Rain falling amongst the trees.This week has been very humid, wet and rainy. Today it looks like it’s more of the same weather we’ve been having. It’s overcast, humid as all get out and the threat of rain is ever present. Looks like perfect cycling weather to me. 🙂
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been trying to workout at the gym three times a week. When I took up cycling though, I found that I didn’t go to the gym as much because I was riding my bike just about every day. I was still attending my Wednesday yoga class, but I was tending to skip Monday and Friday’s workout. Then it occurred to me, although I’m getting a good cardio workout with my normal 10 mile rides, I’m not doing any weights. So I resolved to make Monday and Friday days that I would work on various muscle groups using the weight machines.

When last Monday rolled around, I decided to “kick it up a notch” and ride my bike to and from the gym. That would give me a 24 mile ride in addition to the workout at the gym. The fact that it was raining just added to the incentive, because I love the slop. There’s just something refreshing about riding in the rain. Maybe it’s my psyche having flashbacks to jumping in puddles on the way home, I don’t know, but when it rains, I’m ready to ride.

From Dolly to J-lo
I figured that I would need dry clothes once I got there, so I removed my large handlebar bag and instead used one of my rear panniers. I put my Palm and my wallet in zip lock bags, loaded up everything I’d needed to get there have a good workout and get home. This included my silly, but important vest, blinkers and my headlight as well as my workout clothes, etc. With everything loaded into the rear pannier, I headed out down the hill and on my way to Brentwood.

The first few miles felt really weird. It had been awhile since I’ve ridden without my handlebar bag. Almost immediately after I purchased it, it’s been a permanent fixture to the front of my bike. Not having it there made the steering feel very different. It was obviously much lighter and the weight shift took some getting used to. The other thing that I noticed was that having all the weight in the rear seem to make my climbs a little bit easier. I was carrying the same weight, if not more, but having it further back make it easier. It felt like I was pulling the weight instead of pushing it up the hill. It was as if I went from being Dolly Parton to Jennifer Lopez and I definitely liked the change! LOL

Fresh Legs… Get Your Fresh Legs Here
Although I think my weight shift may have had something to do with my ability to climb easier, I think there were many factors that helped as well. For one, my legs were pretty fresh from almost a week without riding. No matter where I ride, there are always plenty of hills that I get to climb. When I read in Bicycling Magazine about how to train for hills, I have to stop and laugh. How can I NOT train for hills, when they are everywhere around me. It would be nice to have some flat terrain to warm up on, but I don’t see how in the world, I can avoid climbing a hill.

My point is that my legs get taxed on every ride I take. In fact the last mile is always the worst because of the hill leading up to my house. So when I’ve taken a few days off, my first day back in the saddle is usually a good one for climbing because my legs are nice and fresh. Monday was definitely a day where my legs felt good and fresh, but like I said earlier, I think there was a combination of things that made the ride go so well. I shifted my load to my rear wheel, my legs were fresh, and what was the last thing? Oh yeah, there was a Lance sighting. :O

A Lance Sighting?
It happened last Wednesday. My mother was coming back from the gym on Cloverland and she said that she passed someone that looked a lot like Lance Armstrong. She said the man was very lean, was decked out in total racing garb and that his clothing wasn’t US Postal, but was more yellow in color and reminded her of the old 7-11 uniforms. As she passed him she said he looked a lot like Lance because she noticed his sharp nose.

Ok, now you may be sitting there reading this thinking that I’m a complete loon for believing this. I mean why would Lance Armstrong be cycling in Nashville of all places? Well, because he’s been linked to Cheryl Crow for quite some time and she bought a house here last year. I don’t know where her house is yet, but she does own a home in the Nashville area. So I can imagine Lance being in Nashville to visit his girlfriend and going on a ride in the afternoon. This close to the Tour de France? Yeah, probably not.

But as I made my ride to the gym, covering the same ground that “Lance” may have covered, the thought filled my mind with flights of fancy. What if Lance rode past me? What would I say? Would I try and keep up? Could I even hope to keep up? What if he was impressed with my ability climb given the weight of my bike, panniers and my big fat ass? 😛

So as I made my way down Old Smyrna Road visions of Lance danced in my head as my cadence stayed high and my speed with it. The funny thing was that it didn’t feel like I was working all that hard. Although I knew that I was pushing it a little bit, I had a smile plastered from ear-to-ear and I wasn’t heaving for air in any way shape or form.

Nike’s & Nautilus
Once in Brentwood, I made a quick stop at REI. 10 years ago, two days before Holly and I were married, I purchased a pair of Nike Air Madas. They were a new type of low hiking sneaker and I loved those shoes. I literally wore the sole out on them and I’ve missed them ever since. With Holly and I going to the Mayan Rivera next week, it seemed like a good time to find a replacement pair.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have any Nikes, but they did have a nice pair of Merrells that I took a fancy to. After trying a few different brands of trail shoes, I opted for the Merrell Phaser Infernos. They have a nice firm sole that remind me of cycling shoes and they are so comfortable. To round out my purchase, I bought three pairs of REI Merino Wool Hiking Socks too. GREAT socks.

I loaded up my purchase into the pannier and continued on to the YMCA. Once there, I locked everything up, checked in, grabbed a towel and made my way to the locker room. I had to laugh a little as I passed the spinning class. I mean no disrespect. Spinning classes are a great workout and I have no fantasies of being able to hang with the instructor, but you have to admit that after you’ve been cycling for 12 miles in the rain, the idea of pedaling a stationary bike in a dark room listening to techno music and having an instructor scream at you seems a bit absurd.

Thanks to the fenders on Juliet, my shorts were pretty much dry, so I just changed shirts, toweled off my head and made my way to the machines. There I found Holly and my Mom lifting 5lb dumbbells working on their triceps. We worked out together as I hit all the upper body machines. When my body was feeling shaky and my upper body was spent, it was time to head back home.

As I was loading up, Mom and Holly came out of they gym and tried repeatedly to get me to load my bike up and let them drive me home. It was raining pretty hard, but there was no way I was going to pass up this ride. With my reflector vest on, my blinking tail light on and my headlight illuminating the road in front of me, I pushed off and out onto the open road.

Being Eight Again
My path home was the back the same way that I came. It was a little after 8pm. Although it was dark, the overcast sky was illuminated from the street lamps and the moon and with the occasionally lightning strike. The brightly lit sky didn’t help light my way, but it did treat me to an amazing light show. My headlight gave me all the light I needed to make my way and with the vest and tail light I lit up like a Christmas tree anytime a car would pass, although there were few cars on my route.

This time I had no fantasies of Lance riding along side me, but my cadence was off the charts. It was as if my legs couldn’t go fast enough. Forget form, my legs were just pumping up and down like two pistons. It reminded me of riding a bike as a kid when you’ve maxed out the gear you’re in and all you can do is spin your legs. At any moment I could see myself kicking my legs out to the side as I sailed through a puddle and my pedals spinning madly beneath me. I wasn’t riding a fixed gear bike, so that wouldn’t happen, but don’t we all remember that feeling?

For me it was a purple and green bike I won at an Easter Egg hunt at D.H. Holmes. It had a big green vinyl banana seat with green sparkle vinyl tassels at the end of the upright handlebars. I’d race my friends, but given that it only had one gear, there was only so fast that you could get and then you’d just throw your legs out and let the pedals spin beneath you because your legs couldn’t keep up. That feeling was akin to flying, but at some point you’d have to find a way to get your feet back on the pedals so that you could slow down and stop. Although brief, having your feet free of the pedals was akin to flying for me at that age and I had totally forgotten about that memory until Monday night as I stomped my way back home in the rain.

Once on Holt road, there were a few cars that passed me and I could only imagine what I looked like. I could just picture a man driving home from the store. As he drives down the road, he spots a cyclist coming the opposite way. Looking over as he passes, he sees a 36 year old man wet from head to toe, with his eyes wide as saucers, a big open smile from ear to ear and his tongue hanging out catching rain. I must have looked like Tom Hanks in “Big” as I rode past and I couldn’t have cared less. I was living it.

In A Word… Spectacular!
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I would see a lightening strike in the sky, miles away from where I was and I would suddenly have a “woo hoo” moment followed by an “oh crap” moment. Seeing the lightening was exciting, but it would quickly humble me that I was nothing but a pimple on the ass of the earth and that I was nothing compared to the power I had just witnessed.

As I made my way south down Nolensville Pike, I found my self higher than Culbertson Road, the road I was about to turn onto. I looked down across a wide field where Culbertson and Nolensville Pike and was made speechless by what I saw. The illuminated sky, dimly lit the field below and from my vantage point millions of firefly twinkled in the field. It was as if the entire area was sparkling with Christmas lights. I had never seen anything like this and it was such a awe inspiring sight. Instantly the thought ran through my head, “I’m supposed to be delighting You my Lord and yet here you are showing me such wonders!” All along Culbertson, on either side of Mill creek, were fireflys twinkling in the fields. It was like God created my very own Electric Light Parade and all I could do is smile and laugh at the wonder of it all.

Ten minutes later and I was home safe and sound, although soaked to the bone. As Holly opened the garage, happy to see that I had made it home safely, I was instantly back to age 8 as I told her all the magical things that happened on the way home. It was by far the best night ride I’ve ever had. I’ve tried to describe it as best as I can, but there’s so many little things that happened that I simply can’t put into words. All I know is that it was 24 miles of complete joy and was a reminder of why I enjoy cycling as much as I do.

I was a kid again on Monday night and guess what? It’s supposed to rain tonight again. Guess where I’ll be? 😀