Monday, June 22, 2009

An Intense Father's Day Weekend

Regarding the title of this post, thankfully I'm not referring to a stress-filled weekend jam-packed with tasks and obligations I'd rather avoid.

Instead, I'm referring to my riding.

I had two beautiful days this weekend. For a number of reasons I needed to ride solo. First off, I wanted to try and do some harder efforts, and this always works better for me when I'm by myself. With others I end up riding too hard, or not hard enough. Or resting too long between efforts, or not long enough. No, I what I wanted was to ride where and how I wanted to ride. Plus, Riders 2 and 3 had other plans. Solo it was.

For the most part I generally prefer to ride with friends. I like the camaraderie and social aspect of riding in a group--large or small. But sometimes solitary time on the bike is a must. Especially after the past week. Work has been exceptionally busy and stressful (mostly in a good way though) and I was really looking forward to time alone. It's interesting how this ends up being time for reflection, even though I don't always spend time thinking about anything other than the ride, how I'm feeling on the bike, where that creak in my bottom braket is really coming from, etc.

Plus, like I mentioned a couple of times last week I haven't been riding much and intense efforts have been more difficult than usual. I raced last Tuesday, miraculously finishing fourth, but it wasn't a memorable showing, despite a relatively weak field. I could say that I botched the sprint, but it's funny how when you're feeling good and have decent form, sprints don't get botched.

Anyway, after getting a new spoke for my training wheel at Two Wheel Transit (and catching up at the shop with a couple of the Morning Ride guys that had just finished their long ride), Saturday I did repeats on a hill called Greenwood Road. It's not terribly long--say six to seven minutes depending on my fitness--but it's absolutely hard. The climb gets steeper as you ascend, with the most difficult pitch at the very top.

It's also a beautiful road. Smooth asphalt, great views of Indian Canyon and Palisades Park, thick old-growth fir covering the hillsides, and on the way down, one of the best panoramas of downtown Spokane around. It also gets very little traffic.

And riding this, I almost died. For once, not from some self-inflicted hypoxic state, but from some guy in a truck being stupid. Greenwood is a curvy, steep road with a sandy shoulder. So when you're piloting a 3,000 pound, 20 year old pickup it's probably not a good idea to be sending text messages, which is what the wanker driving the car seemed to be up to. You can probably guess that he drove off the road, I heard a screeching of tires on asphalt and came around the corner to see the guy drifting his truck sideways at 45 mph, with his phone still in his hand. Yikes. I'm sure he went home and told his friends about it, leaving out the part about the phone, but referencing his NASCAR-like reflexes. Except it was a right-hand bend, and in NASCAR you only turn left.

Sunday was Father's Day, so I headed out after a tasty breakfast with my family for a series of 15 minute threshold efforts. Or something around threshold anyway. My heart rate monitor hasn't worked for a couple of months now, so I ride by feel, which is probably better anyway. After 25 years of riding I hope I have a decent sense of when I'm working hard.

It was humid, but the upside of the thunderstorms we've been having is that Spokane is greener than I think I've ever seen it in late-June.

I felt surprisingly strong, ticking through the first effort without more trouble than usual, especially on the heels of Saturday's hard ride. Heading up the Fish Lake Trail--a flat rails-to-trail that brings you to the town of Cheney--I had my second near miss of the weekend. I made the rookie mistake of riding with my head down for 10 seconds or so--something I rarely do. When I looked up what was in front of me? Like 20 meters in front of me? An exceptionally large coyote. I still can't think of a single positive outcome from T-boning a wild animal. Luckily I think it was more scared than I was and it scampered up the hillside.

The rest of the ride was perfect. The rolling hills of Salnave Road were beautiful, the fisherpeople on Silver and Clear Lake must have been at home waiting for the next rainstorm, and the temperature was cool. Armwarmers in June are a rarity, but with the humidity I ended up a bit dehydrated by the end.

No racing this week for me. I'm heading to San Fran for a surprise work trip for a few days. Should make for the perfect runup for State Championships.

On another aside, did you catch Fabian Cancellara and his big ol' cottage of wattage in the Swiss Tour final TT? Holy crap--the man can lay it down. How many bikes a year do you think he breaks? Given how many 40-50 year old docs and lawyers I've seen destroy Specialized Tarmacs, I can only imagine that Spartacus is a one-man R&D department for the big red S.

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