"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Winter's Solace

A heck of a first day of December, eh?

It's not even officially winter yet, but there's white stuff everywhere. Becoming a competitive road cyclist has turned me traitor and thinned my Alaskan blood. Where I used to see snowmen and forts, and then warm whiskey, good wine and rich food, now there's only biting wind and corrosive salt. I can feel myself shrinking and tightening, becoming denser and slower with every day I spend off the bike.

Out of mind, I know that's not true. Now at the end of my coach's two week rest period (taken early due to two unanticipated weekends on the road) I have started lifting weights in earnest and running three times a week. The body needs cross-training in order to refresh and renew, and keep itself stronger and true over the long term.

The running and the weights place impact and tension on the kinetic chain, promoting bone density and giving non-cycling muscles, underused during the season, new life and strength. Joint function and flexibility are restored to their peak, ready for the next three months of base training, followed by the incredible spike in intensity of training camps and races in March and April.

But right now I just feel the heaviness of this past weekend's indulgences squeezed into my belt. Right now look out upon the icy glare in the streets and the frozen breath hanging in the air and feel only ennui. Right now I couldn't ride to work if you paid me.

I don't cyclocross or mountain bike - at least not this season, and after the new road purchase, probably not next season either. Right now all I can think about is the coming near-constant temptation to eat and drink that which I shouldn't, and to get off the trainer earlier than I should.

Yet today, oh on a day such as this, a tiny seed was planted. Planted in my head by that pantheon of all that is anti-bike and materialist : Bicycling Magazine (no offense to Conde Nast, I know you gotta put food on yer family). Bill Strickland was lucky enough to have been challenged and sponsored by the British clothing company Ralpha to climb France's legendary La Marmotte and Etape du Tour, back-to-back in two days.

Their holy grail, of a sort, was the sticker-covered sign that marks the summit of the Col du Galibier:
The purity of having climbed Galibier is almost too much to bear - so raw, so honest that we need to step away, walk off and again convince ourselves that our jobs are important and our world depends...on paying our phone bills and washing our cars and answering our emails.
This coming March, as I did a year ago, I will climb Black Mountain in San Luis Obispo, willing myself on to reach the view of the valley, the immenseness of the weather station, the cheers of my teammates. 48 hours later I will climb The Wall, and then Asheville's Mount Mitchell in April...finding my rhythm, each time immersing myself in 10,000 feet of pain, catching nearly everyone who dropped me in the foothills, to finish alone in a very personal triumph.
We seek the sign at the top of Galibier, at the end of our driveways, at the beginning of the weekend ride...when we've had a bad day at the office...a fight at home...the ATM's broken...last year's slow guy beats us...

Winter, I am ready for you.

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