Lisa has been pretty much a ‘bike widow’ in the past several weeks as Dan has spent as much waking time on his bicycle as he has at home. But it is all for a good reason – he is riding in a charity bike ride this month and needs to get in shape.
A few months ago, some friends said they were going to ride 210 km around Port Philip Bay as part of the Around the Bay in a Day ride. They had done a 100 km version last year and were going longer this year. After not much deliberation, he signed up too. (Since then, one of those people has cancelled [for a very good reason] and another has replaced her.) At that time, only twice had Dan ridden even 100 km in a day, but was pretty regularly doing 60 km rides and not getting too exhausted. And the Around the Bay training schedule gave good directions of how much riding would be needed each week to get him into shape.
But, being the idiot he is, he didn’t just do the training schedule – he’s been riding more, in some weeks much more, than the recommended number of kilometres, and the over-training has exhausted him. Part of that was just a silly personal challenge though: could he do 1500 km in a 30 day month? The answer: yes. By Sept 29, he had done 1541! Might have made 1600 but was too tired to ride on the 30th.
Now, with just a week to go, he’s pretty much up for anything. His commute to work has gone from 16 km each way to 16 there and a longer ride home, ranging from 33 to 55 km. Riding 30 km each way to a coffee shop on Saturday morning, or a 60 km trip to Junee for lunch (and another 60 back) on a Sunday doesn’t seem like much of a challenge now. And last week, in the final big training ride, he and a friend did 185! So the 210 km ride, though not easy, will be a success.
The training has been a bit challenging at times, for a variety of reasons. First, there’s the time. He’s spending about 15-20 hrs a week on the bike, not counting coffee stops. So that means getting up for some very early mornings (the 185 k ride last weekend was done on 5 hours sleep), and weekend tasks like gardening falling by the wayside. The idea of sleeping in on a Sunday morning is really appealing right now. This idea is appealing to Lisa, too, who is not too impressed that Dan’s early morning rides often include at least 4 hits of the snooze button on the alarm clock before 6am.
Then there’s been the weather. Being spring in Wagga, that can range from cold (1C) mornings to warm (30C) afternoons. And some killer winds, almost literally; one morning he couldn’t turn into a 55 k wind while going about 55 km/h down a hill, and ended up on the wrong side of the road! Fortunately there was no traffic. That was a horribly windy week, with 3 commutes home in rain accompanied by +40k winds, riding while screaming 4-letter words!
But wind isn’t the only naturally occurring hazard, because spring is also magpie swooping season and he has been hit well over a dozen times, often by the same bird, most on the helmet but a couple on the shoulder. And then there’s been several mouthfuls of bugs, a few feisty jack russell terriers, three close encounters with kangaroos, one bee sting, some horses, cows, and sheep on the road (he rides a lot in farming areas).
Oh, and one too close call with a brown snake…cruising along, seeing ‘a stick’ in the middle the road, and then realizing it was moving toward the shoulder of the road, exactly where he was going to be heading. Quick mental process – which is more risky, going in front of a deadly snake that may attack? Or swerving to go behind it and hoping there isn’t a car coming from behind? Heeding others’ advice to always go behind a moving snake, Dan was thankful there was no car coming either direction.
And besides the live animals, there have been a lot of dead ones: a few brown snakes, one red bellied black snake, several dead birds (galahs, the odd rosella, magpies), some blue-tongue lizards and a lot of kangaroos. They stink, really bad. But no worse than the dead goat did… And all these dead animals make him feel sad (well, the snakes maybe not so much, but even though magpies are cause havoc to cyclists, they are really special birds otherwise and we don’t like to see them as roadkill).
From all this riding, there have been a few good lessons too. Like figuring out that a thin cap under his helmet not only prevents a sun tan that made him look like a klingon, but soaks up sweat so it isn’t pouring down into his sunglasses. And it keeps bugs out of his hair. [Lisa edit: the hat was my idea; also sun sleeves, to ward off skin cancer after so many hours on the road]. But the most important lesson has been to always take food even if not planning a long ride. One Sunday morning, the plan was to do about 55 km, and he took one energy bar (ate it about 1/2 way). For some reason he kept going and decided, stubbornly, to d0 100. About 15 km from home, he was bonking, had absolutely no energy. So Lisa gets a phone call: ‘I’m losing it! Will you please bring me an energy gel and an energy bar (which he is buying in bulk these days)? I’ll be somewhere on Gregadoo Rd between Mitchell and Plumpton.’ So she begrudgingly gets in the car and heads out there, meeting up with him about 8 km from home (even tired and hungry, he’s pretty quick…). She starts to get out of the car to unlock the bike rack on the roof and he tells her no, just give me the food, I’m not getting in the car, I have a goal. She was a bit pissed off, to put it bluntly, having expected to see him lying by the side of the road. So now, on all rides except the 16 km trip to work there is food in Dan’s pocket.
And all of this will end after October 20, the day of the ride. Cycling is fun, but it’s been getting to be just a bit too much and we’re both looking forward to the bike being parked for a while. And going back to Canada in November will mean that Dan has to take a break. And then when we get back maybe getting the mountain bikes out…