Ghost of Trainings Past
Clubs can pick their race kit by one of two means - by dictatorial fiat, or by democratic methods. Either way, the annual kit redesign on most teams result in a slapfight during which people say stupid things. One of the more regrettable aspects of this year's Annual Kit Slapfight is that a line got drawn between those who think how a kit looks on a commute or in traffic matters, and those who think that the safety issues associated with matte black black are irrelevant. Where the center mass of racers are 35+, and get a good chunk of their training done in traffic between home and work (either on a direct route, or with a diversion to Hains or their favorite hill), and a substantial portion of that training is done in the dark, it matters. I know that concession to reality, the admission that we aren't all in Girona doing daily rides the rest of the world would call epics, punctures the fantasy of "maybe I could ride at the TdF someday," but there it is. Team kit should look good and speak for the sponsors and club, but around here, it should also be high vis.
My commute is one of the more nervous rides I take; bouncing down BikeBreaker at Patapsco isn't nearly as nerve wracking as cruising through PG County on Goodluck Road at rush hour. There are a lot of rough stretches with potholes and no shoulder, and I'd give Lance Armstrong's remaining nut to have better visibility. No, dayglo orange isn't necessary; but I'm really glad my team kit isn't black. I haven't ridden the commute since September or October.
With some apprehension I did the commute with Fast As Schidt Sean yesterday. It had been a little over three weeks since I had done a serious ride. A combination of bad weather, my own wussification, and a couple lower thighs that are *still* purple and yellow had kept me just a couple short casual rides in the interim, and a single aborted MTB ride. (Stupid mud... not stupid trail ethics...)
I was shocked, but it wasn't that bad. My legs felt heavy, and there were places on the ride where we were way slower than last year, but at no point did it turn into the slog that it did last year the first few times we rode it.
Sean didn't do bad; it's pretty clear that he hasn't ridden for 3-4 months (refitting a kitchen will do that to you) and there were places that he normally likes to stick it to me, where he was obviously working pretty hard. But we kept decent speed up and it wasn't a death march as we'd both feared it would be. He very kindly gave me a knog light that goes in the spokes; that added to the taillight / headlight arsenal and gave some side visibility. It's not enough to make me comfortable, but it helps.
Some things were disorienting. I haven't spun steady state in six months. I had forgotten how that kind of effort, even at a moderate wattage level, causes major snottage and a peculiar burn in the legs you don't normally get mountain biking, except maybe on fireroads. I've also gotten conditioned to the Mountain Bike Temperature scale. Starting the ride in 24 degree temps had me expecting a relatively cold but basically comfortable ride; going at an endurance pace, an average speed of 17 MPH turned this into a frozen hell until the sun rose, and had me sitting at my desk shivering until 9:45. But it was alright and nice to be on that smooth, scalpel-like road bike again.
No, it's not the hardest commute in the world. It's only about 20 miles each way. But it is pretty hilly, dotted with constant rises, and there are a number of stretches on it where the traffic situation is dire and you have to ride threshold just to get out of the danger zone quickly. Sean is a fairly strong mountain biker and attributes a 1 hour improvement in his SM 100 time (to a fairly impressive sub-11 as I recall) to doing this commute a couple times a week over the summer.
The bottom line is that hitting the morning ride through December and most of January worked for me, even with the injury-induced layoff. My legs are about 6 weeks further ahead than they are most years at this time.
Oh well. Back in the saddle. I'm a bit behind my pace of looking for 180 rides this year, but I'll pick it up.