It's a gorgeous late summer day in Sacramento. The temperature was only around 80 degrees at 1 pm, so I decided to take some of my own advice and Go Outside (Chapter 17) on my bike. I was finally starting to feel a bit of pep after a rough week recovering from putting on my parents' 50th wedding anniversary bash. Lots of people put in lots of effort - and your thank you notes are sitting on the hall table waiting for a mail run - but I really crashed after that weekend. Aches, involuntary naps, muscle cramps, mental fog, headache, all that crap.
But hey! Yesterday I felt all better and did my modest bike-train commute in fine style. It's about 4 miles from my house to the Sacramento train station, then another mile or so from the Berkeley station to the office. The ride along the Sacramento River, across the American River, and back over to the Sacramento was inspiring both ways. Big oaks and cottonwoods, geese on the beach, sunlight glinting on green water - excellent.
So today at lunchtime I saddled up and headed out along the levee, west and then north along the Garden Highway, where the Sacramento makes a huge bend. I was planning to go about 10 miles, warming up for the first 15 minutes or so (Chapter 3: Be Slow), and then doing a few intervals to get my heart rate up and feel like I was working out rather than commuting.
The warmup was delightful, and the modest intervals felt good. I felt my quads work and my heart rate go up without getting a huge anaerobic burn or sucking ghastly wind. I went out about 5 miles, but instead of making my usual U-turn, I turned onto Power Line Road, thinking to explore it and get a mild challenge climbing back up on to the levee. I bumped along the cruddy road surface, but enjoyed my proximity to the cornfields and apple orchards and the massive live oaks.
Coming back, though, I felt like complete and utter dog-doo. Getting back onto the levee, an elevation gain of about 30 feet, felt like climing Mont Ventoux, and the five or so miles back to the house seemed unimaginably long. My overall ride was going to be twelve miles, and I couldn't believe how tired I was. The Garden Highway stretched out before me for miles; I couldn't even see the big bend in the road.
So I switched my focus to Chapter 48 - Endure. I slowed down to a crawl, found a pace I could live with, and tried to block everything out of my mind, especially thoughts of time or distance remaining. I was looking for a Zen place of total mental non-focus. Without actually falling off the road, that is.
I drank my water in measured sips and contemplated a Gu, but I didn't feel like I was having a hunger knock. I just felt very, very slow. I worked on embracing my slowness, taking coasting breaks, taking breaks to get my butt off the saddle and air out the nether regions, and staying as comfortable as possible.
Finally the road started swinging east and I reached the Bridges restaurant - 1.3 miles to go. I gained a slight tailwind and a final spurt of energy to make it to the turn off the levee and down to my neighborhood. I coasted to the garage, feeling dull and weak. But I made it.
Note to self - an easy four miles to the train station, during which you try not to get too sweaty, is not really a workout. It's fun, and it's exercise, but it is in no way equal to an hour ride with some intervals thrown in. I need to start putting a little more extended saddle time in. And then think about intervals. And then, maybe next year, think about hills.