As you might expect, weather is a big topic in a bike shop. When to ride, when it's going to rain, what will the temperature be at the end of the ride relative to the beginning(and do you dress for the beginning or the end?)...some variation on this topic is usually being discussed in a bike shop. Forget the news or the internet-if you want to know exactly what's going to happen with the weather, talk to a group of people who are regularly out in it: runners, surfers, climbers, and definitely cyclists.
And, since apparently someone in Nashville did something really really bad and we were all being punished for it with an awful winter, that topic has come up more often than usual. Everyone was ready for spring yesterday. And the day before, and the month before that.
It got me thinking about being a cyclist in winter in general. It used to be that during the winter all I would do was ride the trainer and wait around for winter to be over. Now...I like to ride my bike as much as the next guy. Maybe more than the next guy. But months of riding the trainer inside and riding in cold temps under gray skies outside just didn't give me much to look forward to. After a couple of years, my motivation was pretty hard to hold onto during the winter, and I'd be dreading its onset as soon as summer was over.
Until, for some reason, I remembered a conversation I had with my sister back when she was in college-about 55 degrees. She pointed out that, at about that temperature in the fall, people pull out their warm gear. Hats, coats, maybe even gloves. But in the spring, also at 55 degrees, people start to pull out the shorts and flip-flops. Both sets of clothing are a bit premature at those points, but you get the idea. We're always ready for the next season. We're looking forward to what's next, possibly at the cost of engaging with what's around us right now. I don't remember if my sister intended her comment to be a grand insight into human nature(it's possible; my sister is pretty bright), but it stuck with me.
And I realized that entire winters were a lot of time to spend/waste looking forward to warmer, nicer weather. I needed to find something to do other than the bike to motivate me and give me something to look forward to in a much shorter term. So I found a few things that I enjoyed doing during the winter enough that I no longer dreaded the colder months. For a few years I got a membership at Climb Nashville and went and made a fool of myself in the bouldering area. Another few winters I took my dog, Jack, out to the park and let him drag me around on trail runs. By the time spring rolled around, I was happy for the warmer weather, but I was also happy to have something to come back to in seven or eight months.
This year it was cyclocross. I'd done some 'cross racing before, but I wanted to try and work on my (lack of) skills and do some sport-specific training. As many of you know, cyclocross is a skill-intensive sport full of short, high intensity bursts of energy. If you haven't trained properly for it, it's absolutely awful. If you have trained properly for it, it's slightly less absolutely awful. And you go a bit faster, hopefully.
So every Thursday Shannon, Chris, Travis and I would go over to Sevier Park. If you've been to Sevier, you know that one side of the park has a bit of a ridge, along the top of which is a long row of trees. Our intervals consisted of the following: Sprint on the bike up to and around the first tree in the line. Ride back down to the bottom of the ridge. Dismount the bike, pick it up, shoulder it, and sprint up to the next tree. Remount, ride back down and repeat, what feels like 1,500 times but is probably closer 20. You may have noticed that there's a lot of 'sprinting' in there. By the fifth tree or so, I'd usually have lost track of which tree I was on, what day of the week it was, why I was doing this to myself, why God created trees in the first place ; etc. By the end, all I would be able to see usually was the long trail of slobber that connected my chin to my stem.
Now...if you ever want to have a person out walking their dog look at you like you have totally lost your mind, take some friends and do what I just described. I have no doubt that our hearts were being blessed by many of the folks in the park on Thursday mornings. I can't imagine what they thought we were up to. But it was worth it-not only because the intervals work, but because afterwards we went to Sloco on 12th for breakfast sandwiches.
(If you haven't had a breakfast sandwich from Sloco, go get one now. Get tomato on it. I'll wait.
Isn't that amazing? Did you get a cookie? You're welcome.)
Afterwards, we'd take our sandwiches back to the shop, sit and eat and drink coffee and talk about how stupid the whole thing was. But the rest of the day was always full of that satisfied feeling of having done something really hard, and by the following Wednesday I'd always be looking forward to doing it again. And, by the time the season ended and spring was in sight, we were already talking about maybe adding another day in the park next winter. Tuesday, maybe. We just need to make sure Sloco is open.
We hope you had a great winter. Now pull out those flip-flops; it's time for spring.
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