When half of your hobbies involve getting outside and moving, fatigue and forced rest can make the days quite boring. Summer weather has finally arrived in Holland, which is what makes living in Michigan worth it in the first place, thus making it even more painful to be confined to the couch and out of the sun. I’ve been trying to fill my empty schedule by reading, writing, and walking more, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.
On Saturday I had to get out and went on my first group ride of the year. It was a large group of nearly 30, so the pace was high and there wasn’t much time to recover after the sprints. I tucked into the pack and tried to follow wheels, which worked all the way until we hit Beeline hill and my lungs exploded and I got shot out the back. Limit found.
Sunday brought the hottest day of the year (not really that hot), and I laid low most of the day, but still had the urge to get out while the weather was nice, so I headed to the lighthouse with my camera. It’s refreshing how the temperature drops 10 degrees in the short 15 minute bike ride to the lake, and I sauntered along the pier for awhile watching boats come in and out of the channel. Mostly coming in, as a storm was starting to brew over the lake. It quickly gained steam in the hour or so I was out there, so I didn’t get to stay as long as I’d hoped. But I did take this on the ride home:
I think my camera might weigh as much as my bike.
At work, our fiscal year ends on Friday, and because we can’t carry over any extra vacation days – use ’em or lose ’em – I worked Monday morning, and that’s it. I had been saving them to go somewhere far far away earlier in the month, but I’ve sort of had to stay close to medical attention, if you namean. After getting my blood checked again (this time just a finger prick instead of a needle in the arm), I went home early and, feeling recovered from the hard ride on Saturday, decided to join the Monday night ride that leaves from the aquatic center.
Anytime I have time for a 30+ mile ride ride, my favorite route is the “Hutchins Lake loop”. And because it’s not dark until 10pm this time of year, we had more than enough light, and I set out with the medium paced group for the 40 miles the route requires. Last year I could hang with the fast group, but I’m not ready to flog myself that much yet. The route has a good combination of quiet roads, a handful of hills (relative to the rest of western Michigan), and changing scenery that starts with freshly planted corn fields, goes past fields of hay, maybe a blueberry farm or two, and then swings around further south by apple orchards and finally the Fenn Valley vineyards.
It’s probably not the same as riding through Napa Valley or Tuscany, but you know what, it ain’t half bad either. The route then dips down around Hutchins Lake before heading back north past more corn fields and over Kalamazoo River in New Richmond. More cornfields and the rest of the way home.
The group I was riding with went just the right pace, trading pulls nicely, and although it was clear there was a wide variety of experience among the riders, I felt comfortable, and I think if you looked back at me at any point during the ride, I probably had a huge grin across my face. Even during the last couple climbs into town when my legs and lungs gave out, I was smiling. It was truly the best I’ve felt in 2 months, riding along the asphalt with nothing but the sound of rubber on road and chains whirring around cassettes. It was better than the ride on Saturday by an order of magnitude, and no matter how tired I was at the end, I was glowing. I felt completely connected with my new bike, and I can cycle again! (At least every other week after I’ve recovered from chemo.)
Tuesday showed up with more good weather, though a little cooler, and legs that weren’t too tired, so after bumming around all day watching cycling in the morning and going to the coffee shop and reading about cycling in the afternoon, I joined the Tuesday night ride that leaves from the bike shop downtown.
I had to eschew the fast group again and settle into the much bigger mild-paced group, which can sometimes be hit or miss. There’s a lot of less experienced riders in that pack, and riding next to some of them makes me nervous. Let’s just say there are people I avoid and actively staying clear of.
But, as always, riding in some sort of group is easier, and 35 miles later (different, less-notable-but-still-good route), I was just as happy as Monday. A not too difficult ride just to get my road legs under me again and have the wind flow over my skin. It will be awhile until I can really hammer again, but for now, I think rides like these will do. It’s the best drug I know. It’s therapy.