Monday, April 10, 2006

Back in the Saddle

I finally went for my first bike ride of the year this afternoon. With clear skies and temps in the upper sixties, I just ran out of excuses. As I said in my upbeat New Year's post, I haven't been on a bike ride since I finished Biking Illinois. And unlike other winters, I didn't ride the trainer in the basement (once for 20 minutes, but that hardly counts). Lack of cycling plus unrestrained eating has made me enormous -- just count the chins on my book's author photo (five? six? seven?). So today I set out to get back into some sort of routine that might keep me alive past age forty.

I chose an old standby, Ride 22 in my book, which is only a few blocks from home. I planned to ride no more than 12-15 miles round trip so I wouldn't be sore afterward. Spring is finally here, and I don't want to waste time whining when I could be riding. As I headed north, I felt pretty good, sometimes cruising around 17 mph on the empty sections of the asphalt path. I knew why, though, so I turned around at 5.8 miles. The return trip was a lot tougher with a headwind! I had forgotten how uncomfortable it is to ride in the drops with a big gut. It was so bad that I had to choose between aerodynamics and breathing. Naturally, breathing was a bit more important, so I cut through the wind like a giant brick.

There are signs posted telling cyclists how to follow the path across the Lincoln Avenue Bridge. I wonder how much those cost in lieu of the fully funded bridge that the alderman decided not to erect (that money was restricted and therefore lost). Cyclists have created a dirt path through the new sod to get to the street bridge since there is no direct trail bridge. On the return trip, I had to squeeze past several other trail users on the narrow sidewalk, dodging light poles and broken concrete. Thanks a lot, Mr. Crusty-Old-Alderman-Who-Should-Have-Retired-Years-Ago.

It wasn't a long ride, but it was enough to get the blood flowing, 11.6 miles in a little less than an hour (I really tanked in that headwind). Considering that I figured out afterward that I had only consumed 200-300 calories all day, it's probably just as well that I didn't go further. My left hand feels okay -- I think I damaged it while riding on the brake hoods last summer, which was one excuse to abstain from riding. The Americano seems fine although I neglected to get an off-season tune-up. My ankles usually hurt after my first few rides, but I won't know until tomorrow morning. The weather should be nice all week, so I hope to get a good start clawing my way back into a less embarrassing level of fitness. I've always been able to ride myself into shape fairly quickly, but I've never been this old or heavy...

Ever since my book came out, I have been afraid someone will invite "Mr. Biking Illinois" on a long ride, and I'll be pathetic. True, the rides in the book are short enough that I could stubbornly slog through most of them regardless, but I sure wouldn't want any witnesses!

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