Tour of the Tundra

felt2Cycling in Minnesota doesn’t generally get [ahem] rolling until sometime in April. Imagine my excitement to find that the warmish weather that triggered my first outside ride of 2015 would continue unchecked for seven solid days. 40’s gave way to 50’s, and then to 60’s. The slush didn’t stand a chance.

I originally conceived of the Tour of the Tundra as a private indoor challenge. This time of the year motivation to train indoors becomes sparse. Thin. Scant. Meager. Mean. Insubstantial. So I make up grand sounding events to trick myself into sauntering downstairs in slippers and bike shorts. Once there, I will spy my bike shoes waiting for me, and the probability that I will exercise increases ten fold. As long as I stay upstairs I’m a goner.

But then it got warm, and the Tour of the Tundra moved outdoors.

Each ride found me returning in my happy cycling funk – sweaty in my cool weather clothing, with signs of color returning to my face. My bike was spattered with red Iron Range mud from shady roads that were still melting out…and my clothing from snot rockets necessitated by cool breezes. After my usual awkwardness of remembering again how everything works, I found myself feeling pretty collected on the bike. And so I resolved to work in a longer ride to cap my week, and as it turns out, the end of the warm weather.

After studying the weather reports from three sources I concluded that (a) the wind would be from the south, and (b) I would therefore ride north. Which I did. I also schemed a detour that would add 18 miles by including some of my favorite hills. I suspected that the weather was beginning to change as I descended an 11% grade at 40 mph, and was struck by a rather pushy crosswind. Grabbing the top tube with my knees and gritting my teeth,  I hung on to the bottom in a more or less straight trajectory. I noticed a few more odd puffs of wind before rolling into my first stop at 40 miles.

windy-bike-rideRolling out after my banana break, I continued to enjoy my quick pace for about 3 more minutes: at which time the wind changed. The first gust came from the north and slowed me from 23 mph to about 11 in a matter of seconds. It was like riding into a parked car. I’ve come to know [and dread] those times when the wind is so strong you can hear nothing else while on the bike. As I fought a 20-30 mph headwind and the occasional mashing gust, I heard nothing but wind and a song droning in my head. You know…one that you’d rather not hear. The more you wish it would go away, the louder it gets:

 Don’t worry [don’t worry] bout a thing, cause every little thing’s gonna be all right!

Normally, I like Bob Marley. But the same line repeated hundreds of times? I put my head down and resigned myself to the situation. I yelled unpleasant things with each blast, but kept pedaling while watching my average speed slowly drop. All the while: every little thing’s gonna be all right. And it would be…in about 28 miles. If you keep going you get to the end, and may stop. It’s a philosophy that works for a lot of things.

When I stopped, the final stage of the Tour of the Tundra had come to an end. All told it was 224.6 miles.

Today it was 36 degrees with a bit of sleet.

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