In the Air

Going out on the bike last Wednesday, it seemed like a vandal had been down the Trail.  Somebody with large spray painters and crimson, russet and burnt amber pigments had tagged whole swatches of leaves at random.  The same tree would have some old green and some of the new, warmer hues.  Dogwoods and some of the vines were especially hard-hit.  The painter had started out in Sterling and Herndon but was running out of paint nearer Vienna, where nights have been a tad lass cold.  Nevertheless the change was unmistakable.

Today the vandalism was different.  Rain and wind had stripped some of the leaves from the trees and scattered them messily all over the Trail.  And it was still going on as I rode.  One forgets how punishing a persistent headwind is until one heads into it.  As we left the National Gallery of Art after my morning class tour the downtown DC leaves were scuttling madly along the marble steps.  Out on the trail it hadn’t let up, and I wondered why my quads hurt so much as I plowed my way through the air out to Herndon.  On a day like this every effort needs to be redoubled; climbing Hunter Station Road into the wind took my velocity way down to about 5 mph.  I nevertheless steamed past a young woman who was gamely trying to keep her machine going forward but was veering all over the place, and made a sort of supportive/sympathetic comment on the way by.  On days like this it is I who gets passed a lot, because the casual recreational riders find less strenuous activities, while the serious ones come out to test their mettle.  I was passed by a number of carbon fiber bikes (Cervelo, Specialized, Trek) today, but I handily passed my own bike, or at least the same Trek 2.1 model I own and often ride, on the silver Jamis Coda Comp I used today.

Persistence is its own reward when the wind is blowing, because the homeward-bound ride is effortless.  I always head out into a strong wind, because if I am being pushed to the limit I want to feel it and react to it as I see fit, knowing that whenever it is that I can’t take any more riding into the wind, I can just turn around and enjoy a nearly effortless homeward leg.  Today the George Hincapie quip “no chain!” seemed just right; pedaling was about that effortless.  Despite my reluctance to freewheel, I can at least control the degree of my effort, decide just how much burning sensation in my legs I want to deal with.

On the last leg of the ride today I looked at the sun low in the sky, feeling its warmth as an antidote to wind chill.  Even at 62° that chill is a factor; 20° lower and the wind truly starts to hurt in a different way, compelling the body to work harder to maintain a warm enough core temperature.  But today it was warm enough even in shadows.  Nonetheless I pondered the reality that in a couple of weeks the sun would be that low more than an hour earlier, as Daylight Savings Time gets rolled back.  Carpe diem for the long afternoon ride.  Change is in the air, and every extra degree a bonus.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.

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