North westerlies … 😣


Yesterday was a rest day.

Today I was fresh, and fully recovered.

I did my regular mid-week eastern ride to the lake and back. It’s only 35 km, and relatively flat although there is a 1/2 km climb mid-ride that averages about 5%. But, and this is a big but, there was wind. The normal wind for these parts. A north westerly. Which means it was helping on the way out, and hurting on the way back.

I started slowly, spinning easily for the first 8-10 km, and then picked up the pace averaging 25-35 kph depending the grade and wind. After the mid-ride climb, I felt strong. So strong that I hammered the whole way home into the hurting 20 kph headwind, averaging a 90-100 cadence.

When I unsaddled and sat down for a post-ride drink, I was surprised to see that I had spent over 30% of my ride above Zone 1. Who said I need hills to train effectively. I just need to work harder.

It’s funny. I got into this mind set that because it is relatively flat in these parts, It is easy cycling. It can be for sure. But if I challenge the wind, and hills, like I did today, and push hard, I can get into and maintain an effective training zone without long, steep hills.

Intellectually, I knew this. It’s just that where I live, there are no flat rides. There are always hills not matter which direction I head. It’s just that some are longer and steeper than others. I know it takes considerable effort to average 40 kph on the flats into a hurting wind. Even without the wind, it is hard work. That’s all I have to do while at Camp PedalWORKS.

So, as a result of today’s ride, I have modified my training schedule. One day a week, I am going to do this eastern ride all out, regardless of the wind. Warmup on the way out, and flat out  all the way back.

Sounds like a plan.

Riding in the wind …


Wind. Grrrrrrr …

This past week it has been windy. 35-40 kph with gusts even harder. Winds so strong you feel like you aren’t moving, or are going to be pushed over. These winds always originate from the west, and I have no choice but to cycle either west or east. I have no way to avoid them.

This is great weather for kite boarders, but near impossible for cyclists.

Chas: “We did it. We do it all the time. What are you talking about?”

Well, some cyclists. I look upon the wind as a challenge. An adventure. I head out into the wind, so I have help on the way back. I gear down, tuck low and pedal in a steady, rhythmic cadence. If I get to 20 kph that’s fast. At times, it feels like a long, steep climb. I have 25 km into the wind to the big lake, and then 25 km back reaching speeds of 40-45 kph without much effort. Faster if I push.

Chas: “Hey, it’s not about how fast you go. It’s the ride. Remember?”

Lou: “I don’t like it when I don’t go fast. I don’t do slow.”

I used to hate the wind. I can’t say I like it, but I don’t mind it. At least I don’t mind if I know I can turn around and have a helping wind on the way home. If I had to battle it all day long, I might feel differently. And, it is easier with a group. The larger the better. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury here.

I’ve learned that cycling into a strong wind is a skill like climbing, descending, and cornering. And, in some ways, it is more mental than physical. It tests your metal. You need to practice. The more you do it, the tougher you become. Learn to gear down, get on the drops, bend your elbows, tuck them in, keep you head still, don’t wear a baggy jacket (like I did today), pedal downhill (that’s not the time to rest), and stay positive.

Chas: “I don’t mind it. I really can’t feel the difference. Wind. No wind. It’s all the same to me.”

The more I do it, the better I become, and the more I enjoy it.

Lou: “Practice with Chas. Take me on the climbs. And the descents.”

Bolsover | What I have learned

“I went to the [cottage] because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

I was first introduced to Henry David Thoreau at university and, readily identified with some of his thinking.  I liked solitude.  I enjoyed walking in the woods.  And, I wanted to pursue a simpler life.

As an adult, I have very often visited the cottage alone.  I do it deliberately.  I enjoy the peace and quiet.  The solitude.  And, I enjoy listening to my inner voice, a voice that too often is suppressed when busy with making a living, providing for a family and listening to others.  Time alone makes space for this voice.  The cottage has been my cabin in the woods.

The cottage has always been a place for me to regain focus.  A place to open new doors.  It is where I retreated to plan, repair a broken heart, study for final exams and examine new ideas.

This visit, like many before, has been part holiday, part work.  I came this time with two objectives.  First, and perhaps foremost, I wanted to examine the possibility of selling the property.  I have been thinking about this for 10 years and have teetered back and forth, not making a decision one way or the other.  I wanted to finally decide so I could make plan.  Move forward.  Second, I wanted to cycle daily without the usual daily distractions, increase the work load and focus on technique.  I wanted to train for a fall audax.

I live simply at the cottage.  I eat simply, mostly local, fresh vegetables.  Read a lot.  Cycle a lot.  Repair whatever is in need of repair.  Clean a lot.  The floors.  The windows.  The linen.  I sleep a lot.  And, I watch the sun rise and set on the water, sharing breakfast and dinner with this ever changing specatacle.  It is mesmerizing.

This trip is almost over.  I have a few more rides to look forward to but am beginning the fourth, and last, week at the cottage.  It is time to reflect on what I have learned.

  1. Although sometimes inconvenient, travelling with a bike is rewarding.  The bike has enabled me to explore routes I may not otherwise see and travel at a pace that I not only see but hear, feel and smell the experience and, at a pace I can meet and talk with others along the road.  Cycling engages all of my senses and I experience the surroundings differently than by car, foot or boat.  I know more about the Bolsover area today than I ever have.
  2. Cycling into a headwind is not easy.  I expected to work on speed given the relatively flat terrain.  Not so.  I had wind most days.  I learned that by gearing down, dropping down on the bars and maintaining a high cadence I cut through the wind without becoming excessively tired or discouraged.
  3. The Roberts steel frame is ideally suited to the rougher, country roads.  Steel is more forgiving and the longer wheelbase absorbs bumps better.
  4. It is important to travel with a complete kit, to expect a variety of weather conditions.  Heat.  Cold.  Sun.  Cloud.  Wind.  Rain.  I came prepared with a wind/rain jacket, bibs, jerseys, leg & arm warmers, booties, wool socks and sunglasses with interchangeable lens (dark brown, yellow and rose).  I needed all of it.
  5. I thrive on a simpler diet.  Fresh, local vegetables and fruit.  No sweats.  Very little dairy.  Very little bread.  No meat.  I enjoy cooking and carefully planned meals – lentil soup, vegetable salads, breakfast cereal, pasta, veggie burgers, frittatas …  It is a calorie reduced diet but I never felt cravings.  I didn’t snack during the day or evening.  I ate 3 balanced, nutritious meals a day, slept well and had a lot of energy for cycling.
  6. Solo training builds both physical and mental strength.  I got much stronger because of the wind.  I had no opportunity to draft and relax.  My pedalling technique improved, became more efficient.  And, the only reason I missed a workout was because of rain.  Rainy days became rest days.  There were a few more than I would have liked but I never avoided a ride because I was tired or unenthusiastic.
  7. I may be late to the party but I learned that current technology enables me to access the internet wherever I have a cell phone signal.  This allowed me to work and post on this blog without having to leave the cottage.  This has opened the door for many other possibilities, many other trips I have considered.
  8. And, perhaps most importantly, after spending almost a month alone at the cottage, I realize I can never sell it.  It is as much a part of me as the Roberts bike and, because of my lengthy history here, can never be replaced.

These findings are not earth shattering.  They are not new or, profound.  But they will shape the days ahead.

I will welcome headwinds.  I am comfortable in a more aerodynamic position for long periods of time.  I will keep my weight down knowing that a reduced-calorie, natural, meatless diet actually makes me feel better and more energetic. I will travel more with my bike knowing that I will see more, enjoy myself more, easily stay in touch with my family, post to this blog and, actually work effectively.  And, I will return to the cottage.  Next time for an extended period of time.  The summer months.  Time to have family visits.  Time to get on the water more.  And, time to finish the utility room.

And, a lot of time to enjoy my early-morning rides.

“An early-morning [cycle] is a blessing for the whole day.” – Henry David Thoreau

Bolsover | Day # 14

I did the Lake Dalrymple Loop this morning, a 50 km ride north to the relatively undeveloped lake best known for fishing.  Muskellunge fishing.  The largest member of the Pike family.  A big freshwater fish.

As soon as I hit the rode, I had a strong headwind.  Due north.  I was heading north for 25+ km.  This was going to be a tough ride.  I thought of stopping.  Or, taking another route.  But no.  I wanted to do this ride.  Part of it would be over several rough sections of road where I couldn’t travel quickly anyway.  I persisted.

I am glad I did.  It was more a challenge of the mind and spirit than the legs.  The wind let up some mid-way to the lake and I thought, as difficult as it may be, it is beautiful and, I will have a tailwind coming home.  A tailwind coming home?  Good luck.  Why is it that wind prefers to face me?  How does it know when I am turning around?  It wasn’t an easy ride back either.  At times I struggled to maintain 16-18 kph.

I thought cycling in this area would be easy, that I would be able to work on speed.  There were sections, a few sections, where I was able to wind it up to 35+ kph.  But they were few.  I overlooked that it can be windy here in the fall.  Very windy.  All day.  So, instead of getting faster, I have gotten stronger, more aerodynamic and more efficient.  The short climbs that I do encounter seem easy.  I race up them faster than I can cut through the wind at times.

The interesting thing is that the wind doesn’t bother me.  I expect it.  I enjoy it.  It is a challenge just like a long, steep climb.  Like rain, wind keeps many cyclists off the road.  They don’t enjoy it.  It is hard work battling a persistent, never-ending headwind.  I don’t mind.  It not only builds power in the legs but between the ears as well.  It strengthens a cyclist’s resolve.  We can’t always cycle in ideal conditions and, I would rather ride than sit on the couch.

I have been at the cottage two weeks today.  During that time I have clocked almost 500 km and cycled all of the loops out of the back door that I have enjoyed for years.  They never disappoint.  Challenging.  Quiet.  And, scenic.

I have ten more days left before packing the bike and heading back to Vancouver.