I sent a text out to my friends that we’d be riding at 2, knowing it was likely only going to be Chuck and I. Most of us are early cyclists. Chuck and I, because we’re working stiffs, are a little more… ah… flexible with the time we’ll ride. The others, they like to get out early or ride their trainers in the winter, to get the workout out of the way. The problem we had yesterday was that we were on the back end of a two-day warm front, followed by rain turning to snow ahead of the cold front the evening prior which froze the roads. They were dicey in the morning. However, temps were due to climb to just above freezing by noon. This is why we set the time for 2pm.
I started getting ready a little early so I was out in the living room to see it my clear driveway – nobody else was coming.
I rolled my Trek out the door, that’s right, the skinny-tire bike in January, just a Chuck pulled up. Garmin and taillight on and we rolled out. The roads weren’t entirely dry but they weren’t a bit icy, either. We’d picked the “Deer Loop”, so named because my wife and buddy, Mike had a deer run into our group causing Mike to fall backwards off his bike, breaking his tailbone. From my house it’s a 35-mile route heading out west and south before heading back north and east. We like it because we’ve got eight to ten inescapable miles of moderately trafficked road and 25 out in the middle of nowhere.
The pace started out quick right out of the gate and I could feel the effects of too many easy days over the last couple of months. I’d dressed for an easy ride so I started sweating almost immediately. Thankfully, with my new jacket, sweating doesn’t mean what it used to (freezing). I still stay comfortable while I’m dripping wet. The pace was interesting. We were taking three-mile pulls between 18 & 19-mph into the wind, but it wasn’t what you’d call “horrible”. I felt it at the end of those three, though. Chuck, who’s been riding outside daily, even in the snow, is in better shape than I am (or at least that’s my perception – he’s been turning in slow miles outdoors while I’ve been hammering the trainer pretty hard these last two weeks). The southerly miles weren’t near as bad but I didn’t get many of those… it was mostly east-to-west for my miles.
We stopped at the Gaines gas station we always do about 14 miles in and had a decent 17.4-mph average. I was hungry from the effort and was just about to break into my pocket food when Chuck emerged from the store with a couple of Payday peanut bars. We cracked a couple of jokes about licking salty nuts outside the gas station beating licking them on the couch (as a dog licks its nuts… sadly, I don’t actually possess the flexibility for this, but it makes for a funny double entendre – someone asks, “what are your plans for the day?” “I’m gonna sit on the couch and lick my nuts”… said deadpan, it’s freaking hilarious).
We rolled out after finishing our peanut bars, just three miles of headwind left in the ride. The wind was picking up a little, too. We did, however, manage to bump that 17.4 up to 17.5 when we hit quartering tailwind, though. The pace bumped to a relatively easy 20-mph, and relief. Kind of. The effort stayed the same commensurate to the amount of tailwind so there wasn’t much of a break. Our pace ticked up quickly once we hit glorious tailwind. Within five miles we’d cracked 18-mph. Seven miles later we were bumping on 18.5… and I was running out of gas. With six miles left, and it being my turn up front, I thought about sitting up for a minute or two of that first mile. I decided I wasn’t going to get any stronger sitting up so I told the complainer in the melon committee to sit down and shut it. Then came the quartering tailwind section and I didn’t drop my pace accordingly. By the end of that two miles my tongue was dangling… and I mean that literally. When I flicked off the front after that pull, I was hit. Chuck laughed when he came by, seeing my tongue lolling out of my mouth.
The last four miles, one quartering and three tailwind, were no rest for the weary. We hammered toward home near 23-mph as the snow started coming down lightly. We cracked 18.5-mph with a shade less than three miles to go. Chuck headed for home while I turned up my road to head to my driveway, hitting the Garmin at 35.4 miles in 1:54:21, good for 18.6… I was cooked, but at just above freezing with all of that gear on, and our first hard ride after months of taking it easy, that was a really good result.
I started falling asleep on the couch before we even ate dinner. After, we played a couple of family games of Euchre, then watched the last of the Packers game, then the start of the Bills before I wandered off to bed with my tablet to watch a bit more of the Bills while my wife and daughters watched a movie on the TV. I don’t even remember how much of the game I made it through before crashing, but it wasn’t much. I slept like a baby.