Sunday, February 1, 2009

Solo Saturday: Suffering in the Wind

It seemed like a logical decision. I had just made the turn to head down a descent that, if it’s what you want to do, will allow you to go faster than any other in the region. So I started sprinting.

And I had a 30 mph tailwind. With my chest on my handlebars I couldn’t see my bike computer, but shifting my weight back to a somewhat safer position
before the steepest part of the hill, I was pretty sure I saw 59 mph.

Riding in the wind has its benefits. Most of the time though, like the previous hour and a half, battling the gusts is difficult at best.

Here’s my philosophy on riding in the wind: You should learn to love it. To embrace it. To let it make you bulletproof. Because almost no one likes riding in the wind. It destroys people mentally. Living in Boulder for 10 years, where the Chinooks consistently howl off of the Front Range of the Rockies, and now in Spokane—where it's almost as windy—forces you onto the sharp end of the stick. A lot.

All meatheadedness aside, today was hard.

Rider 3 was on the nordic trails with his offspring. Rider 2 spent the afternoon "entertaining" his family. Rider 2 loves Germany, so I'm sure the entertainment involved schnitzel, some kind of sausage and his Jens Voight shrine. That meant a solo ride today.

This was most definitely a mixed blessing. On one hand I really like riding alone. It’s important to have time alone—time without distractions from phones, music, interruptions, work, etc. Also, my form is more than a little bit behind this year, so it would be good to be able to go my own pace.

On the other hand the frigid conditions we’ve had have broken a bit. But along with the warm front that brought in the balmy 30-something degree weather came the wind.

Rolling out of town it was 37 degrees. You can sort of see this in the picture. You might also notice the flags. Yikes. The thermometer could just as easily been showing wind speed.
From Team Two Wheel

Going north, towards a decidedly hillier area, might offer occasional shelter from the gusts. This was a nice thought anyway.

45 minutes or so into the ride I turned left, was smacked in the chest with the wind, and headed towards the most significant climb of the day. Oh joy.

The four-ish mile climb up Seven Mile Road brings you to an area of rolling hills known as Four Mounds.

The climb is actually a series of progressively steeper climbs linked by short flat sections. On a good day I really like this hill. I can typically find a nice rhythm. Not today though.

From Team Two Wheel

A future post will most certainly categorize the many kinds of suffering in cycling. Early-season suffering is a very distinct kind of pleasure. Legs feel thick and heavy, and I, anyway, get to threshold very, very easily. I think this is also known as being out of shape.

Early-season riding creates plenty of opportunity for self-loathing. Your head fills with thoughts about apathetic training, thousands of extra holiday calories, and resentment about the work needed just to get to the level your competitors/teammates/riding friends reached a month ago.

Did I mention it was windy? They’re hard to see, but check out the real estate signs. They were floating between a 30 degree angle and completely parallel with the ground.
From Team Two Wheel

The steepest part of the climb is at the top. It’s not good when your heart rate is 178 and the steep part hasn’t started.
From Team Two Wheel

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get irritated when you’re going uphill? My rear wheel has a hop in it, and its bump, bump, bump, while I climbed bugged me more than a little bit.

After cresting the hill there were a few choices. Rather than ride a loop that joins the hill I had just climbed in about halfway down, I decided to tack on a few more miles and headed to Charles Road.

I followed a twisty, rolling ribbon of road towards the barn that marks the corner where I’d turn. With each bend the wind drastically changed my speed, making it was hard to find a steady tempo. Looking around I thought about how different the landscape would look in the spring. The harsh glare of snow and ice will soon be replaced with tall grasses, wildflowers, seasonal wetlands and cattle.

From Team Two Wheel

The Charles Road descent is about a mile and a half long. The first 1/3 is steep, bringing you up to speed quickly. The second 1/3 has a straightaway that’s really steep, bringing you into a gentle, wide turn. The last part is gradual, but by the time you get there you can be going pretty quickly if that’s your preference.

I started to describe what happened on this road at the beginning of this post. I made the turn and the tailwind made it very, very quiet. Sprinting for the first 50 meters and moving over the front wheel helped pick up speed more than usual.

Going into the steeper section brought another big acceleration. My bike felt like it was floating—not in a scary way, but it was such a quick burst of speed.

I’m not sure, but I may have gone faster than this once or twice before on a bike. Either way though, it was definitely fast. Here’s a picture of my computer at the end of the ride, showing max speed.

From Team Two Wheel

The rolling section after the descent brings you to the base of Nine Mile Dam.
From Team Two Wheel

The last hour of the ride was relatively uneventful. Riding along the river was beautiful and I found a good rhythm. Then it was up Doomsday Hill and through West Central. I pegged it over Monroe Street bridge to keep up with the cars, then resisted the urge to stop at the Rocket Bakery two blocks from home.
From Team Two Wheel

Signs of a winter ride.

From Team Two Wheel

So all in all a good Saturday ride. 3 hours and 50ish miles. After a quick sandwich and a shower I fired up the moka pot. Coffee really is an essential part of the ride.

From Team Two Wheel

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