Monday, February 16, 2009

L & M Express to Suffer City

Believe it or not, just the name “Suffer City” was enough to lure me in. Plus the ride leaders, Denis and Cliff put together some great routes with lots of enjoyable climbing through some scenic settings at a time of year when I need to get out on my road bike and build up my leg strength and base endurance. What I really like is that although their rides are rated A/B*, the routes are truly A caliber routes. Being a women, who can not quite keep up with some of the speeds that men can crank out in the A rides, I really enjoy the same challenges offered in the A ride terrain, but at the B* pace.

Besides our leaders, our group consisted of Art, Willy, Marianne, Nate, Jim, Rob and myself. It was really cold off the start as we headed right into the wind and the sun had not quite come over the mountain yet. Luckily the pace was quick enough to keep me working overtime, and my fingers came back in about twenty minutes. The sun was with us all day long, which was perfect.

Our first climb was Tweed from 9W. I was warned ahead and was actually nervous, because I had never gone up it and was wondering if it was possible for my humble winter legs. The ramp is quite steep, and when descending it in the other direction, it can be very dicey in the winter when strewn with ice and piles of road salt. As soon as the ramp came into view, I knew it would not be a problem. The gradual climb on the top had surprisingly better views than in the other direction. Marianne and I climbed side by side, looking out over the Hudson River, and down on the Tappan Zee Bridge.

I like to build rather than blow up on the first climb, so I tempered my speed a bit, and absorbed the views, as I knew there would be plenty more climbing ahead. We continued north, and by this time, I realized that we were doing some of route reversed from last year. This would put the serious climbing in the first half, which could mean not quite as much suffering. Marianne and I hung in there pretty well climbing, always keeping someone in sight, or close to sight. I spotted some more great views that were missed in the other direction. Many of the climbs seemed harder this way, and I was able to embrace the climbs because they seemed new.

On the return home from Nyack, we had a very long stretch on 9W where we encountered many cyclists along the way. The terrain was more rolling, and the group split and merged many times. We picked up a few tag alongs, and traded pulls. I did a little more pulling and riding out of the draft, which I feel good about. Last year at the end of the ride, my legs were quivering and unable to even hang in the draft. This year my legs seemed much better. The ride ended up being 62 miles, and by the time I got home, my legs were just tired enough. Afterwards, on each trip up the stairs my legs talked back to me, but no harsh words. A good ride indeed.

Pictures taken a week and a half later on an abbreviated revisit solo ride up to Tweed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nirvana Day Ride

It felt great to be out today in 50 degree weather. It did not really matter that we got rained on for the first half hour and then one months worth of melted snow and road salt was getting splattered onto us for several hours. It just felt great to put all my energy into riding instead of trying to keep warm. As the snow receded, rivers of running water grew on the streets. Smiling cyclists were everywhere.

Todays ride had just as much to do with completing my old bike project as with logging some climbing miles on my legs. Finally the Team Fuji was complete with White Industries dos enos freewheel. The bike had been found under my sisiters deck and was in mint condition. The conversion consisted of pulling off some shifters and cogs, replacing the handlebar with a newer one I had in the parts bin at home, replacing tires and tubes with ones from my tire pile, and a new stem donated from a bike shop. I purchased two chainrings 40t and 42t, a freewheel cog, pink chainring bolts and some new bar tape, .... all under $150.

The warm temperatures created much excitement at the start of the ride, and I was already beginning to meditate on my lack of gears and cleansing of distracting gadgets. I had no computer, no heart-rate monitor, no clock, no gps, no shifters, and most importantly, no expectations. By the time I reached my first hill, I had already found my rhythm. While working in a pace line of fancy bikes and forcing some uphill surges, I came to my first enlightenment: It has less to do with the bike than you think. Riding a SS reminds me of what I am and what I CAN do, and that is usually more than I think I can.

Returning home on the back half of the ride, I felt so much better than I did last weekend. I noticed a few members of the group that began to tire and cramp. Familiar with that very same feeling myself, only a week before, I felt lucky to have that behind me already. The rhythm of the single-speed , helped flush out my legs with each little incline, and before I knew it, I was home with energy to spare. Maybe a bigger ride next weekend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winters Day

Gliding in the snow
Sun, moon and wind watch me play
On a winters day.