Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Shakedown, the Good and the Bad (with no Ugly)

The P3 steps out in spring
Until yesterday, the last time my bike wheels were on pavement was November 13 in Clearwater, Florida. The last time they were on pavement in Cleveland was over a month before that. I've been riding indoors on my trainer exclusively for over five months. But yesterday, spring broke in Cleveland, as it does every year. With no warning.

The temperature went from a high of 45 degrees F on Wednesday to a high in the mid-60s yesterday. I couldn't get out of work fast enough. When my computer shutdown process lasted one second past 4:30 pm, I was panic-stricken. I had to get home, get my trainer tire switched out, and get out on the ROAD - for crying out loud! This was the most excited I have been about biking since I got my CompuTrainer in December.

All day yesterday, I had dreams of crushing my time from last year on one of my common routes. All that hard work on the CompuTrainer would finally pay off. I would, so to speak, leave myself in the dust this time. I called my husband Jim to tell him I would be out on the bike before he got home from work. He said two things to me: make sure you take a blinkie light with you in case it gets dark and be careful. It. Is. Windy.

Windy. It didn't register. He didn't say it was windy enough to be blowing his car around on the highway. But it was. All I could see was the sun and dry road.

I changed my tire in record time, donned a short-sleeve bike jersey and shorts, and ran out the door with my bike. I had to go back in not once, not twice, but three times. Once for my helmet. Once for my sunglasses. And once more for my water bottle. Yes. I am truly out of practice for this road-riding thing.

As I was leaving, Jim pulled into the driveway. Before I was off, he said it one more time: "be careful, it's really windy."

By the time I got to the first great hill followed by flat road, I understood what "windy" meant. The wind was directly out of the south - directly against me with gusts reaching almost 30 mph. So much for my assessment of how strong I had gotten over the winter. My speeds were about 5-6 mph slower than last year and after 32 minutes of riding into the wind, disheartened, I turned around and headed home. My great breakthrough on the bike would have to wait until some other day.

But the return trip was not without its own surprises. I was now riding WITH the wind. On my way back, not only would I reach speeds 5-6 mph faster than the same roads last year, but my my speed on the flat roads reached numbers I've NEVER seen (almost 30 mph). It brought back memories of the day I rode my first racing bike after 10 years of running only. THIS was what biking was all about - the proverbial "need for speed." It's something I never felt as a runner. Even though it's never the thing that gets me out the door for a workout, it IS the thing that keeps me out there even when my workout goes to hell. The speed. The fun of it.

I felt so good about riding with the wind, I decided to tackle the BIG hill - a three-mile climb out of the valley (Note: Northeast Ohio is far from Colorado. Our ski resorts - and subsequent hill rides - are actually made from slopes into river valleys). With the hill, I finally got my spring payoff.

The last time I climbed the hill in 2010, I had to shift into my lowest gear at least once to maintain a pace above 5 mph. Yesterday, that gear never saw the chain. Neither did the second lowest. By the time I made it to the top of the hill, I was trying to recall my fear in the "olden days" when I dreaded it so much. Today, both my brain and my legs are having trouble recalling any sort of struggle at all.

I still have work to do though. I have yet to do my first outdoor 100-miler (planned for this Sunday). But, thanks to the CompuTrainer, I feel I've made progress on the bike this winter. And, to my extreme surprise, I'm developing just the tiniest bit of confidence going into my next race. Which just happens to be my first race of the season. Which just happens to be an Ironman. Which just happens to be in mountainous terrain. Talk about tempting disaster. I'm gonna need all the confidence I can get.

Here's a neat little chart of yesterday's weather, to prove (mostly to myself) that I wasn't being a wimp. Yes, the engineer in me still loves graphs.:

Weather Underground: Akron, Ohio, March 17, 2011
(my ride took place between 5:30 and 7 pm)

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I also find that I’m faster with the wind at my back than I am riding into the wind. I’m faster going downhill than I am uphill too. Oh, and water is wet…

    Looks like some nice progress over the winter kid. Well done!!

    All the best,