My, my – it sure has gotten cold. I suppose we have officially entered the dead of winter. The temp was 20°F when I left the house yesterday morning – the coldest commute I’d had yet. That record lasted only 24 hours, as the temp this morning was 16°F when I left. These temps may not be anywhere near my personal record low temp for riding a bike (5°F last winter), but they certainly felt the coldest. I never appreciated how tough bike commuting is, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse. 15 miles doesn’t seem like much, but do it first thing in the morning… before coffee… with a 9 lb backpack (17 lb if I have the computer, which thankfully I did not this morning)… only 14 hours after the last ride… with the Doberman climb only 5.2 miles into the ride; and then turn around and do it again 8 hours later. Do it at 16°F, and it’s a killer!
I’m not complaining though – I’m now a bona fide, dedicated bicycle commuter. I’ve become committed to not letting the challenge of the commute disuade me from doing it. Needing to pick up the kids or run errands is one thing, so is rain. But just not feeling like it isn’t a good enough excuse. I never feel like doing it when the alarm has just gone off, and I’m laying there in bed thinking, “I could sleep a little longer and just drive,” or “it’s too cold,” or “my legs need a break.” But I kit up and do it anyway, and I’m always glad I did. There’s not only a sense of accomplishment, but also the satisfaction of finally acting on my long held beliefs about having less of an impact on the environment. The money savings are nice, but that’s not even really the point anymore. Since starting in late August, I’ve commuted 37 of 58 work days – a little more than 3 days per week on average.
Now is the time when it would be so easy to quit. What more justification would I possibly need? Nobody would think less of me – in fact, as it is most of the people at work think I’m crazy. I kind of like that. I work at a large company, so the people I encounter as I wheel my bike down the hallway after arriving may or may not actually know me – the reactions and expressions are outrageous. It’s been especially humorous these past few really cold days, arriving in my “invisible man outfit” – the expressions I’ve seen are best described as a blend of incredulity and pity. More than once I’ve pointed my lobster-clawed hand at them in mock gun fashion and said, “Stick ’em up!” Nothing like a little handgun humour to make people feel more comfortable.
I’ve mentioned before the irony of how I’m feeling so much stronger now than when I was actually “training” – in part due to the rigors of commuting, and in part because I’m just having a lot of fun again on my weekend rides. Last week I took off work and got in ~240 miles. I did a couple of short, fast 20+ milers, a couple of longer solo rides closer to 40 miles, and two 60+ milers – one with Justin’s group on turkey day and another on Saturday on the backwards BugMan™ route. That last ride gave me a November total of 870 miles. Folks, I don’t care what kind of training plan you use or don’t use – when you ride 870 miles in a month, you are gonna be hecka strong! Thoughts of racing keep creeping back into my head, but I must resist their siren call – I have to keep in mind that it’s only because I retired from racing that I’m strong and having fun again.
Of course, the downside to commuting and mostly-solo riding is that it doesn’t make for very interesting blogging – no race reports, no boasting about crushing the group ride, no updates on continuous refinements to training plans and equipment setup. Just lots of time alone in my thoughts, doing anonymously something that really very few other people can do – I have truly become the “invisible man”. My mostly vice-free, extraordinarily normal life also provide little else to spice up my posts, so I’m not sure where to go with this blog. It does receive a fair amount of traffic, but I don’t really know who’s reading it. Maybe nobody, and the traffic is just repeated hits from strangers who googled “LOOK 585”. This crossroads moment might be a good opportunity to ask what you – my invisible audience – wants to see here. Leave a comment – anonymous if desired. Tell me what I’ve written that you’ve liked. Tell me what you haven’t liked. I won’t delete anything unless it crosses a disrepectful line. Otherwise, look for the invisible man out on the roads – I’ll be there.