Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plains, Trains, and lack of Automobiles

...lack of Automobiles

While we are still in the grips of what most people in the area are calling "June-uary", the past week has actually seen blue sky, sun and temperatures usually found in mid May. We all tell ourselves that summer is almost here and with it will bring more typical weather, but that remains to be witnessed.

The lack of rain did however allow me to commute by bike to work a few days last week. Traci and I normally carpool in during the rainy weather (read: 75% of the year) as we work a half mile from each other. From a gas saving standpoint, having only one of us commute in by bike doesn't make much sense, so its either both of us or none of us on the days we are both in the office. However, on days when we normally would have the need to take two cars and the sun is out, I can hop on my bike!

My commute is short. So short that in years past I've said it wasn't worth riding in due to the amount of time it would take to get ready, ride in, park the bike, shower, change, and get to my desk. However with a bit of a paradigm shift on my part, I've made it a much more doable and causal thing. No longer do I don the lycra and ride at mach 1 to get the office. I've taken a more simplistic approach. I dress in what I'm going to wear to work that day, get on my bike and just ride in. The only "gear" I wear is my helmet, shoes, and occasionally my gloves. I've stashed a pair of sandals in my office to change into once there.

I'm lucky enough to work in an office where wearing shorts is commonplace during the nice weather. On days where it's a bit chilly in the morning I pull over a pair of Castelli bike messenger knickers which while baggy, cover my war-torn knees and keep out the wind. My ride in is tame. Recovery pace at maximum. The goal is to get to work safely, not sweaty.

So far its been a successful endeavor. So much so that I've even been able to swing through my favorite coffee shop in the morning to get my usual iced-Americano. (Which conveniently fits into my seat-tube water bottle holder.) I arrive at the office and wheel my bike into my cube. Technically I shouldn't as its a "fire hazard" for morons who decide to stand in the corner of my office during a fire. Our building has no security guards.

My paradigm shift is not unique. I've seen a large number of people on the road the past few weeks on bikes, wearing what you'd see at work. I hope that the people driving by see us and think "Hey, I could do that too."

Plains, Trains...

When I got home last night, I was in a fairly low energy state for some reason. I wanted and needed to go out for a ride, but had little motivation to do so. Upon walking through the door into the house, I steeled my resolve and starting picking out clothes to change into. I'd ride my bread and butter 25mi loop, and I'd go hard. I wanted to set a new fast time for the route, to break last years 1h14m30s finish.

As I dressed, I mentally thought out the course. I needed to ride quickly, but not stress myself for the first few miles to get my legs warmed up. Cornelius Shefflin Road is always busy this time of day. Ride extra cautious for that quarter mile and recover a bit. The wind will be howling out past Roy. Make sure to come to a complete stop in North Plains or Barney Fife may come after you. I top off the tires, and walk out of the garage. It's 4:40 and I tell Traci I should be home no later than 6:00. No more than an hour and twenty minutes of pain. I'm shooting for closer to a hour and ten.

I stick to my plan for those first few miles. Small chain-ring, high cadence. The wind isn't too bad, probably due to the cloud cover that has lingered most of the day. At the turn to Leisy Road, I get into the drops and shift to the big ring. My heart-rate is stable and the legs don't feel half that bad. I ride through row after row of blueberry plants hint at a delicious summer to come. The blueberry field gives way to wide open plains of ryegrass. A small gust of wind blows across the field stirring up an evil tan cloud in its wake...

I happen to reside in a beautiful area that has a backwards river. (The Willamette River (will-AM-it) is one of a handful of rivers in North America that run North rather than South.) The river valley and surrounding areas are lush and fertile and wonderful for growing all sorts of things that produce ungodly quantities of pollen this time of year. "Spring colds" are common among the inhabitants. Symptoms usually include coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes, itchy skin, runny nose, congestion, snot, hives, and the desire to claw ones eyeballs out after extended exposure to outside air. This coupled with the valley's inhabitants desperate desire to be outside after 9 months of rain causes a fairly volatile mixture. After living for 15 years in this area, I've created a multi layered approach to combat the assault on my system. (Which I promise to post later this week.)

I push my way through the histamine minefield, keeping my HR below anaerobic threshold and eventually approach Roy. Roy is a tiny farming town, dominated by a community school and church. It also has a set of train tracks that runs through it in which I've never seen a train on in the fifteen years I've been riding in this area. Imagine my surprise as I crest a small rise in the road and see a logging car train rumbling down the tracks. I coast down to the intersection and stop behind the car waiting there. The sun has broken through the clouds and is hot on the black arm warmers I wore. I take the opportunity to strip them off and stuff them into my jersey pocket. I take a long pull from my water bottle and check the time. It's only eight past five. I've covered just shy of ten miles in twenty-seven minutes. I look to the west and see the last few cars of the train round the bend. The delay was short.

I settle back into my rhythm in the drops, working different gearing-cadence combination on this long flat to find the balance between fast and sustainable. I start to notice that I put out a higher wattage at a higher cadence and smaller gear versus pushing my bigger gears. Out of Roy and towards the glider park I ride. There are few cars on these roads and those you do see are plenty used to the cyclists in the area. Mountaindale road goes by in a blur, a combination of the pace of the ride and the pollen mines my eyes have detonated.

I grumpily pass a pair of cyclists on West Union. They are riding two abreast and make no efforts to move over as I call out my approach. I know they know I'm there. I've been watching them look in their mirrors for the past quarter mile. It gives me some satisfaction as I see them quickly shrink in the distance behind me. The irritation is replaced by the deep ache in my legs the last half mile of West Union. It's a false flat, and the wind has turned into my face. I pass by the school at the corner, the unofficial milepost 20 of my route.

The wonderful thing about teammates is you inevitably run into them on the road. I pass Russ P. going the other way on Helvetia. He's been off the bike for a bit nursing a back injury. We shout to each other upon recognition. Its good to see him riding again. Helvetia becomes Shute, and the stretch of road vanish under my wheels. I turn down the homestretch on Evergreen. I push hard, the small tailwind and familiar road picking up my pace. I concentrate on my HR numbers, looking for the exact moment where my breathing goes into anaerobic. 167 seems to be the magic number.

I cruise into my neighborhood, treating the winding corners like how I'd treat a criterium race, bike leaning over in the corners and body out of the saddle. I hit the garage door opener as I pass the house and circle around to cool down. The clock reads 5:53.

After dinner, I pull down the ride numbers. Total time was 1h13m, but I was stuck in Roy for a few minutes due to the train. Moving time was shy of 1h9m for an average speed of 21.8mph. New PR. While I didn't set a new FTP or 20minute max wattage, I did achieve a new max wattage for everything from 21min to 1h 13m. My strengths don't play to these long sustained efforts, but I know by working at them I can hope to improve my overall performance.

My mood however, increased dramatically.

1 comment:

MattD said...

Edit- Big thanks to Lynne for pointing out my spellchecker likes Helvetica road more then Helvetia. We are currently searching for New Times Roman Street, and Arial Ave.

And for the few of you who attempted to correct my word usage in my title, I was refering to plains as in prairies not planes as in airplanes. Homophones are witty.