Monday, April 13, 2009

Saturday was one of those days when the morning was crisp, cold, and cloudless. By 10 am I was raring to go for my long bike ride, waiting for it to warm at least into the 40s, but it was also one of those days when Don wasn't feeling very energetic--the side effects of the cancer drugs he takes cause an ebb and flow of energy, and today his energy wasn't flowing. He said he still needed more time before getting out there, and he actually ended up taking a nap late morning, so I spent that time waiting constructively, cleaning for the next days' gathering and finishing with food preparation.
By lunch time, he said he was feeling better and we decided to eat first and then get ready to go. I checked the temperature again, and it was 47--but no wind and full sun. Still, after Friday's experience with the wind, I decided to dress warmer than may have been necessary, but I was taking no chances. Don on the other hand had dressed only in bike shorts and a "skins" shirt. Me? Tights, shorts, 2 long sleeved shirts, a jacket, headband, and winter gloves. He did decide to bring a jacket and threw in a skull cap and gloves at the last minute.
We decided to ride the Musketawa bike trail, a rails to trails system, since it is not as crowded ever, especially at this time of day. Its a trail that extends almost all the way to Lake Michigan, ending at an unpaved section that eventually links up with another paved section that takes you right to the lake parks. The paved section we can take is 50 miles round trip, and my goal that day was to do the whole 50.
By the time we got to the trail, it was almost 2 pm, and guess what? The wind suddenly started picking up. It wasn't as warm as it looked once the wind started. I was really glad at this point that I had dressed for winter. And Don decided to put on the jacket, gloves, and hat after all.
We decided to ride off trail--on the road--for the first stretch of the ride. While I doubt I will ever be completely comfortable riding on the road again--even in races I am completely paranoid--my confidence goes up and I get bolder every year. The last time we attempted this road portion of the ride the wind was so bad I couldn't control my bike, weaving and wobbling up the hills like some little kid just learning to ride. And while the wind was going to be a factor again today--we were riding right into it--I was in much better control of myself and actually found myself riding up thehills at a "speedy" 10.4 mph, compared to the 8 or less last year late in the season. LOL!
Riding on the road here, it is a whole different world from the city where I live. Farms dominate, with orchards coming in second. Up ahead chickens roamed freely in one front yard; a young girl road her equally young horse around another front yard; there was a corral of ponies in yet another yard; and the smells! Oooh that smell. No mistaking we were in farm country and worse yet, it was the time of the year when the fields were being prepared for planting, meaning the spreading of manure. And there was no doubt there were pigs somewhere in the area too.
We soon found ourselves climbing yet another hill, taking us through Wright Township, one of those typical farming communities, where everyone knew each other, and where the main drag housed the Catholic church and school and more importantly, the Wright Bar. LOL! Tragically, it was also the scene of a quadruple murder that took place the weekend I was in Toronto last fall, where a woman, 2 kids, and a friend were all brutally murdered in their beds, with their house then set on fire in an attempt to hide the crime. Last fall when we rode past here, the crime scene tape was still up, the front yard still littered with debris and the hundreds of memorials placed by mourners, and the smell of smoke still hung in the air. Today, nothing but the hole that was the basement still remained. I couldn't help but think about how the community and family and friends were dealing with this senseless tragedy and had to push these thoughts out of my head and focus on the task ahead. (Side note: the guy who they suspect did this has been caught and is awaiting trial, having been caught after other crimes with evidence linking him to this as well.)
I had forgotten just how hilly this route was, but after all, it is called "the ridge" just for that reason, an area conducive to fruit growing, as evidenced by the thousands of acres of fruit trees, making up the many "Centennial Farms" in the area, farms that have been lived in and maintained by the same families for a hundred years or more.
When we started out, Don said he would ride my pace, but by the time we hit the hills, he said he would ride ahead and wait. No matter how he feels, he always will be a stronger rider than I am and still has a "faster" bike. The hills were challenging, but I still found myself riding in the 3 zones I should be in--1 and 2 on the flats, 3 on the hills--and a peek at my HR monitor after the hills reassured me that I was staying in zone 3.
I would have enjoyed staying on the road a while longer, and the road we chose to head back to the trail goes on for miles and miles, but I was also relieved to get back to the relative safety of the trail, and to hopefully get out of the wind. Don mentioned on this stretch that "at least there's no head wind." True at first, but he had to open his big mouth because soon after we had not only a head wind but a cross wind. And the hills, all rolled into one. The trail I figured would prove easy after that.
And it was for the most part, but the farther out you get, the more open fields you ride through and you know what that will mean--wind, never escaping it totally. And soon, Don was at least 3/4 of a mile ahead of me most of the rest of the ride. He waited at the busiest intersections, and only slowed at the non-traffic ones. Here too, we ride through mainly farm country, but at least the smells eventually improved. There was one area where it was so bad, my stomach started turning and I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Can you imagine puke, sour milk, and cheese all mixed together?? Eww. This is definitely one of the downsides of this route.
By the time we got to the next trailhead, Don was saying he wanted to only ride as far as we had a few weeks back. I was disappointed about this, because that meant cutting the riding time short for me, but I wasn't going to argue about that. If he wasn't feeling good, I wasn't going to push my agenda on him.
Regardless of how he felt, he still was able to keep ahead of me, and I was left alone to battle the headwind by myself, averaging only about 10 mph. I was beginning to question, again, my ability to do a half IM the first part of June. When I'm running or swimming, I feel confident; when biking, not so much. The doubts creep in and won't leave. Still, I was determined to follow the training plan and keep in the recommended zones. It is still early season here and I am far ahead of last year, so I just have to work at controlling the negative feelings.
He did actually compromise and rode ahead one more intersection, adding another 2 miles to the ride. And that last mile was a killer, with full frontal headwind, causing me to just grind along. But I was in higher gears than last time so I still was doing better than 3 weeks before. I was more than happy to turn out of that wind, however, and immediately saw my speed go up 4 mph or more difference, still riding easy. I've tried explaining to Don what I am trying to accomplish--working on improving my lactate threshhold--but I'm not sure he buys into that or understands how it works. He thinks I should be pushing myself the whole ride, and sometimes I do have to question my methods. But I can't completely deny that I much prefer riding easy than pushing myself hard the whole way. And I am seeing some slow but steady improvement, so I also can't dispute this theory either based on that.
We rode along, not really stopping except when necessary to wait for cars at the intersections. I could tell Don was getting impatient and wanting to be done, but he said nothing, just rode ahead and waited for me to catch up.
With 6 miles to go, I got a phone call from my son, so I stopped to take it. He was all excited after leaving the Tigers' baseball game, saying they won, he had great seats, etc. (I'm glad he thought to call, seeing as I paid for the tickets!) The few minutes I stopped completely gave my legs a whole new life. however, and from there to the end, I actually did push myself to keep up with Don most of the time and found I was still staying in the recommended zones. With no wind (and just where was that tailwind--what's up with that??) and the brief rest, I felt really good. I mentioned this to Don, how my legs felt so much better after a short rest. "That's what transition is for." Smart alec!
We got in 35 miles, around 2 hours 45 min., so 45 minutes short for me, but what can you do? And once again, my face was bright red with sunburn and windburn. At least it looks like I spent spring break in Florida!


Anne said...

Thanks for taking us along on your weekend rides. I can smell that manure and feel the whipping wind right now. I'm glad they caught the guy behind the quadruple murder too.

Lily on the Road said...

Holy yikes woman, I'm exhausted just reading that! Good for you to slog along in the wind, it was brutal here too.

What is it with men, they are always stronger than us, yet it makes us feel a little badly when they have to wait for us. Not saying that Don was impatient, but truly, it has made me reconsider cycling with my male friend.

Hope you had a Happy Easter Vickie, hang tough, you CAN do your 70.3!!!

Pope Corky IX said...

I was out on the same trail on Saturday morning!! It was FREEZING at 8am--and I had an 8 miler out and back in that stench!

It was very stinky.....

but a nice flat run!!

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...

Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. I wouldn't worry about the ride being short. Riding in the wind is no small feat.

Just_because_today said...

Good for Don to be outthere riding with you. Great post. Thanks for sharing

ShirleyPerly said...

I know about riding in winds but not much about riding in smelly areas, LOL. Way to gut things out!

My husband used to be a MUCH stronger rider than me a few years back but now we're not far apart in riding abilities. I think the biggest thing that helped me was learning to draft (strong winds or not) so I could keep up with him while he still got the workout he wanted and I didn't have to work as hard. Meanwhile, I learned to ride faster than I would on my own and gained better bike handling skills. In my races I found out how much stronger I was on my own too!