First ride of February

It’s Groundhog Day and the cold is (just) bearable enough for me bundle up and head out for a short spin.

Only, once I get to the bottom of the first hill I think what the hell, I’ll just pedal to the edge of town. And of course, once I get to the edge of town I decide I might as well head out into the country, “but only as far as the river.”

Which is how I found myself pedaling along at a steady pace, riding parallel to the Missouri River for mile after mile today.

My feet turned numb at some point – but I only realized this when I paused for a fleeting moment to make a photograph of a building framed in by the cloud-filled sky (above.) Another solitary cyclist, and the first other rider I’d seen today, passed by as I put away my camera and pulled my gloves back over frozen fingers.

“I can catch this dude,” I thought to myself, and jumped on the pedals in pursuit. I wanted to see his frame – I might be mistaken, but it looked like he was riding a classic Paramount sporting an odd fade paint job. If it was a Paramount I was thinking it had to be a repaint; I’ve never seen a fade on one before – but of course there’s always a first time, right?

The day, though chilly, had been blessedly free from wind and I began to churn down the road in the direction of the mystery rider. I glanced down to see how fast I was going and was stunned to see that I was effortlessly speeding along at 24 – no, 25 – wait! 26 miles per hour. I’ll catch this guy in no time, I think. I want to know just how long I can keep going at this pace and keep one wary eye on my Garmin and another on the rider ahead of me. Despite my speed, he is clearly outriding me. As he disappears around a bend horseshoeing around a bluff, I realize that’s likely the last I’ll see of him or his bike.

Minute after minute I hang on though, riding at what is for me a furious pace. The cross training I’ve engaged in this winter must be paying off! I’m thrilled to realize that the boredom of the trainer must have also kept my legs strong during this off season. This is terrific news and I am feeling very strong.

I round the bend and curve generally back in the direction from which I’ve come over the last few miles. As the bluff disappears I slam into a strong headwind. I’ve no idea when that came up, but when I’d been traveling in the opposite direction it was clearly providing me with a tailwind to push me along with such a frenzy. Perhaps I still have my summer legs, but the wind was the real impetus for my earlier speed.

And it was just as much the reason for my slow return.

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