e·piph·a·ny : A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.
I had the “epiphany” ride yesterday. I think every relatively serious cyclist knows what I’m talking about. You know, the one where the weather is perfect, the roads are open and the legs finally display a willingness to work with the bike instead of against it. It happens every season that I start to train seriously and is truly one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have on the bike. Generally it happens in the winter too, so there tend to be fewer cyclists out and you feel like you’re getting away with something, which makes it even better.
I had modest ambitions when I went out. It’s too early in the season to ride hard so I just wanted to peg my heart rate at about 70% and enjoy the scenery. A few hours, no really hard efforts, just get in the miles and burn off some of the holiday pounds. There was a chance of rain in the afternoon that I wasn’t too excited about, so I wanted to get out while I could. I got home six hours later and never even had to put my jacket on.
Marin County is arguably the most beautiful place in the world. Granted, I am biased because I was born and raised there but I challenge anyone to find me a region that can provide as many different landscapes in such a small area. From the rolling hills of northwestern Marin to the steeps of Mt. Tam and the Headlands, you really can get just about anything but a flat ride in. Additionally, there are very few places where you can ride through redwood forests, spin along rocky ocean coastlines and roll along the bay overlooking one of the most beautiful cities in the world on a single ride. Throw in the fact that I was riding in the middle of December with just leg warmers, and a long-sleeved jersey and it becomes idyllic. No thermal booties, no skullcap, no jacket. I even took my gloves off after a few miles.
It’s always difficult for me to keep my heart rate down when I ride. Even though I haven’t raced in a while, I still find myself pushing too hard. It’s like there is something in my brain that just makes me expect pain during my rides. I guess I had always thought that if it doesn’t hurt, I’m not going hard enough. With this in mind, I forced myself to take it easy and it was actually really nice. It’s amazing how much fun riding your bike can be when you don’t have lactic acid coursing through every muscle in your body for hours.
I guess you can’t truly take it easy in Marin though, and I ended up doing way more climbing than I had wanted to. It’s kind of frustrating, but unless I figure out some way to ride my bike on the San Francisco Bay, I basically have do at least three to fifty climbs that are over 7%. Some of them are pretty short but they still get me way above my base target of 70% of max. Needless to say, over the course of six hours I spent a lot of time climbing but I kept it under control pretty well.
The result of it all was that I got to experience over one hundred miles of Marin County’s best roads and scenery with the wind in my face and loads of sweet, sweet endorphins coursing through my veins. The euphoria of spinning a 53x11 at 35 mph on west Sir Francis Drake. The roller coaster of Highway 1 overlooking Tomales Bay between Marshall and Pt. Reyes. The perfectly paved pain and spectacular vistas of Bolinas Ridge. The stunning San Francisco cityscape from Paradise Drive in Tiburon. Even my cool down along Shady Lane in Ross was perfect.
This is why we ride. This is what cycling is about. I never really forget why I love to ride, but sometimes it takes that special day when everything clicks to shake me out of my regular routine. Cycling is such a labor-intensive sport, it can sometimes get a bit robotic so it’s always good to rediscover the meaning of it all and why we subject ourselves to the risks of riding. The freedom to see, smell and feel your surroundings under your own power, with the speed and efficiency of two wheels, is truly one of life’s great pleasures. So, appreciate your rides and be grateful that you know what I'm talking about.