Friday, August 30, 2013

Oh-Dark-Thirty ... Literally

Well, color me surprised. It's dark in the morning.  I guess I should have known this. After all, when my friend and I made plans to ride together last week, I pored over the Internet looking for information on what time sunrise would be, eventually finding a handy little site called that gave me an exact listing of sunrise times by date for my zip code.

Last week, I educated myself on the subtle differences between civil twilight, nautical twilight and astronomical twilight (all listed on that site) and determined that while sunrise wasn't until about 6 a.m., civil twilight was about a half hour earlier and would ensure that we would be able to see while biking.  And, indeed, we could! In fact, last week I was really left with the impression that everything was fine, and maybe I had gone a bit overboard in worrying about that pesky little light situation.

So, when this week rolled around, I didn't really give much thought to sunrise, twilight, or anything of the like.  I figured, so it will be a bit more gray out.  As a nod to that, I chose to wear my Nathan reflective arm sleeves with my neon yellow short sleeve tech shirt, even though it was already 73 degrees at 5:30 a.m.  What I should have realized was, of course, that as the summer season marches relentlessly towards its close, sunrise, twilight and all that get pushed back about ten minutes each week.  Oops.

So, when I actually opened the garage door this morning and got on my trusty hybrid to ride, my first thought was It's dark.  My second thought was Wow, I really can't see anything.

Getting on my bike, I realized I couldn't see my computer thingamajig to reset it.  I actually had to stop my bike, tilt it a bit towards a neighbor's outdoor porch light, and still even then I was forced to put my face right up to the device before I could vaguely make out the fact that I had successfully reset the thing.  Additionally, I couldn't see my gears.  This wasn't that big of a deal since I can mostly change gears by feel, and the range I use is small enough that no big changes are required anyway.

The dark - or the threat of storms from the night before - seemed to keep the usual one or two cars and handful of runners and dog walkers I had gotten used to seeing in the early a.m. all summer off the streets.  So, not only was it dark, it was lonely. I have to say the ride to the school to meet my friend was a bit creepy and weird as a result, and I was a bit relieved when I saw her pinpoint bike light in the distance heading towards me.  A ghostly "good morning" from the dark greeted me and circling around we could actually begin our ride.

I would like to say that this is the point where things settled down and the ride became normal, but it didn't.  It was still dark, and I don't have a headlight on my bike.  To be deep-down truthfully honest, I kind of liked riding in the dark.  It was a neat feeling knowing that no one else was about.  I guess I have that type of personality.  That didn't mitigate the fact, though, that I still couldn't see the pavement, and without the influx of visual cues one would normally receive, I felt like my balance was thrown off just a bit.  I definitely felt shakier on the bike and couldn't help but notice those tiny little ups and downs in the landscape (not to mention potholes) more than I normally would.  It felt kind of like trying to do a balance pose in yoga with your eyes closed versus open. World of difference, at least for me.

I am not sure when the sky started brightening (I was concentrating so much on the road and really gabbing too much), but certainly by the halfway point it was light enough to feel normal again.

Then the rest of the ride did go pretty much as usual.  The first half was easy peasy, or should I say easy breezy since the wind was at our backs?  Turning to head back - as usual - we were greeted with a bit of a bitch of a headwind.  And, - as usual - I slowed down significantly, which is too bad, because my legs felt pretty fresh this morning.  I'll blame it on the heavy hybrid.

In any case, it was a great ride, and I feel like I got a good workout.  After joining my parents and friends for sangrias last night and only getting six or so hours of sleep, I'll take it.

I am strangely really happy to have made it to the start of the kids' school year being able to do the early a.m. rides, and to be honest I will miss them.  Rolling out of bed to exercise has never been easy for me, but I have enjoyed the rides.  In the meantime, though, there are new biking challenges on the horizon.  After all, I want to see how far into the cold weather I can get. October? November? We'll see.

Note about shoes: Running trails yesterday, I think my trail shoes and I may have come to some sort of workable agreement.  I figured out a new way to tie them and I wore my thicker SmartWool socks, and one or both of those seemed to prevent the shoes from slipping.  In any case, I am happy.  I think they will work out for the marathon. Of course, I still plan on putting other shoes in my drop bags, just in case.

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