Jason Jan 05, 2016
For over a year now, I've been using Strava to track all of my significant rides. I enjoy competing against myself more than other people, and while I don't need every ride to be a competition, I'm fascinated by data and enjoy seeing myself improve over time. On occasion, it also provides a needed kick to push a little faster or a little further than I might otherwise.
I can't say as I'm into the New Year's resolution trend, but I do choose goals for myself to set the tone for the year ahead. One my goals for 2016 is to ride the Strava Gran Fondo event each month. Not just to check off the distances each month, but to have twelve unique experiences through different routes and changing weather.
To kick things off on the right foot, I headed out January 2nd for the first ride. I'm thankful I had a clear, mostly sunny day for it, but cold. It was about 28° when I headed out mid-morning, with a light wind. There's a lot to be said for riding in the cold, particularly as I wound my way through farm fields on less traveled roads. There was frost and ice in the shade, but the roads were clear and dry. A region just feels different when it's not baking in the heat of a summer day. You see the bones of a place in the mid-winter gray light.
There's a uniqueness to experiencing a place on a bike versus a car, when you can feel the warmth of the sun even as you're breathing in sharp, cold air. I liken it to the difference between looking at a picture of a place versus actually being there: you're looking at the same view, but in one you're far more present than the other and it is something experienced, rather than something seen.
A downside of riding long distances in cold weather is increased energy consumption. In past rides, I've discovered that I need to improve my cold weather nutrition and hydration to compensate for this effect. I made changes for this ride, but not enough. About fifty miles in or so, I started to hit the wall. I pushed through the exhaustion, pacing myself through the climbing at the end of the ride, determined to complete the route I'd planned. As your body runs low on fuel, your extremities begin to chill. The sun also disappeared behind clouds and the wind began knifing through my layers.
Every ride is new adventure; every ride you learn something more about yourself. The Gran Fondo rides are challenging, but not impossible, distances. There is a certain satisfaction that I get, especially after a particularly difficult ride, from pushing my physical limits and seeing what's there.
I'm now stronger than I was yesterday.