The first weekend in April was a three day weekend for me due to a school reduction day. It was also projected to be very nice weather so Saturday morning the SO and I were rolling out by 10:30. I had a plan in mind. I wanted to try to ride a hundred miles in three days. I wasn’t entirely sure we were going to be able to make it. After all, we hadn’t really ridden for a few weeks since my last surgery and I have a way of biting off way more than I can chew.
We rolled out. I’d made arrangements for us to meet up with the Southern Oregon Velo Club for our first group ride ever. The plan was that we would meet up with the Slo-Mo group (average pace of 9-12 mph) at 1:30 that afternoon. I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to learn to ride in a group without the worry of us getting dropped from the ride for being too slow. The problem was that the scheduled ride was not going to be long enough for us. So, the plan was that we’d just ride south toward Ashland on The Greenway watching our time in order to time our arrival back at Bear Creek Park (a large centrally located park in the area) in time to meet up with the other Velo Club members.
It turned out that this was a great plan. We rode on the greenway to Exit 19, at a nice leisurely pace. It was, after all, my first lengthy ride since my last surgery. Two weeks out of the saddle is too long. Once we got to Exit 19 we figured we should turn around if we wanted to make it back in time to meet up with the club members. We made it back in plenty of time and enjoyed a nice ride with some other cyclists. The pace this group rides is just a little slow for us, but it was a great opportunity to meet some other cyclists in the valley. After all, we’d only been club members for almost a year, but hadn’t ever done anything with the club. It was time.
Halfway through the ride, everyone stopped at the Bad Ass Coffee Company at the downtown location. We stopped along with the rest and had some refreshments. Instead of heading back to the starting point with the rest of the club members, we decided to head on back toward home. We had our 40 miles in for the day and were feeling great.
The next day we put in 37 miles, again, on the greenway. On Monday, my son joined us for a shorter, but brisker ride of 27.63 miles. My son took the pull home in some pretty strong headwinds. That was really fun. We clocked an average pace for the ride back of 16 to 17 mph. We were sore, but happy. 100 miles in three days. If I can keep up that pace throughout the summer, we should really be able to stack some mileage on.
Unfortunately, the rest of April wasn’t nearly as glorious as this one weekend was. We ended up riding 205 miles in April. Not bad for only being able to ride on weekends and for also starting radiation treatments. It is an improvement over March’s 129.59 miles. I’m definitely anticipating a better month in May.
As much fun as the surgical party was, the time spent convalescing wasn’t nearly as smooth this time around. More pain, more fatigue, less weather that cooperated with me getting out on the bike, and more of the daily stuff of life that can just get in the way of feeling 100 percent. That being said, I’m sporting a pretty wicked looking 4-inch scar. I can, at least, still proudly announce that I do have all my original body parts. I’m certainly glad that it wasn’t worse than it was.
Two days ago, the weather relented, and I ventured forth on my first ride after this last surgery. My significant other, my son and I logged 17.04 miles in an hour and 26 minutes. Not too bad for a first day out. The SO kept asking how I was doing and telling me not to push too hard. After my typical sucking air for the first 10 minutes, I was fine. After the first 30 minutes, I was fully warmed up and having a great time. The weather was perfect. Of course, there are some who would not consider overcast and sprinkling weather as perfect, but I was ecstatic to be on two wheels again, with the wind in my face. The ground was mostly dry, large puffy clouds scudded across the sky, every now and then we were hit by a few sprinkling drops of rain, but nothing significant. Fruit trees are beginning to blossom and trees are beginning to leaf out around here. It was beautiful. I was disappointed only by the fact that we started out late and due to time constraints had to head back much earlier than I wanted.
It was good we headed back when we did, though, because my body was screaming at me for going out that far and that hard after two weeks of complete inactivity. I was pretty grateful for a few of the remaining pain meds that night.
It was shaping up to be a disappointing Saturday. Face it, during the school year, for a teacher, the best and most wonderful day to ride is Saturday, weather permitting. Sunday rides have to be shortened due to getting ready for the week. Rides during the week must be shortened due to running out of daytime.
This Saturday, was beginning to look like it was going to be a wasted one where riding was concerned. The weather was perfect, but the night before, my Significant Other broke a spoke on his back tire. We both thought one or the other of us had hit a rock, but no, it was his back wheel. It shortened our ride that evening significantly. Since we were six miles out with no other transportation available he rode the six miles home on it. On the return trip I watched his rear wheel wobble more and more with each mile. We definitely needed to head into the Bike Shop for that repair.
To make matters worse, my bike was creating all sorts of annoying rattles, creaks and squeaks. In particular, there was this loud and very irritating click, click, click on every down stroke of my right pedal. My bike most of the time, is entirely silent when I ride, so I was fairly worried that it was complaining so loudly to me on this first ride off the trainer.
The combination of these woes, cut our ride short on Friday night. It also meant that our first objective Saturday morning was to get the bikes into the shop to see what and how serious the trouble was. We feared the worst, that our bikes wouldn’t be back out of the shop until Monday.
I can go into all the details of what exactly was wrong, but that’s boring for most people and I don’t yet have all the vocabulary to adequately convey what was wrong. In the end, what we thought was going to mean missing a weekend of riding really only ended up delaying our Saturday ride, by a couple of hours. The guys at Marty’s Cycle and Moore literally dropped what they were doing and fixed both our bikes right there on the spot. They didn’t have to do this, but we are so grateful they did. About an hour and $47 later, we were walking out the door with our bikes healed.
We wasted no time getting on the road, since we heard rain was on the way. I figured we still had about 20 miles to go to make our hundred for the week, so we needed to get on the road quickly. After some waffling about whether to take it easy on the greenway or hit the hilly road and head out in the country, we opted for the road. We definitely took the more difficult option. The roads between Central Point and Gold Hill are not for the weak. In fact, there are several really intense, long hill climbs on Old Stage Road between Scenic Avenue and the I-5. These climbs weren’t made any easier by the presence of a very strong headwind and the fact that we were riding hybrids instead of road bikes. Even in our marginal fitness condition, we would climb those hills faster on a road bike. Which, makes me really want a road bike very soon. This in turn depresses me, because I don’t believe that will be my reality for at least another year. But I digress.
We inched up those hills at a whopping 5-6 miles per hour. It was the toughest 5-6 mph I’ve ridden to date. Every muscle in my legs burned (this is good), I was fighting for every breath, and I even felt as though I might vomit at one point (yeah, that’s probably not so great). Then suddenly, about halfway up the climb, I hit the right gear and, crazy as it seems, I was able to almost rest while I climbed. I was still pushing hard, but I caught my breath and kept going. I felt a small amount of comfort when after glancing back I realized the Significant Other was suffering just as much as I was.
The downhill on the other side made it all worthwhile. Except that the headwind slowed our descent significantly. We were still having to push even when going downhill.
It was a crazy ride.
Upon arriving in Goldhill, we stopped in at a little dive bar called the Longbranch Saloon. It clearly was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon. We tied up our mechanical horses and stepped into the local watering hole to quench our thirst and gear up for the ride back.
Instead of coming back the way we came (read, we chickened out and tried to get out of facing those hills again) we opted for the Blackwell Road route home.
I’ve heard that one of the cycling rules of the road is that you always have a map and a repair kit with you. At minimum, you should know where you are going, shouldn’t you? We had the repair kit, but we had no idea where we were going. All I knew was that if I took Blackwell Road in far enough it was going to come out somewhere near I-5 and Central Point and I could probably find my way home from there. The SO was following me blindly, trusting that I knew where we were going. Little did he know…
Blackwell Road proved to be just as challenging as Old Stage Road in its own way. The climbs weren’t as steep, but they were longer. Trying to avoid the work, and really wishing by this time that we had some more level terrain to deal with and no wind, we turned onto Tolo Road. Around the corner, there it was, another hill and beyond that one, another. At this point, my entire body felt like mush and I wondered seriously if we were going to make it home without having to get off and walk…or call for help. Just as we wondered if we should turn around and head back we saw Scenic Avenue in the distance and knew we were within 3 miles of home. From the intersection ahead, the ride was going to be a nice downhill ride leveling off once we reached town. We knew we were going to be okay.
We rode the hardest 25 miles we’ve ever ridden since beginning our cycling adventures. We hit our highest speed on a downhill of 29 miles per hour, which means we were flying on our bikes, and dead if we’d fallen. We returned home tired, but happy, because we’d pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zone and succeeded.
We stepped up to a new level in our riding. Hill work is now going to be a regular part of our riding. It has to be. There’s nothing more painful at first, but it is so rewarding when you crest that hill knowing you still have gears left to shift and energy left to ride.
When we got home, I turned to the SO and said, “You know, that was a really hard ride. How many people do you know that could have stayed with us on that? I think, other than the guys at the bike shop, I know about two. Those two would have dusted us, but other than that…I can’t think of anyone who could have done 25 miles uphill both ways like we just did.”
Not too bad for an ole fat lady pushing 50.