I had deluded myself into thinking that I would be once more liberated to navigate a New England spring on the bike. Previous years’ efforts — skiing, marathon running, recovery — and a lack of urgency had delayed the start of my road seasons to sufficiently better weather conditions. Subcribed, as I had become, to my diligent plan of base preparation and acknowlegding that the required volume no longer permitted indoor training, there remained no choice but to get out there and ride.
And so I did.
At first, I marveled at the absurdity of me, on a bike, weather in the 30’s. I was extreme in my haberdashery on the preliminary outings; subsequently underdressed thereafter until I upgrade and updated my wardrobe to include a new pair of Castelli winter cycling tights — a garment for which I had foolishly believed I would no longer have any need and had long since discarded. However windburn, cold thighs and dick freeze demanded recourse and the redress was maximally enjoyable. In the words of Ned Flanders, “it’s like wearing nothing at all.”
All the while, the miles accrued, the TSS climbed week-to-week and the hours accumulated. There were the short, intense, high-cadence sprint workouts, and long endurance days, but mostly I focused on tempo and sub-threshold, coaxing my lower body and legs to participate willingly with my aerobic engine, well-developed and reasonably recovered post-ski season. Whereas in past years I would have jumped right into racing and intensity with such abanadon that my brain and body were left dizzy and gaping, this time I was being diligent and restrained in my preparation.
The results were soon to become evident.
The thermometer remained locked in the nether depths but my body acclimated. Long rides through cold, blustery conditions were no longer forced death marches, though I did come close to a bonk one day and hangered for supermarket California rolls, alternately fighting with automobilists and lamenting the mysterious disappearance of the Whole Foods in Wayland. The sun even chose to reveal itself in fleeting glances like the ankle of a sweet, young debutante, and once or twice, the temperatures even breached 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
But for the majority of time elapsed, I recall persevering beneath gray skies, often with threat of rain, time to time with sleet and flurry. The falling snow caused me no small amount of humor with the irony of the expired ski season and the flashback to youthful halcyon days. I embraced the improbability of a cyclist, of a certain age and a soloist to boot, to be blazing a lone furrow through the country lanes of Middlesex county.
Week upon week: 10 hours, 12 hours, 14 hours, 13 hours, with the composition of time spent shifting from endurance base to threshold, the increased intensity reflected by the corresponding TSS accumulations: 530, 640, 780, 890. Heart rate remained responsive. Body weight dropped marginally. Power increased relative to tempo and threshold. And yet I hardly felt as if I had wagered a substantial effort, apart from being present and patient, with reliable equipment and sufficient fortitude.
I had successfuly rediscovered the simple pleasure of riding miles. For the first time in ne’er a decade, I was base training and so thoroughly enjoying it that I hesistated to embark upon a racing campaign.
The first test, however, was just around the corner and Mother Nature, cruel mistress, was not quite finished with us.