Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Recovery Ride

After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow. ~ H.G. Wells

I thought I could remember how to ride-how to pedal, how to spin the cranks 'round and 'round. But I couldn't. That memory, that Wells speaks to, is still there somewhere inside me. But it is a bit too distant to power through the snow a week ago. Four months away from the bike was a bit too much to make riding that day a “wonderful dream.” That was then and gradually I'm finding my legs again.

I'd pedaled just once previous to my “real” snowbike ride last week and that ride signaled that it could be a long road ahead. The packed singletrack at Levis Mound finally needed to be ridden if I were really going to test my fitness. I'd be totally surprised if I passed the exam. Although Levis is a popular trail for snowbiking (and XC skiing) I felt relieved that I could escape the parking lot by myself-no point in embarrassing myself or holding anyone else back. Bundled up in the barely single digit temps, the unfamiliar motion of my legs turning pedals prompted me down the trail. The snowbike trail groomer guys do excellent work here and although the snow couldn't be better, I struggled with every incline. The trail is nearly tabletop flat, but no matter, the shifters were constantly searching for the right (easiest) gear.

What we call the base loop at Levis is just over five kilometers and I knew better than to tackle anything more. At the halfway point, my lungs and legs burned and I seriously wondered if I'd make it (knowing no matter what, I would have to). Cycling usually cheers me up, but this struggle was pushing my moral down in a hurry. Every familiar turn in the trail, every snowy bridge I traversed, brought me closer to ending this frustration. The final few hundred meters were the worst-the chalet was in sight, but all I could do is look at the big fat tires to see if they were flat or not.

The following day was much the same-I left my two riding partners a short time after we started and bid them well-I was gassed already. Backtracking to the previous trail intersection, I explored the base loop again with about the same results. Feeling like a whipped puppy, I stowed the fatbike away and vowed to keep at it until I there was some semblance of legs astride my bike. A midweek ride and a couple classic ski outings gave me a little hope-it seemed I could breathe again.

Spirits lifted somewhat, I set about thinking maybe we should have a no-rider-left-behind ride on the long loop. I hoped the no drop idea would keep me with riding partners anyway. A Facebook ride event was created and I soon had a few brave souls that would join me. The 9 mile long course is no easy ride (for me) so this would be jumping in with both feet and I hoped I'd have understanding bikers in case I faltered. Just to keep things reasonable, I took the lead, feeling the rest of the gang really should have an “easy recovery ride” so to speak. The memory of how riding on snow was supposed to feel started to drift back and the ribbon of white through the woods flowed beneath the fatty as it should. There was no illusion of spinning up the more difficult climbs-just mashing whatever gear I could to make it over the top. The difference this day was I could recover and continue onto the next section of packed powder. “Yeah, this is going much better” I thought-I am going to pull though this trial and actually enjoy it! The guys were great at encouraging me and maybe they saw too that  I was on the road to recovery. This time, with each recognizable section of singletrack rolling past, I felt more and more confident-not that I wasn't tired, but at the least my demeanor improved.

By the end of the outing over an hour and half had passed and I felt a sense of accomplishment when the bike rumbled across the trailhead parking lot. That feeling had usually been reserved for the end of epic races or terribly difficult adventures on the bike or skis. Today it was back-and it felt good. For the rest of this biker gang, it was a stroll in the park I'm sure and the post ride banter was of how perfect the snow was, the prime conditions and how great the ride was. I couldn't agree more.