Monday, October 6, 2014

A Real Weekend

I don't ride you enough because 
Love wasn't what I thought it once was 
But I thought it once was 
Mashing over everything 
And taking off your small chainrings 
No, now I know and now I see 
I'm not afraid no more 
No no no no no no 

So why are you always trying to stay at home? 
Raystown can't be played alone 
It was made to be played with... 

 My my Monkey and I 
 My Monkey and I 
My Monkey and I 
D-doing just fine, yeah

I guess I’m replacing my Taylor Swift lyric intros with (modified) Haim lyric intros. I’m not sure if this is really an improvement, but since I spent some time with an old friend this weekend, I thought it was appropriate.

 Frank and I just completed our first real weekend in nine weeks. I think getting into the ‘cross groove helped pull me out of the rut that I was in for most of the summer, so I was a bit reluctant to take a break, even though there were no races in PA this weekend. There was one in Maryland, but it would have been silly to drive 3 hours each way just to get a ‘cross fix that didn’t really count for anything. Instead we opted to do the fun stuff that we’ve been ignoring all summer and early fall, namely singlespeed mountain biking and gravel riding.

We also watched probably 12 episodes of The Wire, to which Frank has recently introduced me. I actually feel pretty proud that we were able to balance that level of laziness and still manage to get our planned rides in. I obviously have forgotten what a real weekend feels like.

Our first trip to Raystown back in June left us largely unimpressed, but I suspected that it would be more fun on a singlespeed than it was on my Lust. So on Saturday, we finally let the Karate Monkey out the garage for the first time since moving into our apartment, and packed up Frank’s newly-converted Chumba hardtail, whose gnar bike status was taken by his recently-acquired Anthem 29er. My recent ‘cross results have been a pretty good indicator of the actual state of my fitness lately, but the Karate Monkey was brutally honest in its assessment. I remember how strong I felt when I started riding it regularly in the spring of 2013, and on Saturday it was apparent by the number of rest breaks that I required how much of that old strength has slipped away from me.

It made me reminisce about that time period, and how weird it felt to be riding the bike that I used to ride all the time. That bike was an amazing post-divorce coping mechanism, but as I transitioned from post-divorce, to long-distance relationship, to moving to one of the most singlespeed-unfriendly places I can think of, it lost its place in my life. I still laugh sometimes about how a friend called my relationship with Frank “just a rebound thing” as I responded to an “I love you, CX mentor” text while I sat dateless at Fred and Liz’s wedding last fall. I hope that, over a year later, we’ve proven to be more than that in the eyes of others, but if not, we certainly have proven it to ourselves. I think I’m as surprised as anyone at my mere two-month single period that ended with my falling in love with and eventually moving to Pennsylvania for the first guy with whom I even went on a date. So I often think of the Karate Monkey as my rebound relationship, and instead of embarrassing drunken bar make-outs, I just used beat-up wrists and burning quads to work through my emotions. As difficult as the ride was on Saturday, it made me want to make more trips to Raystown and get reacquainted with my strength from the old days, but you know, minus all the crappy parts that I’ve forgotten.

We also got to demo fat bikes. It was fun to try out, and it gripped ridiculously well in the corners, but the sore lack of climbing ability made me wonder why anyone would want to use one as their go-to trail bike. I still wish I had a cheap one for snow-riding in the winter, though.

Finally, we reacquainted ourselves with gravel. We’ve discussed the matter and decided to keep up the tradition of “Surviving the Gravel Grovel”, even though cyclocross season doesn’t allow us to actually train for it. In a weird way, it almost makes it more fun.

We did, however, decide to take advantage of our last chance to ride gravel before the Gravel Grovel. The plan was to climb up to a gravel road that runs along the ridge about halfway up the mountain that we climb on Tuesdays. The ride is an out-and-back that can be up to 40-something miles, but we decided just to go and turn around when we felt like it. I felt surprisingly good, and we ended up turning around due to being a bit underdressed for the mid-50’s, overcast, and windy conditions that we hadn’t experience in a while, rather than being tired. We also made the mistake of trying to “change it up” by riding out on a long, gnarly descent back to the main road. Frank got a flat about halfway down, discovered that he had no tube or patch kit, and the ride ended with me riding home alone and coming back in the car for him.

I still ended up with 25.7 miles, which by Strava’s silly mileage-centric standards was my biggest ride of the year. Strava obviously has no appreciation for gnar.

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