17 April 2009

Looking up?

It's been a very long time since I've had such a lousy year on the bike. The fantasy of having limitless time to train for cross season last fall became the reality of being general contractor for the house, instead. Beat and especially beat up at the end of the season, I took most of December off and spent January on the mountain bike doing fun rides and a few road rides when the mood struck me. I think that unless you have early season races to prep for, the off-season should last as long as it takes to feel motivated again, and that didn't happen until early February.

Between traveling to France to find an apartment and breaking some ribs, though, I didn't get far with my new-found motivation. A month after my stupid crash, I started slowly building some strength and testing the ribs, culminating in my first victorious exploratory ride in the country, and then immediately the full brunt of food poisoning.

7 days in bed and 8 lost pounds later, I started again last week, on the same ride as the week before, hoping to recapture that momentum. An hour into the ride, just when I'd finally gotten to the open roads, the IT band in right knee started hurting. Ugh. Turn around and get nothing out of a 2.5 h ride, or ride it out and hope it's transient? I chose the latter, and an hour later it was pretty clear that was the wrong decision. By the time I got home, I'd been riding with the right leg clipped out for nearly an hour due to knee and hip pain and I couldn't walk for 2 more days.

I didn't realize until this spring how big a deal for me riding my bike is. Though feeling fit is important, and the stress release that exercising brings is a big plus, it's the exploring, the buzz of riding in city traffic and thrill of finding new roads in the country, the variety of experiences on the bike that make it so rewarding.

After a week of healing and stretching, I did my 3rd ride in 3 weeks on Tues, just 40 minutes until my knee and hip started to hurt. Stretch some more. Next day made it an hour. Stretch some more. And today I made it 90 minutes, with some discomfort, but no pain. And even doing 90 minutes like a hamster in a wheel around Longchamps was a big emotional boost. I'm reluctant to get too excited about more interesting rides, since every step forward this year has been followed by a major step back, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

To celebrate today's small victory on the bike, I made a bicycle wheel-inspired lunch. Some leftover potatoes, a smidgeon of prosciutto, and some garlic browned in olive oil and then encased in egg in a vaguely spoke-like pattern, topped with some crispy sauteed baby artichoke. You wouldn't want to ride a while this out of true, but with a little frisee salad and some home-made lemon yogurt, it was easy to feel optimistic about riding in the upcoming weekend.

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