Friday, January 22, 2010

Self indulgent drivel.

I take the title from a statement that my lovely wife made about blogs and bloggers in general. This post was actually written in July of 2009 - shortly after I started writing it the city of Plano tore up the roads that I was riding on, and effectively put a stop to my early morning routine. I tried to find another route that was as good, but was unsuccessful. The roads are finally finished, and the weather is warming up enough for me to start again, so I completed and published this post to inspire myself - and to indulge myself as well.

I wake up at 4:10 when my alarm goes off - and sometimes when it doesn't. This has become a routine for me; my body doesn't really need the alarm now, but I think my mind needs to be reminded. I drag myself out of bed and into my bathroom to put in my contacts. Contacts inserted, I shuffle down the hall - I am the only thing in my house that is awake. The dog used to wake with me, but she has realized that there is nothing in it for her, and my early morning movement is no longer a cause for concern for any of the creatures in my house.

Once into the kitchen I brew an expresso and fill my water bottle for the ride ahead. I go into our pantry and suck down an energy gel to fuel me for my ride - I like the Clif Shot "Double Expresso" flavor - it is thick and strong tasting, and I like java to be the first thing I taste in the morning - it has been that way since I was 14 or so, and now is no different. As I sip my expresso to wash down my expresso flavored gel I get dressed. I apply my chamois cream (an intimate process that my wife caught me at once - she still giggles when she sees the tube), shorts, heart rate strap, and then my jersey. I have to wet my heart rate strap so that it will pick up my heartbeat, and I just use some water from my cup - the shock of strapping on the now ice cold strap always makes me gasp - the shock is as much a part of the routine as the rest of it. Once dressed, I put on my shoes and socks. Bicycle shoes are an interesting thing; special shoes for a sport that involves no walking - and ideally in the morning mine never touch the ground except to walk to the bike. I use Speedplay pedals, because they offer great retention and double sided clipping in. Since I am riding a fixed gear my pedals are moving if I am moving, and the Speedplays allow me to siply step on the pedals, without looking. I listen to music on my weekend rides, but not in the morning. I try to keep these rides simple and quiet

After getting dressed, I go into the garage and power on all my lights - my helmet light first, follwed by both headlights, and my two blinking rear lights. After the lights are on, I put on my helmet and clear glasses (to protect my eyes from bugs; generally gnat clouds), open the garage door and wheel my bicycle out. The bicycle I use on these morning rides is an eighties Sears marketed Suteki that I have converted to fixed gear. A fixed gear bicycle is a little different than most bikes in that it does not coast - if you are moving, you are pedaling. I use a fixed gear workout because it I assume it must be a better workout. Lots of hipsters ride fixed gear bikes in the city for transportation, but I use mine to try to get faster and fitter. So far it's not working that well, but I'll get there.

The first few pedal strokes are slow to get me into the street. I have a neighbor who has his porch light on a sensor, and when that light comes on, that's my cue to really put my legs into it. One lap is 3.3 miles. The first two laps are fairly easy. I get into a rhythm quickly, and the small hills on my route seem to flatten themselves. By lap three, I am breathing hard; I'm also trying to talk myself out of the final three laps I have planned.

By the fifth lap I am spent. There is one spot in the route where I allow myself to take a drink of water. Once I was in my designated drinking zone on the fifth lap and I was so exhausted and uncoordinated that as I took my water bottle out of my jersey pocket I threw it directly in the sewer opening. Had I been standing in the street trying to throw it in, it would have taken a couple of tries, but riding by at 14mph I hit the opening like I had the Force.

When I hit the hills on my last lap, they seem to be flattening themselves out again, instead of swelling up as they did for the last few laps. As I am heading home, the cars have started to come out, people driving to work. I don't like to ride too long with morning drivers, so I try to time my laps to avoid them - it's the reason I start so early. As I make the final turn onto my street, I sit up and ride no handed, as if I have won one of the grand tours. I am powerful, I am fast, I am a cyclist.

I ride into the driveway and put my bicycle back in its spot, log my statistics (speed, distance, heartrate) go inside, have a sip of water, and make lunches for the family. Once sandwiches are made and packed up, I go in the bathroom and shower. It's my shower that wakes up the girls - my wife sees the light as I go into the bathroom, and my daughter hears the water running as I wash off the sweat. It's been a good ride, but every one of my morning rides is good - it's time when only I am awake, and I own my little track. In the garage, the bicycle waits until tomorrow, when I will suit up and go again.

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