of course, you ought to ride when you feel the urge to ride. There is no mandate. There is no measure of worthiness to spinning your wheels in unpleasant conditions. There is no enhanced riderness to be gained. No one is keeping score.

For me, riding in inclement weather is a way to test myself. I don't have the time or talent (or inclination) to ride stage races or find other ways to push my limits. But setting off on even a ten mile ride in freezing rain and sleet puts me almost immediately at a place of discomfort that I find interesting. It's an easy way to test my my limits.

And I enjoy it. If I was genuinely uncomfortable, I wouldn't do it.

I am merely at a place in my cycling life where I like suffering. I like climbing. I like the pain in my quads. I like to arrive home wrung out and then stumble up the stairs for lack of juice in the legs.

It's a beautiful place to be, this masochistic phase in my cycling. But it doesn't make me tough.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Creating something out of nothing.

I have no time. This may not be a true statement but that's how it feels. I haven't ridden in over a week. It's been super rainy, super cold, and my nose just won't stop running.

My fried "Da Robot" may be reading (most likely the only person reading this anyway) and be frothing with his rabid bicycle fanaticism that "this is not an excuse! You must ride!" I am aware that there are tougher rides and I'm aware that people in worse shape make their rides. However, my bike commute isn't a battle of the will. It's not a competition. It's not medal of honor. It's how I get to work. It's fun. Freezing, soaking wet, dripping snot, and sitting on a bus for 45 minutes is not fun. No thanks.

I can wait a week till the rain lets up a bit. I can bide my time until my cold goes away. My commuter ride will return. I'm not really that concerned. There is something that's begun to gnaw at me tho. It hit while I was looking at a bike magazine, looking at all those pictures of pretty bikes. I miss my road bike. I miss my too small, 8 years old, hard on the arms and ass road bike. I miss my bike shoes that aren't even road bike cleats. I miss rides where I get the thrash out of my legs and settle into a nice cadence and let my mind wander away. All of it. I miss the good and bad of it all.

Now here is where the "I have no time" comes in. You see, the hard part of riding my road bike, has been trying to figure out how to get time to ride my road bike. How can I make the time to get back on my road bike? I think I have figured it out. If I can have my gear set up and ready to go, my clothes laid out, my route planned, my food packed, my water bottle filled...If I can get all the noise out of the way, I can just wake up and go. This means I would probably just need to scrap out 2 hours on a saturday morning. I can do this.
So, I'm planning on working on my road bike this week after the baby goes to bed. Get my gear together. Find my spare tubes. Looking on Google maps for some good rides. Work on creating some time where there doesn't seem to be any.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The chicken, the egg or the day off the bike

I have been strong this winter. And warm. I have been on top of my game, such as it is. I have enjoyed riding on the coldest day and the wettest day, and I have taken as compliments the incredulous looks of my coworkers as I stride through the office door with my helmet in my hands.

Yesterday, I took the day off.

It was raining, and I'd been developing a cold. I thought a day off was a reasonable response to the facts on the ground. But today I am more sick. I called in to work and let them know I was staying home.

And the rational part of me knows that had I ridden yesterday I'd have gotten soaked and frozen and quite possibly hypothermic, but there is a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that had I ridden I would have woken up strong again this morning.

Did I ride myself sick? Or did I get sick from not riding?

Even now, sunk into the couch in pajamas and a sweatshirt, I have this hankering to go out for a ride. I coughing up relics from past civilizations, but I'm dreaming about climbing hills. I am thinking about ways to get in more miles.

Am I sick? Or am I just unwell?