“If you come across one of those, be humble. Excuse yourself and ride at your pace. There is no point trying to be something you are not. Let them go and let go of your ego.”-Shona Living
Six miles. Six stinkin’ miles. I was finally out the door. On two wheels. Turning pedals… slowly. I am often the only one out on the trails in the winter, so there is rarely a stronger rider to worry about. I know they are out there somewhere riding a trail, even if I only see them in memories from my racing days. I let them go years ago, along with my ego. Now I just try to enjoy the ride.
This was my first outing on a bike this winter after major surgery. To be safe, it was decided to get this pedal out-of-the-way on snow-covered gravel township roads rather than trails. For me and the fatbike beneath me, there really only one option. I can’t seem to force myself to do an out and back ride. I just can’t do it, ride back over country I just saw. I need new terrain. I have to do a loop, a start and finish ride with everything de novo in the middle.
Donned up in what I thought would be warm enough gear, I turned down the road with the wind at my back and put “it” behind me. I was on the rode to recovery. The shorter of the two routes I considered for my new hip’s first ride was just four miles, my usual hiking course with the lab. Ride just 4 miles? That wouldn’t do. Turning the first country corner on a climb I wondered…maybe? Option two was six miles and my next choice for a loop was 15 miles. Proving I have some sense of sanity, I admitted this body would have none of that. The big tires rumbled down the frozen grader tracks and the texture of the road resonated through my waking legs. It felt good to pedal again. Just pedal, not chase some stronger rider, that might creep back in another time, later in the year.
The four mile route was now behind now, and I had no choice but to go forward. With my first ride fitness, the slight incline I was on felt like L’Alpe d’Huez in the cold biting wind. “Spin to win” I told myself. Really it was all I could really do, but hey at least I’m pedaling. In the country, it’s all about one mile sections and corners-easy for the snotty biker to check off the distance.
“Rule 39. Coasting = coffin. You can rest when you are dead. Peddle in the downhills.”-Shona Living
I know, but around the corner I met an icy headwind and my legs cried to break the rule. But for me to move forward, the cranks had to turn. Another corner, another climb, but I pedaled on, moving forward into the cold.
My friend Scott would say this was a “three sweater ride,” sort of like a three dog night. No, not the band, ‘Three Dog Night’ is a term that is believed to have originated from either the Eskimo community to describe a very cold night. It is said on very cold nights, the Eskimos would sleep with dogs in their Igloos to keep warm. Turns out my legs were not the only thing unprepared for this cold ride. I am also out of practice dressing for the cold. So with too few layers on and the home stretch in sight, I put the big bike in the big ring-time, not to chase the stronger rider, just to survive, get home and thaw.
One last corner and the mailbox is my finish line. With the wind at my back again my legs forget how weak they really are. Down the long driveway and done! Maybe I was anthropomorphizing, but the fatbike seemed glad to be tucked away in the shop again. I guess aluminum gets cold as well as flesh.
Home and happy, if I’d learned anything today, it was to just get out there, enjoy the ride and accept the soreness, ache, the cold air and my lack of fitness. I was happy to be recovering and riding again. There is no point trying to be something I am not. Today, I’m not the stronger rider, but I am getting stronger.