I didn’t feel like riding when I rolled out of bed. I’d stayed up a little too late the night before watching a movie. Too late these days is 10 pm — ideally I am in bed at 8:30, listening to a podcast until I fall asleep, which usually happens quickly. Over the past few years, I have become more and more skewed towards being a morning person, and this year has made my natural preference even more extreme due to a change in Evan’s work schedule (he has to be there at 6 am and I have a hard time staying in bed after he gets up) and the lack of social obligations.
My legs were also sore, likely from two runs late last week during which I pushed myself harder than I have in a while on a run. I’ve still been managing my hamstring injury from a couple years ago, and its tolerance for running ebbs and flows. Some weeks I step it up and it feels good only to be painful the following week. I’ve been more diligent about stretching than ever and have been doing glute activation exercises before every run, which seems to be helping. I’m hopeful that this year I can finally run more than 5 miles at a time on a regular basis and possibly train for some trail races (I like the half marathon or 25k distance) whenever I feel comfortable doing those again from a COVID standpoint.
Anyway — the point is, I had planned to go over to Greenwood and ride that morning. My first thought when I woke up was, do I have to?
I checked the weather while the coffee water was boiling. It was supposed to get sunny later. That could be a plus for going at lunchtime instead. But it was supposed to also get windy — I’d rather it be cloudy and still. I wasn’t going to be able to ride after work because I was heading to Philipsburg. All these mental gymnastics to convince myself that I didn’t have to leave before dawn to go ride, that I could put it off until later and just sit on the couch and sip my coffee slowly.
The coffee pot whistled and I wet the grounds in the pourover cone. Drip drip drip.
If you don’t go ride now, you know you might end up not having time later. Stuff could come up at work, you’ll be stressed about leaving, then you’ll feel crappy because you didn’t ride.
Another pour to the top of the cone. Drip drip drip.
Remember, every time you’ve ever gone for an early morning ride you are glad you did.
Drip drip drip.
You’ll feel great once you’re out there.
You have the privilege of a healthy body and the time to go for a mountain bike ride before work. Quit being a wimp and take advantage of it.
The coffee reached the top of the mug and I threw in a splash of cream. I went upstairs to change into my riding clothes, drinking my coffee and downing a granola bar as I gathered my gear. I was off to Greenwood.
It was damp but not overly cold, the temperature hovering right around freezing. The first light of the day cast its blue-gray hue over the parking lot as I donned my shoes, gloves and helmet and then began the ascent to the top of Milligans Knob.
A few snowflakes began to fall as I climbed Old Lewistown Pike. They seemed to be moving in slow motion, gently wandering on their way to the ground. As I gained elevation, more and more snow was left on the ground, now mostly a layer of crusty ice that was gradually getting covered with fresh powder. A few bike tracks lingered in the old snow.
Last time I’d climbed Pigpile, the hemlocks were hanging low over the trail, laden with the weight of snow resting on their boughs. It made for a pretty view but slow and very wet riding as I had to put my head down and push through the snowy branches with my helmet, sending cascades of powder down my back. I bailed early that day, soaking wet, getting back to the car in the nick of time to avoid getting dangerously cold as I was unprepared for the conditions.
This time was, admittedly, much more enjoyable. I reached the top fairly quickly and zig-zagged my way along Sassy Pig Trail, the ridgetop connector between Sassafras and Pigpile. It twists through trees and rock gardens — “flowy tech,” as I describe it. It’s one of my favorite trails and also features a great vista looking eastward into Big Valley, though on this particular day clouds and falling snow obscured much of the view. With each moment that passed, more and more new snow covered the old, my tires laying crisp tracks in the sparkly dust.
At the top, the intersection of Sassy Pig and Sassafras, I redonned by shell and swapped out gloves for a warmer, dry pair. It was time to descend the 1,300 feet I’d just climbed —down, down, down Sassafras Trail back to Greenwood Furnace. The trail drops quickly, changing from a tight, rhododendron-lined ribbon to a slightly wider, chunky wash as it nears Rag Hollow Road.
The snow began to fall more and more emphatically and by the time I was back on the road for the last mile or so back to the car, it was coming down so hard that I had to keep my head cocked downward to divert the flakes from stinging my eyes. Snowflakes splattered my shins and once again I reached the car just in time before the dampness seeped into my bones.
I thought back to 3 hours prior, when I was first waking up, my brain trying to fool myself into bailing on the ride. I felt better both physically and mentally now, satisfied and exhilarated by the exercise and cold air, the soreness and stiffness spun out of my legs.
Each time I end a ride feeling better than when I started is another bit of experience to draw on when my brain tries to convince me to stay warm and comfortable on the couch. Each time I don’t give in to laziness is further evidence that getting out there is always worth it.