Wednesday, July 13

Always into the wind

My friend Katie and I go on vacation each summer, schlepping bikes, hiking boots, and other vacation-like paraphernalia to whatever locale we've chosen.  This time we chose northern Michigan and ended up in Beulah, MI which is situated on Crystal Lake not far from Lake Michigan, you know: the "big water."

Katie and I did a nice 20-mile ride on Monday.  A pleasant enough out-and-back from Beulah, MI to Frankport, MI on the Betsie Valley Trail.  Nice and flat, which was great for me.  Katie is an assistant women's basketball coach and serious biking enthusiast.  I'm a weekend warrior for most sports.  She glides along with apparently little effort and me huffing and puffing my way along.  My inelegant approach to biking comes from trying to catch up on all of one's exercise during a week's vacation, by the way, a practice I do not recommend.  And every vacation, when I know I've made some good progress towards getting close to beginning to get in shape, I promise myself I'll exercise more regularly.  I don't keep my promises to myself very well.

Anyway, part of the bike ride planning is to check the wide.  We try to ride against the wind on the way out with the hope being with the wind on the way back.  We laughed that when we turned around to head back on Monday, the wind seemed to shift.  Either that or we were riding really, really fast.  And so we joked that we always ride into the wind.

On Tuesday we expanded our ride.  Katie mapped a route around the lake.  It was a lovely ride; we got to gawk at lakefront homes, some large and impressive, even bordering on ostentatious; others looking like summer lake cottages that have been in the family or on the lake for years and years.  We did encounter a few hills on the 26-mile ride.  Keep in mind that point I made about absence of exercise, so any hill looked a bit daunting to me.  And yet I managed to power up a fairly steep hill as we detoured to check out a lighthouse; lungs and legs burning.

M-22 is one of the local highways with luxuriously wide and well-kept shoulders that serve as bike lanes.  Note to IL and Chicagoland promoters of bike lanes: it's not enough to have the bike lanes; they need to be maintained, too.  Just an observation.  On M-22 were two hills, coming somewhat close together.  But the best part of going up a hill?  Flying down it!

So I powered up that first hill on M-22, which was like nothing to my good friend who is also kind enough to trail along with me at my pitiful pace, legs and lungs complaining the whole way.  As I gave silent thanks to clips (pull UP) and swore slightly more loudly at myself for my own lack of fitness, I reminded myself of the reward on the other side.  And then I FLEW down the hill: elbows tucked in, head and shoulders tucked over the handlebars.  Pedaling hard to get up speed for the next hill.  I glanced down and thought I saw 29 mph on my little bike computer.  At the end of the ride, my top speed was 31.5 mph, so yea, baby, I bombed down those hills.

On the more leisurely return, I felt tired.  Good tired.  And though a few of the last several miles were on gravel (not fun on a road bike) and even though we once again seemed to be riding into the wind, it was a good ride.

Today we'll be doing some hiking or wandering up around Sleeping Bear Dunes and/or in Leelanau County.  I'm hoping we'll do another ride on Thursday and/or Friday, weather permitting.  I've got a hot air balloon ride scheduled for Thursday morning, so we'll see as that means a 3:30A wake-up call to check and a rendezvous at 5A for the ride to the take-off location.

Why "always into the wind"?  I just think it's amusing that no matter how we try to plan a bike ride, we seem to end up riding into the wind.  Not necessarily a strong head wind, but it's there.  There's something about that of which I need to be mindful: being willing to power through even if there are hills and even if my direction always seems to be into the wind.  I need to keep reminding myself that the more I do and try, the better I get at it: the more fit I get.  And then there's always that reward at the end of a climb: flying down the hill.  So very worth it.

So may the wind always be in your face and may the downhills be amazing!