First Day of Spring

At 12:57 today the sun crossed the equator and Spring came to the Northern Hemisphere.  At just about that moment I was rolling out of the driveway for my first bike ride in almost a month—that’s how hard the confluence of a bitter winter and an active schedule has been on my riding.

Daybreak today was foggy.  It had rained all day yesterday, the second day of above-freezing temperatures that melted Monday’s seven-inch snowfall very fast.  It’s remarkable how the higher arc of the late-winter sun warms so much faster than the low angles of January light, even when it’s cloudy.  The rain pretty much polished things off, so that when the fog burned off after breakfast the ground was bare except for a few renegade lumps of dirty white slush.

The clearing blue sky brought with it a gusty frontal system, but as the morning warmed there wasn’t even much of a wind chill as the temperature soared to nearly the normal high for the date, a rarity this season.

Out on the trail I rode northwest into the headwind.  The 11 m.p.h. breeze, gusting to 31, slowed a pace already made ponderous by lack of riding.  They say that if you want to go fast, you have to go slow.  Meaning that the best way to train is to begin with more miles and less exertion, since too much intensity early on requires more recovery time and actually impedes progress.  If that’s the case I will be riding very fast this summer, because my rate was truly glacial, about 13 m.p.h. instead of the optimal 15.5.  But my body is now telling me that I did not overdo it, and that the minimal aches and pains will allow me to ride again in even warmer air tomorrow.

One sign of the cold late winter is that the Spring Peepers were at their raucous best today in the marshlands west of Vienna, along with the lower-pitched ones I call “Spring Croakers.”  Usually by March 20th they’d be long gone.  But just 72 hours ago they were all buried under frozen snowdrifts, and I be they were almost as happy to be out in today’s sun as I was.

I could ride home with the wind at my back, a more honest course of action because one is not tempted to succumb to the delusion that one’s fast pace is a result of being in shape, rather than the reality of being wind-blown.  When the tailwind comes at the back end of the ride, one is already tiring, having battled the headwind for miles and miles.  One is simply grateful for the natural assistance.  And I am grateful for the promise of another fine riding day coming up, warmer and with calm winds.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2014

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