It was a great weekend - just what I needed to fully re-energize and recover from all of the travels and to begin to focus on the 2012-2013 academic year. To kick off the weekend, I managed my first post-Boulder race work-out on Friday with a spinning class, which was the perfect reintroduction to the wide world of sports/fitness. During the school year, I can't normally go to an 8:30 am spin class during the week, so this was a last hurrah for the summer, and Rod, the instructor, had us working with heart rate monitors. Obviously this is an effective tool for training, and it made me think about yet another investment for the future but not the present. I definitely pushed myself during the class, but focusing on my heart rate was a change, rather than just try to decide what it meant to me when the instructor says "You should be at a 5 in intensity".
The spinning class set a nice tone for a weekend full of cycling adventures. And some misadventures with the news about Lance Armstrong breaking and dominating much of the cycling world news, despite the fact that 2 major races were going on (the USA Pro Challenge and the Vuelta a España). I think that I read all of my free articles at NYTimes.com between Friday and Saturday just to see what experts had to say, and obviously there is no consensus but plenty of buzz about it with opinions all over the place. We also spent many hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday watching coverage of the USA Pro Challenge which concluded yesterday. Saturday's race ended in Boulder, and we wished that we could have been a part of the throngs of people out cheering for the cyclists (Michael's brothers were there - I was rather envious!). I've become a huge Jens Voigt fan, not because of this Road ID commercial (although I do like it), but his tenacity and his motto "Shut up legs".
In addition to reacquainting myself with certain muscles that I hadn't used in awhile, we satisfied our Mexican craving on Friday at Amigo's, a favorite, especially because of their pitchers of margaritas. We celebrated the birth of a special little lady, and we also celebrated the fact that her mom could drink with us again! Over the pitchers (as usual), a friend proposed the idea of joining him on his weekly Sunday morning brunch ride. It seemed like a great way to get back on the bike - a no-pressure, social ride. Yes, please, sign me up! Yesterday morning, we rolled out around 9:00 am, heading east to Pasadena and then further east to the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, a part of LA that we had never, to my embarrassment, explored. I knew of its whereabouts, that it did exist, but biking there - that never crossed my narrow-bike-experience-mind. Rob led the way, fortunately, because we traveled along surface streets, through towns that I usually associate with an exit on the freeway: Arcadia, Temple City, Irwindale - where were we?! And then, after hitting a fairly industrialized part of the eastern landscape of the LA area, we made a few turns and suddenly connected to a bike trail! It was a great day for a ride - calm, for the most part, and I saw, in much closer detail, parts of LA that I usually ignore or dismiss. The bike trail around the Santa Fe Dam was a beauty - well-maintained and also well-used. On the return, we traveled a different course, hugging a bit closer the Angeles National Forest as we headed to Pasadena via Sierra Madre. Our lunch destination was another old favorite: Lucky Baldwin's where we restored our energy with some food and brew! I also learned that a post-ride IPA beer is a great recovery drink, but then the 5-miles or so uphill to get back home don't feel quite so good.
The Sunday ride was the perfect way for me to enjoy Sunshine again and to get my legs spinning without too much pushing and pulling thanks to a relatively flat route. Rob, our fearless leader, kept a kind tempo - he stressed that it was a relaxed ride which I appreciated. For me, this might be one of my favorite rides of the summer, probably because I had such a different attitude going into it. I have enjoyed the fact that Michael and I spent time on our bikes when we were in Oregon and Colorado, and we loved our explorations up and down PCH this summer. However, many (all) of those rides served a fairly singular purpose - train, train, train. I focused on speed, mph, elevation gain and loss, and on miles, mainly on miles, as I needed to add more each week to feel prepared. So, the rides had more to do with going a certain speed and distance and less to do with enjoying the experience of riding. Yesterday's ride was truly about exploring the city and sharing a Sunday morning (and part of the afternoon) ride with friends. It made me think about cycling in a different way, one that is less about using it to push myself and more about fun. I would like to add miles this fall, but more than anything, I'd like to shift my approach to cycling in general and go on rides not because I *have* to but merely because they offer possibilities of fun, socializing and exploration.
So, it is good to be back in the saddle, in both a literal and figurative sense, and I can't wait for my next ride!