Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Work in Progress

Both days this past weekend held the promise of the sun breaking through the clouds and the temperatures breaking into the 50's so Saturday, I headed back out to the Blackstone River Bikeway. Still desperate to log some much-needed base miles, I decided early on that my focus of the ride would be small ring, high cadence pedaling. That meant that I would be blazing along at a blistering 12-13 mph and that everyone and their niece could pass me at will and for the most part, that is what happened.

Luckily, most cyclists were family-oriented and we all got along famously. Of course, there's always one George Hincapie wannabe along the way that doesn't even bother warning that he's passing anyone. I guess he likes to sneak up and attack the leader? I don't have a clue as to why he is so rude. I can't imagine why he would get any satisfaction from blazing by a 50-year-old broad like I was going to respond to him. FYI, George, there were no pro team practices in Rhode Island this month.

At the half-way point, I spent a few minutes chatting with a gentleman who was cleaning up alongside the path. On my way to the bike path, I encountered many people along the road with bright yellow garbage bags that had volunteered to pick up the trash that was cluttering the landscape. As this man was right where I was turning around anyway, I wanted to be sure and extend my appreciation for his efforts and the efforts of the other volunteers that day.

Making it back to the starting point without further incident, I considered making the loop again but came under-fueled for such an attempt (mise en place again). I had gotten off to a late start anyway and decided to return earlier on Sunday and get in a two-loop day. Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well.

Sunday's trip out started innocently enough although I should have recognized something was amiss as I was cruising along rather effortlessly at 18 mph. Still unfamiliar with the performance capacity of my bike and taking a more conventional approach to gearing on Sunday, I expected to be riding faster than the previous day and I knew that I had a tailwind. I just didn't know how much of one I had until I turned around to head back. It turned out that I would be fighting a headwind with gusts upwards of 25 mph for the entire 9 mile stretch. My Walmart windbreaker wasn't helping matters. At times, I wondered if this is how para-sailing was invented.

At one point, I looked at my bicycle's computer and noticed I was cranking out a blazing 10 mph. I next checked to see if I could drop to a lower gear without cross-chaining. There were a couple of safe gears so I dropped on those and picked up enough speed that I no longer felt like I was doing a track stand.

With less than 2 miles to go, I noticed a cyclist that had just pulled back onto the path. He was pulling a baby trailer and  a little girl's pink bike was attached to the back of the trailer. The man was obviously in his lowest gear and just pedaling his brains out in that wind.

I sat back for awhile, trying to determine if I should pass him or just draft off of him. The decision was made easier as we came to the final hill of the day. He slowed considerably and I decided to pass him while on the hill and into the headwind. I realized that I was just getting too close for comfort. I wasn't sure he was going to make it up that hill and I didn't want to fall over just trying to avoid him, especially since he had a little one in tow. I warned him of my pass and sprinted up the hill. I hate hill sprints but it was really the safest call under the circumstances.

Back at the car, I decided that I'd had enough lung heaving for the day and skipped that second loop again. This week at my gym, the members who dared to venture out on Sunday were all swapping headwind horror stories. We are all trying to convince ourselves we're better people because of our efforts.

Our bodies aren't so sure.

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