Sunday, March 14, 2010

Century Training - Week 1; Day 1

Week: 1
Day: 1
Ride: Easy
Scheduled Mileage: 6
Actual Mileage: 7.11
Average Speed: 10.5 mph*
Max Speed: 18.7 mph
*Includes city street speed average

Random Notes to Self:
  • Switch out the standard Bontrager bicycle seat that came with my Trek Madone 5.0 (Maddy) as soon as possible; it's putting highly undesirable pressure on my lady parts.
  • Resist the tendency to ride with my heels down, which is likely a habit developed by 10-years of equestrian training from age 6 to 16.
  • Riding north with a headwind on the West Side Highway has twice proven harder than riding south with a tailwind (will continue to watch the wind trends since it might be a good idea to plan rides with tailwinds on the latter half of rides, when my legs are tiring).
  • Returning home from the West Side Highway along West 52nd Street = no bueno (cobblestone until Eleventh Avenue and lots of potholes between Eleventh and Ninth).
  • Having a super-light carbon fiber bicycle is awesome - except in tropical storm conditions.
This has been a topic in my blog before, but cycling is like a clandestine society. New York City has an entire community of what I like to call "underground cyclists". These are average plain-clothed citizens, who don't necessarily stick out like a Lance Armstrong physique. They're inconspicuous cyclists from a variety of cultural and professional backgrounds, who stand in front of you and your bicycle in a Midtown Manhattan Starbucks in the wee hours of morning and then turn around while you're waiting for your grande skinny vanilla latte and say: "You're riding in this weather? All of the city's road clubs canceled this morning."

... Which is what happened today while I was en route to Brooklyn.

I completed my first century training ride today (instead of Monday) because I knew that events associated with an annual departmental meeting at job #1 would create a 7am-10pm workday tomorrow and prevent me from getting in the mileage. So after I left job #2 at 4:30am, I took a quick power nap (on top of my bed sheets in full cycling attire, except the helmet and cleats) before descending the subway with Maddy for a 7:30am cycling lesson in Brooklyn [NYC commuting note: allow a minimum of one hour for the subway from West Midtown to Gowanus on early-Sunday mornings (includes station wait-time and the inevitable, perpetual track construction)].

Because of the intermittent downpours, our cycling lesson was an indoor flat clinic, where we learned how to change a flat tire. Instruments that previously had no distinguishable place or purpose suddenly began to make sense - like these things - which I had no idea why I had purchased until today.

I've discovered that "wax on, wax off" moments in my cycling education - both on and off the bike - are a frequent occurrence, and it gives the sport an eccentrically gratifying quality. I like it.

After my cycling lesson ended, I again accompanied my coach to R&A Cycles, where I bought a CATEYE V3 cycling computer with all kinds of cool functions and features (+ installation costs, naturally), a pair of full-finger cycling gloves and a headband (cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching).

Returning to Manhattan in the afternoon, I attempted to cycle home - despite the weather. Number one, I wanted to get in the scheduled six miles since I knew it would be impossible to follow my century training schedule on Monday, and number two, Mark had said that I should get used to cycling in different types of weather conditions. I'm sure he hadn't meant blinding downpours and gale force winds that were toppling trees in Long Island on Saturday, but as I left the cycling shop, the skies had seemingly cleared to somewhat medium overcast.

I cycled 3-4 miles to downtown Brooklyn, but rethought my first ride over the Brooklyn Bridge since the wind was picking up significantly as I neared the East River. Besides, I'd rather save that milestone for a beautiful day. Instead, Maddy and I hopped on the A train, which was, of course, detouring along the F line so 14th Street would be the nearest subway stop to the West Side Highway - where the cycling lanes and jogging paths provide greater stretches of even pavement with less traffic lights.

When I re-emerged at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, the rain had returned, but I began pedaling anyway and soon discovered that I was not the only cyclist braving the West Side Highway's non-vehicle lanes. There were even a few dedicated joggers. When I reach West 51st Street, I still hadn't cleared six miles. Glancing at the 4.61 mileage reading on my newly-installed cycle computer, I continued up the west side, where I learned that (what appeared to be several) miles of the bike lane are sheltered by the elevation of the multi-lane highway and bordered by city parks and community gardens. Awesome for bad weather, as evidenced by the children playing on their scooters as I cruised along.

It's amazing how much I still don't know about the blocks within a 3-mile radius of my apartment even though I moved from Harlem to Midtown almost two years ago. It has made me realize how my daily routines have made me very habitual in my routes (avoiding certain areas, like Rockefeller Center at Christmastime, or Times Square all year round; ducking in and out of specific subway entrances, particularly those that get me a block or two closer to my destination during inclement weather; frequenting the Duane Reade on 42nd & 8th because there is almost always an open register in the basement with very few people on line). There is so much city and so little time that I've become too busy with living as quickly and conveniently as possible in New York to enjoy one of the best things about it: exploring.

It has made me realize that my fairly haphazard whim to cycle across North America in celebration of my 30th year may have some fortuitous, underlying effects: great legs ... and a reconnection with New York City.


Sara Komo said...

So...when do we get a pic of the new Headband! :)

Katie said...

Haha! I'll send you one asap!