Now that spring is here, the longer rides have begun for Felkerino and me. This weekend, we packed in a 155-mile ride on Saturday (Felkerino wrote an excellent post about it here) and a 37-mile recovery ride on Sunday.
Saturday’s ride was in preparation for our upcoming 24-hour, 360 kilometer flèche. In order to avoid suffering during the flèche, we rode this weekend to build our base miles.
Even though we completed a 200K brevet a few weeks ago, the 155-miler on Saturday felt like the first “big ride” of the season and with it, I experienced all the sensations and thoughts that typically arise this time of year.
Early ups are not my thing. I am not a morning person, and my only impetus to wake up at 4 a.m. or earlier is the groggy notion that I am riding for 8:00 a.m. and beyond. That said, watching the sun’s first light drape over the landscape on a quiet country road is pretty beautiful.
I forget that I have ever ridden longer than a 200K. My adventures do not compare to others in the rando community, but I have done a few Super Randonneur series’ and 1000K-1200K rides.
Even so, the first ride of spring prompts a whole lot of worry about my abilities to weather a ride longer than 125 miles. I don’t know where this self-doubt comes from. Is it because I don’t ride long all year? Is it purely a mental thing? I have yet to figure it out.
I thought that having several years of experience with randonneuring would make me take a no-sweat self-confident attitude toward the 125+ mile rides, but instead I’ve found that I always fret about completing the first long ride of spring.
Spring’s temperature fluctuations shock and surprise. This was especially true this past weekend, where our ride started in the mid-twenties and rose throughout the day until it was a lovely 60 degrees with warm sun!
It’s taken me time to figure out the layering game with these kinds of swings, but over the past few years I’ve found a system that works well: multiple wool base layers, short sleeve wool jersey, wool buff/gater, and a jacket with a two-way zipper and zip-off sleeves. I bring a helmet cover with a medium-weight wool cap, with a lightweight cap at the ready for the lighter temperatures. I carry two pairs of gloves, one for the cold mornings and a lighter pair for later.
This weekend I did not layer sufficiently on my legs, and rode out wearing only a light pair of tights. I should have brought a pair of light knickers for the early miles, as my tights did not keep me warm and left the cold stinging my legs. However, I did remember my booties, toe warmers, and two pairs of socks, so at least my feet were not too bad off.
Sunset makes me nervous. What is it about sunset? When the sun starts to make its final dip, I almost always feel like we should be farther along in the ride than we are, or that we should be finishing instead of riding X more miles.
The whole sunset sensation is strange. I’ve come to expect it now, and remind myself that we keep riding until we’re done, and once the sun has set, we are still fine. In fact, it’s almost like another ride begins. If you have ever ridden at night in the country, you know it can be sublime.
Almost all rides contain moments of bliss. This is one of my favorite parts of randonneuring, and I wonder if and how other riders experience them. It’s climbing Loup Loup Pass in Washington state with Ed, feeling sluggish and dispirited, and a shooting star flies across the sky.
It’s agreeing to make a “crucial stop” with our friends at a random gas station in Remington, Virginia, and having a laugh over a pop and potato chips. It’s going up Cameron Pass at 3 a.m. in Colorado with our riding buddies and stopping our bikes to simply look up at the stars.
It’s enjoying the last slivers of daylight with Felkerino, grateful that we pushed each other out the door at an insanely early hour so we could share this ride.
I can’t explain it well, but the only way to reach that moment, to have that moment, is by riding far.