Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A tale of two rides ...

This past Saturday, I drove out to Bernville to ride Blue Marsh Lake. It was pretty cold so I figured the trail would be hard and frozen, making for a good winter training ride.  I was half-right. The trail was frozen, but it wasn't hard. In fact, it was so cold that the water that had previously saturated the dirt (Blue Marsh doesn't drain well) had turned to ice within the soil.

The white specks are ice crystals within the soil

Riding on it felt like riding on crunchy snow, and it took about the same amount of effort. I was originally hoping to get two laps in for 60 miles, but less than an hour into the ride, I knew that wasn't going to happen. It was just too slow-going out there - 60 miles would have taken all day. And that just wasn't an option due to the conditions. It was really cold the whole day - probably much colder than elsewhere in the area for of the proximity to the lake.

The lake was frozen in several areas
And that created a whole different problem - it was really tough to stay warm on Saturday. My hands and feet kept getting cold again and again. That usually doesn't happen, but it was in the high teens with an icy wind all day, and that chill kept pulling the blood away from the extremities to keep my core warm. My hands were swollen and numb almost all day.

Frozen hand
Ultimately, I rode 30 miles on the day and felt every one of them. There were a few sections that were frozen solid and I had to hike-a-bike around them. The one shown below was especially long and appeared to have quite a bit of water under the ice, which could have been a hypothermic disaster if I fell through.

And so Saturday was a classic training day. Less a fun ride than a necessary one. A week or so ago during the deep freeze, my younger brother asked me why I bothered to go out and ride in such cold temps. He asked me something like whether it was because I felt I had to prove something. That isn't the reason - the fact is, it's just not that hard if you are prepared for it so there isn't really any gauntlet to run - but there is something to be said for that kind of thinking sometimes. On days like Saturday, finishing the full ride is a training exercise. A Rule 5 day. And well need those now and then, right?

But then again, sometimes we just need fun, too.

Tonight, I got out for a ride in a snow shower in Philly. I did a tough core and swimming workout this morning before work and I was feeling pretty blah on my ride home after work. I wasn't sure I was going to go ride at all tonight, But ultimately, I decided to go after making a deal with myself -- tonight would be just playing on my bike in the snow. No hard efforts or anything like that. Just fun. And that's exactly what it was.

I had so much fun tonight just flying along the well-packed snow, snowflakes whipping me in the face. Eventually the snow stopped, leaving me with just a well-coated trail. It was kind of like riding Wissahickon after someone threw a rug down over all the rocks. I was flying around corners, sliding sideways, and just enjoying every second of it. If you ride in winter and have the opportunity to do a night ride in the snow, I can't recommend it enough. It's just pure fun.

Early on the snow was falling hard and fast
Two rides with very different characters to them and both of them absolutely necessary for anyone who enjoys this sport. Sometimes, you need to suffer - to get better, to get tougher, or just to better appreciate the times when it's all about fun. And sometimes it has to be just that - all about fun. I don't know if I got any "better" at this tonight, and I could care less if I did. I had a ball doing it, relieved some stress from a long day at work, and finished both tired and happy. Not a bad way to spend an evening!

See you on the trails!

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