“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”
– Carl Reiner
I kept pushing down on the pedals even though my feet felt unresponsive, given their current state of numbness. I played absently with my hydration pack tube, trying to break up the ice build up until a cross wind threatened to push me off the no-shoulder busy Route 965 on my way to North Liberty #thefastestgrowingcityinIowa #insidejoke #hashtag.
At a stoplight, as I shook both hands in a futile attempt at trying to return some semblance of feeling in my thumbs and forefingers, I looked up at a bank clock that showed the temperature as a balmy 22 degrees and the time at 11:04 am. Knowing the time that I left the house, and guessing at my distance, my anthropomorphic heart sank. An hour to go 9 or 10 miles on a 45-50 mile ride meant I was in for 4 more hours of this misery.
Biking has an interesting mental aspect that comes in far too often. My legs are fully capable of pedaling for 50 miles in a single afternoon. At this stage in training, they could probably do 150 miles comfortably (my bum and back, however, would not be as happy). Mentally though, when I saw that bank sign, I wanted to go home right then and call it a day. I would spend the rest of Saturday’s ride convincing and unconvincing myself to shorten the trip as much as possible.
Back at the start of the day, I woke up about 45 minutes later than normal after a late-ish night with the wife. I ate a homemade Greek Yogurt Oatmeal Strawberry Banana Waffle (http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2016/03/strawberry-banana-oatmeal-greek-yogurt-waffles-gluten-free/), which I had tried previously before the Valentine’s weekend training ride. Given the increased distance for the presumed Saturday ride, I ate an entire waffle with a glass of orange juice and a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie with pecans and cashews. I took my time eating and then did some stretching.
Really, the entire morning was just spent stalling.
For my weekend rides, I have been getting up around 5:30 and leaving the house by 7 am. This time, I procrastinated because one look outside had me worried. The parking lot by our house was covered in snow, my hybrid (http://community.raleighusa.com/2015-bikes-city-commute-misceo-4-i8) was back in the shop after a failed attempt by the first bike shop to fix it (#300dollarslater), and I really do not like riding the road bike in winter conditions; it can destroy the chain and the brakes and it’s not the best at maneuvering on slush and ice.
Also, at 7 am, the temperature outside was 15 degrees. The high for the day was barely over 30, but that sounded a lot better than 15. So I waited before leaving, departing at 10:00 am instead of 7. In hindsight, I should have maybe waited even longer and done an afternoon ride to avoid even more of the poor road conditions.
I left adorned with 3 pairs of gloves, 3 pairs of pants, and 2 pairs of wool socks. I am fairly certain my blood hates traveling any real distance, leaving my hands and feet freezing in even mild temperatures. Drop below freezing and I’m guaranteed to go numb. I should have loaded up the Bar Mitts but I was not confident using them with the road bike due to some interesting shifters on such an old model.
As I mentioned above, it took absolutely forever to go the first 10 miles–63 minutes, in fact. I attempted to use bike trails but ended up forgoing that for route 965, which wasn’t all that much better with the lack of shoulder and 45 mph speed limit and cross wind. I did not get into rhythm until I turned East and headed to Solon. I was going the same route as I had the previous two weekend training rides, except I was going the opposite direction. Flipping direction can generate an entirely new ride in terms of feel and trouble spots, with different grades of climb and different stretches of good road. However, when the weather is as it was, you tend to forget to look around and enjoy any aspect of the ride. Your eyes just dart left and right, searching out for the ice patch or bad road crack covered in slush that will send you skidding. Such vigilance, although prudent, is exhausting. Even with the eastbound rhythm, I still was fighting the cross wind and weaving in and out of the road shoulder to avoid snow drifts on the road.
Pulling into Solon, I attempted to fix my other problem with this trip: no water. I had taken a few small sips within the first few miles of the ride, but had not consumed any water for 15 or more miles because of a frozen hydration pack tube.
So at a stop sign, I balanced my backpack, grabbed the hydration pack out from inside, and gulped down a bunch of water. I ate a second oatmeal raisin cookie–I ate the first one after 11 miles, because by then I had already been on the bike for well over an hour. The cookies held up nicely, more chewy than the Appalachian cookies I had made for previous rides, but he lack of water still made them a bit difficult to eat.
After sating my thirst as much as possible, I closed up the backpack and was off again. The trip along Route 1 towards Iowa City felt more like an actual bike ride. The road was clear and I got some decent pedaling in, focusing on more biking things like stride and breathing. This stretch of 8 to 10 miles was still marked by a certain level of mental waffling, however, trying to decide how far I should actually bike. On the bad side, I would justify cutting the ride short by saying I could make it up the following day by biking farther than originally planned.
Let me reiterate that the purpose of the weekend training rides is two-fold: Increase distance traveled each weekend by 5-10 miles and get used to back-to-back rides. This weekend was designated for a 45-50 mile Saturday and a 25-30 mile Sunday. In reality, it does not matter which day I take the longer route because when I do the major trip, I will be biking 5 days of pretty similar distances each day. These and other justifications ran through my head and resulted in me cutting through Iowa City instead of going around as originally intended.
I took the Route 6 bike path, making my way along the Iowa River. Once I got to the end of the bike path, I could have turned right and headed home, 2.5 miles away, and yet Sand Road was to my left and oh what fun we had on that stretch of road last week. I knew that would add about 10 miles to whatever my current distance traveled was, which was around 33 miles and that would put me right in the middle of the distance I needed to achieve for the day.
This stretch of Sand Road was not nearly as fun as last week. Really comparing that Sunday with this Saturday puts into context just how annoying and dreary Saturday’s ride was. Last week, I was supposed to bike 20 miles and ended up doing 28, running Sand Road three times in 65 degree weather in February, waving to each cyclist I passed who also was enjoying the unseasonably warm weather with a ride of their own.
This Saturday, I pedaled alone with no other riders in sight with a completely numb right foot and a tingling left foot with no water consumed since the 20 mile mark, literally half the trip ago.
As I made the turn to head back down Sand Road, I ate my final oatmeal cookie because my stomach was beginning to growl a bit. Heading back was heading directly into the obnoxious wind. I trudged the last 7.5 miles home, pulling into the garage at the 47.3 mile mark–my longest trip since the end of May 2016. The trip took just over 4 hours, which is atrocious, but almost completely due to the terribly slow start. I called upstairs to my wife as soon as I got home and she brought me water, which I drank (24 oz worth) while I sat on the floor still completely suited up. It would take a hot shower and note the clock for nearly twenty minutes as I waited to regain feeling in my right foot (not sure why that foot was colder than the left).
Before showering, I prepared a lunch of roasted red potatoes and a three-egg chicken omelette with mushrooms, onions, and peppers topped with fresh mango. I then took a nap. I abhor naps. It leaves my mouth sticky and dry all at the same time. I often feel foggy and disoriented after getting up and this one was no exception, but my body was completely exhausted. I finished up the night with a quarter of a pineapple and some yogurt.
On Sunday, I again left later to let the temperature warm up a bit and also to time my departure with my wife’s. I started with another Greek Yogurt Oatmeal Strawberry Banana Waffle with a big pile of roasted red potatoes and spent a lot of time stretching, given how sore my whole body felt after Saturday’s ride, presumably due to fighting the wind and the lack of hydration for the majority of the trip. An hour before actually riding, I put down a Chobani Flip and some pineapple.
I still feel very limited in my bike routes in Iowa. The majority of the roads here seem to be built of large blocks concrete instead of a long strip of asphalt. Because of this, the road is littered with cracks, usually with a crack hovering right near where I would normally bike. Factor in the rapid deterioration of paved road to dirt track and I feel like I need to stick to per-established routes. I spend a lot of time on Google maps trying to find a nice loop route where I don’t have to come back the exact way I came. I hope I am able to expand legit route options as the weather switches over to spring breezes.
I ate an Init granola bar halfway through the ride but my stomach was still growling by the end. I finished off some chicken with two eggs and bacon for lunch after the ride and put down two oatmeal cookies with some chocolate milk on my five mile walk.
Sunday’s ride was without bitter cold and snowy mush roads but the winds were still atrocious. Only my West-to-East portion of the trip was enjoyable.
I think I am firmly under the belief that wind is the worst condition to bike it. Demoralizing and potentially dangerous when dealing with a crosswind, I wholeheartedly hate the wind. Outside of a crash and something breaking on the bike, having to deal with a head wind for multiple miles is my biggest worry for the long trip this summer. This worry is heightened because when I do that trip, I will be going in the same direction for the majority of the ride so if a headwind is prevalent, I will have 150+ miles of that to deal with.