Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A glorious bicycling weekend!

Over the past month or two, my commutes and training rides have been more about character building than about pleasure.  I've been surviving rain, darkness, greyness, parts breakage, and one extremely windy day in Squamish, training with teammates in such severe blusters that one of our riders literally got knocked over by the wind.  Generally, I don't mind this type of riding- in fact, I take some pleasure in the perceived misery of being out on your bike in the rain, snow, sleet and hail.   The truth is, the actual riding is never as bad as your perception of how bad it must be when you're looking at the rain and grey from a warm living room, or out the window of a bus or train.  Once you get out there, it is actually enjoyable, and I like being reminded of this every time I roll off in the drizzle that defines Seattle winters.  In fact, I get so used to the greyness that I forget how wonderful the sun is.  

This past weekend was a glorious reminder.  I spent as much time as possible soaking up the sunshine from atop two wheels.  Saturday's ride found me down south, near Black Diamond (an area I am much more familiar with when mountain biking than on the road, but beautiful nonetheless).  I was riding with one of my teammates.  The two of us, not quite ready for the immediately rapid pace the men set at the start of the ride, found ourselves off the back, dealing with head colds and cramped muscles.  Rather than chase the rapidly departing group ahead of us, we decided to break off do laps on a 12-mile circuit portion of the course,  riding in silence through contrasts of chilly shade pockets between sunny pools of light shining onto the road through the trees. The circuits were quite a study in the effects of wind on the power of the wind.  We had a good headwind around the first two corners of the circuit, coupled with a couple of short, formidable hills that made for some challenging, straining riding.  Immediately after coming around the second corner, though, the wind stopped assaulting us from the front, the sun came out, and the riding became effortless.  After a few laps, I parted ways with my teammate and rode out to meet the girls coming back from the other ride.  We spent about 10 miles riding together in a pace line, with a tailwind, flying through the sunshine and shadows.  

The next morning, I caught a ride with our team captain, Jill, out to Redmond for a day of bicycle skills building.  We started the morning in a chilly parking garage, working on cornering techniques for a couple of hours, before heading out to the velodrome for a "bump and grind" clinic with Jill's uber-strong trackie friend Jane.  The idea of the clinic was to practice slow-speed rider to rider contact, on a track bike with knobby tires.  I had neither a track bike nor nobby tires, but I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I just rode my Indy, which handled fine!  We practiced all kinds of contact- riding through tight packs, evading riders who try to cut you off, bumping wheels, and holding a line against riders leaning into you during a sprint.  My most favorite moment-- Jane coaching me, while leaning hard into me from her bike, on how to use a hip check-shoulder-check move to push her back upright.  Jane is infinitely strong and also significantly larger than me, so the whole scene must have been pretty entertaining to passers by.  Maybe because of my ski racing background, or maybe because I didn't get beat up as a kid enough, I freaking love this full-contact biking stuff.  I think I am going to really like track!  :-). 

After our bump-n-grind clinic, I sat in the sun and soaked it up while debating whether to ride home or call it a day and hop on the bus.  On my way off the track, I bumped into Muuqi and Max, friends from Bikeworks, who were turning around and riding back to Seattle, so I decided to join them.  By this time, the sun was REALLY out, as were roughly 90% of the people who live within 10 miles of the Burke Gilman.  It was NUTS- I don't think I've ever seen that many people out enjoying Seattle's sunshine.  We played chicken with more than a few pedestrians, dodging and weaving around dogs, baby strollers, roller bladers, and youngsters on bikes.  The whole scene had a bit of a festival vibe to it.  Our conversations reflected the giddyness we were feeling about the weather- we made up silly songs, told goofy stories, and basically spent the whole ride home ooohing and ahhhing at the sunshine. I parted ways with M and M at the UW campus, then headed south along Lake Washington Boulevard to catch the last rays of the day on my way home.  

In the mirror that night, my face showed evidence of my fabulous weekend in the form of bright pink cheeks.  My first sunburn of the year, yeah!!!   Can't wait for the week ahead.  

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