Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Back in the Swing

I must admit that I'm really not psyched about this crazy weather, what with winter that was ever so reluctant to make an appearance early in the season but now hanging around well after the party is over, refusing the depart like that dreaded guest. With the threat of yet another winter storm bearing down on us as I write, this weather pattern is simply getting old. Where was the snow and cold in December and January when we would have gladly accepted it as seasonal? Nowhere to be found of course.

Historically I really like the winter and enjoy taking part in numerous winter activities such as XC skiing, snowshoeing and even snowmobiling. The past couple of years though have seen winter's hesitance or non-existence result in a serious lack of enthusiasm on my part. Cathy got brand new skate ski equipment last season, which she never used. Believing we'd never have two crap winters in a row, I got new equipment this season. Neither set have seen snow and sit untouched and unloved in the bag, depreciating wildly. It's sad really as the snow is great up north, I'm just at a loss for the ambition and enthusiasm to travel north in a snow storm, which seem to be literally perpetual up there, to use them.

Speaking of frustration, I've been working to teach myself Adobe Illustrator. I must admit that I've never seen such a counter-intuitive piece of software in my life. The real problem is that the software was designed for physical artists by artists using principles that they would understand, many of the same principles that you would use if working in physical media. That is very, very different than anything I've ever used on a computer before, especially coming from the Windows side rather than the Mac. Nothing seems to be simple or easy. The tool is incredibly robust but as such, incredibly complex. I think I need a fundamentals tutorial or guide, which I haven't found yet. I've been working on a couple of more advanced tutorials which unfortunately, make lots of assumptions as to the users knowledge. I've looked for actual classes but haven't found all that much yet. We will see.

With that aside set aside, we are already a week into March and as such, the cycling season has ramped back up a bit. The weekends are seeing some longer rides and we have now had three consecutive weeks of the Turkey Vulture ride, a local weekly 45 mile take no prisoners, evening training road ride. The loop was put together to incorporate lots of cut though opportunities such that a person that gets dropped off the back on a segment can cut a section and jump back into the group. For the most part, at least during the regular season, this is a left for dead deal where we don't stop for anything. The route is well publicized and the same every week so it is up to you to find your way should you lose contact with the group.

Last week we had a blistering ride for this time of the year but it left me spent for the rest of the week. Last night we did the ride with a larger group at a steadier pace. It was dark and cold and nobody wants to ride alone. We had a great ride going that was hard but very comfortable environmentally. What I mean is that I was neither cold nor overly warm, which is almost never the case this time of year. That all changed when we had some issues with flats at mile 35 or so still headed out on RT27 in Chelmsford. While fixing one flat, another flat was discovered, which in fixing ruined the tube requiring another fix. We were all now cold and stiff from standing around. It felt as though the temperature had dropped 20 degrees though in reality it was still just above freezing.

With the longest, arguably toughest section left we hit hard and tried to stay together and warm up. For those who know, the final section is a seven mile long straight run in on RT4 from Chelmsford to Bedford. There is one nasty hill that is deceivingly long right off the bat. After that you have a few rollers and false flat grinds but nothing terrible. The games start here. Kyle hit hard up the Boston Road Hill climb and I jumped with him. After getting 2/3 of the way up I decided it was too much effort given that I wanted to regroup and start the real run in from the top anyhow, so I took the easy way out and sagged up over. We regrouped quickly and steam-rolled Kyle, who was up the road on a half-hearted break attempt.

From there we rolled strong with me slamming no less than a dozen invisible potholes. As we crossed the Concord River in Billerica I could see Eric was off the back. I told the group to continue and I would pull Eric back up. Secretly I love that kind of extra credit challenge. Unfortunately Eric had totally blown a gasket and when he finally got to me he was mumbling incoherently, stating that he was just going to stay there. I told him to just hold my wheel, to which he replied "OK" while sliding off the back of. I watched Kyle at the front of the remainder of the group drilling it to escape about 250 yards up the road by that point. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to catch but was going to try my best.

I left Eric for dead to deal with his misery and delirium and pushed ahead steady and hard. By the town line hill I was making progress but very slowly. The crested together and disappeared over the top as I hit the climb. Once over I could see Kyle still pushing hard with Cathy in tow and Keith going backwards. I soon caught Keith and told him to latch on. A few minutes later we were getting close to the catch and I considered flicking an elbow to ask Keith for some help closing the final distance.

Looking over my shoulder however, I saw no Keith. I made the catch just before the crest of the final gentle rise before the run in to the logical finish. This is also typically the starting point of my attack for the sprint finish. I chose this point just before the crest to really hit hard and get the momentum going for the gentle downhill. I came around hard and Kyle, who had been fleeing mightily for the past five or so miles without a break, had no answer. Cathy actually jumped but decided to hold and bring Kyle with her as he had kindly dragged her along for so long. Great ride and by the time we hit Bedford Farms, the logical end of the loop, I was again nice and warm. It feels good to be back into the swing of the regularly scheduled rides. We finished up with beers, food and socializing. Good fun.

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