I haven't really been on the bike since the mysterious Female Troubles started over a month ago. The last time I did a long ride, 5 weeks ago, it was 45 miles. My plan at the time was to go 5 miles longer every weekend, until I was up to a century or maybe up to Ironman distance. Not that I had a century planned, or an Ironman, I just wanted to see if I could actually go that far.
This whole weekend Tim and I were throwing around the idea of a long ride for today, Monday, since it is a holiday and the weather... Oh, God, the weather. It is like a beautiful dream. It is like the Garden of Eden. Every morning starts out chilly, but then the sun comes up. Every sunrise the last week or so has been phenomenal. It warms up nicely into the 70's. Birds sing. People wear shorts and T-shirts. Being inside is a crime. Anyway, the outlook for a bike ride today was looking pretty shabby at 11:00 a.m. Both of us were awake, but just barely. We'd stuffed ourselves with banana pancakes and were each glued to our respective computers checking up on all the meaningless crap we always check up on. Tim mentioned something about a ride. I mentioned something about the front yard needing to be weeded. I didn't feel like riding, or weeding the yard either. I had tried a ride about a week ago. The plan was to go ride to the Y and swim. I got not even a quarter-mile down the road and had such bad abdominal pain I had to get off the bike and hobble home holding my stomach, then lie in bed with heat on it for the next several hours. So naturally I was afraid to try a ride again, especially since the number of miles we had talked about was 50. Gack. 50 is technically where I left off, but that was, like I said, 5 weeks ago. I ran Phoneline on Saturday; surely that deserved at least 3 recovery days in my present state of health?
Then I realized that if I stayed home I was not going to weed. I was going to hang out at the computer not doing anything useful, and maybe take a stab at trying to do some dog training, while Tim hung out at his computer and both of us silently started hating ourselves for being such lazy slobs and started resenting each other for not dragging each other's lazy asses out the door. I swear, didn't I just talk not even 48 hours ago about how every day you can exercise is a gift and you should never take it for granted? Tim had to do some convincing, but at last I got into my bike clothes, grumbling the whole time. I am now so lazy about bike maintenance that I won't even check my own tires, and I also won't put air in them either, so Tim did that too. Even though I hadn't been in any pain whatsoever earlier in the morning, the instant I agreed to a bike ride it started to hurt. I was so cranky as I got on the bike that I didn't even want to talk to Tim. I took one last look at the yard that wasn't going to get weeded and made a smart-ass comment about it, which Tim ignored.
We rode two miles up the Santa Cruz path and I informed Tim that I was probably going to have to quit because my abdomen hurt so bad. He asked if I wanted to go back and I grumbled, "No." By the time we got downtown, the amazing weather was working its charms on me and I was in a much better mood. The pain seems to have a direct relationship to my mood -- when I'm cranky, it hurts; when things are going well, it doesn't. I could still feel it but it wasn't getting any worse. The doctor did say it was fine to do any activities as long as I physically could. So I decided to keep on going, since one of my main beliefs is that you should not let pain stop you from doing anything as long as you're not actually causing damage.
We headed out on the Aviation Bikeway. Have I mentioned it was gorgeous today? By the way, Tim is the one who was really crazy to want to do this ride. He has a mountain bike that weighs twice as much as my road bike, and he hasn't done anything over like 15 at a time for... a long time. But he said he was doing okay and wanted to keep going. We decided to ride to Saguaro East and then see if we felt like going around the loop. Privately I doubted it. But when we got there I felt not just okay, but great. Honestly, I felt like we had done about five miles. Actually we had done almost 30.
We stopped at the bike ramada to discuss strategy. There were a couple other cyclists hanging out under the ramada. One wanted to talk about how it was impossible for him to get a bike frame that was comfortable because most cyclists are built like T-rexes with long legs and long torsos and short arms, and he was built like a gorilla with long legs, long arms, and a short torso. I looked at this guy and the twenty extra pounds (at least) he was carrying in his belly and thought that his arms, legs, and torso were not the real reasons he wasn't comfortable on a bike. The other cyclist started talking about China and politics and other crazy stuff that had nothing to do with anything we were talking about at all. I am nervous about crazy people these days and started discreetly checking his outline for a weapon. Luckily cycling clothes are skin tight and I could see he had nothing. A third cyclist came in and plopped down on the bench and said nothing at all. Tim and I liked him.
Tim wanted to ride the loop, which is 8 miles and hilly. I didn't have any real objection to riding the loop since I still felt fantastic, but I did worry about Zsiga at home in his crate. When we get home later than 4 p.m. he tends to express his displeasure by peeing in his crate, even if he was just outside a few hours before. I reminded Tim of this. Tim still wanted to ride the loop. I finally agreed but only on the condition that IF we got home to find a German shepherd puppy standing in a crate full of pee, Tim would be the one to clean both the puppy and the crate. He agreed to this although I knew that, of course, it would still be me cleaning up no matter what our agreement was.
"It's free entry day!" the ranger at the gate informed us cheerfully. "Just pay me back by making this the year that no cyclists wipe out on that first hill, please?" He was referring to the first hill past the gate, a steep drop with a 5 mph sign that terrifies me. I ride my brakes the whole way down and each time am sure I am going to die even though I am moving slower than some of the walkers going down the hill. (I won't crash and die at that speed? Fine, then I will lose my balance from going so slow, be unable to unclip in time, and die that way. Either way, I know I will die on that hill.)
Tim rocketed away from me as I was babying my bike and myself down the hill. I caught up to him on some of the steep climbs that followed. Ah, the joy of riding with someone stronger than me whose bike weighs twice as much as mine. He was also beginning to suffer at this point just from being out of shape on the bike. I dropped him on The Hill -- the big hill, nemesis of all Saguaro East walkers, runners, and cyclists, which goes up and up and up for over a mile. I also passed and dropped every other cyclist I encountered on The Hill. I felt strong the whole way, amazing. That feeling of strength lasted all the way around the loop.
Tim was really wishing we were done with the ride by now. Unfortunately for him (and for me, who kept thinking of Zsiga in his crate), we still had 20 miles to go. We stopped and refueled at Jamba Juice. It was awesome to sit outside in the sun on a January afternoon, wearing shorts and short sleeves, drinking frozen drinks, and feel warm. The smoothies hit the spot and reenergized us. Too bad we still had 15 miles left before we got home.
I never, ever, ever felt even the littlest bit sore the entire ride home. In fact, when we got to my road, my GPS said 53.2 miles, so I had to add another little extra bit to make 55 even. 50 was my goal but I was so close to 55 I felt like I might as well just MAKE it 55. I hate being obsessive about my Garmin but we all know I am. Besides, I figured that way Tim (who does not obsess over mileage) could get home first and deal with Zsiga and the crate full of pee that I was sure awaited us at home.
When I got home, I found Tim already soaking in a salt bath. Zsiga had NOT peed in his crate. Good boy. I hate when they grow up, but I also love when they grow up. I still felt great and realized there is no way my undiagnosed Female Trouble is that serious. No way could I have ridden 55 miles and felt this good at the end if there was anything really wrong. (And yes I know to lots of people, including some people I know, 55 miles on a bike is nothing, but I don't think most of them -- I'm talking to you, Tom, even though I know you're not reading because this blog entry greatly exceeds your attention span by about 11 paragraphs -- are still reading by now. So, trust me, 55 miles is a lot.)
Today showcased everything I love most about Tucson. Friendly people, beautiful desert, year-round outdoor training for endurance sports, sleeveless jersey and shorts in January on a bike! (Not to mention delicious Mexican food following the bike ride.) It's so sad to think that the rest of the country right now associates Tucson with violence and crazy people. Today was the real Tucson, and it was awesome.