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winter, bookended

With this long cold winter, plus a long recovery from a cold that knocked both dphilli1 and I on our asses for weeks, the NER 107k was only my second long ride of spring. The first was a different 107k ride in January, but that was before the snow; it feels almost like the last ride of last year than the first of 2015.

So, of course, it had to sleet. On both rides -- January and yesterday. Yesterday was bad enough that even hardy randonneurs were offered the chance to ride next weekend instead, but that's Passover and I will be cooking up a storm, not riding through one.

Mary had a little lamb</em>
Its fleece was caked with snow
And everywhere the riders went
The wind was sure to blow

(This makes more sense if you know that there's a statue of the lamb in question (there was actually a Mary and actually a lamb!) at the midpoint of this route. One of these times I'll take a picture; today was definitely not that day. The midpoint stop, where the statue is, is one I generally keep short -- if I'm going to take a real break on this ride, it'll be at the Harvard General Store, because they have hot food and bathrooms for customers and are generally happy to see cyclists, even if they're not an official stop on this ride.)

Today the midpoint stop was even shorter, as a fellow rider, T (who'd been on the January ride as well), wanted to have company and was wondering if I was heading straight back out. So as soon as my card was signed, we headed out, and it was fairly quickly apparent that T was significantly faster than me, more so than he'd been in January. Since neither of us could really take the big advantage the downhill out of Sterling usually is, I kept up just fine and we cruised gently down to Lancaster/Bolton together, and then started up into Harvard. Another rider caught up to us just as he was leaving me in the dust up the first of the Harvard hills, so he had company if he still wanted it, and I dropped back to slog uphill slowly without feeling like I should be pushing harder than I wanted to be.

I put on my warmer gloves just before the Fruitlands climb; my hands kept warming on climbs and then freezing on descents, and it was getting colder; this was an excellent idea and I should have done it sooner. :) It meant I felt no need to stop in Harvard, and pointed myself up the last real hill. And promptly realized that I had eaten exactly one granola bar all ride, which was dumb, and pulled over and made myself eat something before climbing; while it wouldn't kick in fast enough to be anything other than a psychological advantage on the climb, it'd be a great help zooming along the flatter ground back to Hanscom. You'd think I'd know to eat by now; I knew it, but I never wanted to stop to fuss with food, and visibility and coordination were so reduced by the weather I really had to stop if I wanted to eat or drink. Oh well. T passed me as I did so; he must have stopped at the store.

After that climb, there was the lovely plummet down from Harvard, which is way more fun in good weather when one can blast away downhill, alas, and then the flattish cruise back. This is the part where, last year, I was really flying and feeling great; this year I did not have quite as much left in my legs, and spent quite a while chasing another rider who was about a city block ahead of me and going almost exactly the same speed. Pretty sure I chased the same guy for thirty miles or so on my first brevet ever, but I don't know his name; he wears his keys on a belt loop on his shorts, and they bounce as he pedals. It's kind of mesmerizing, but would drive me absolutely bonkers if it were me. He made a good, if unwitting, reason for me to push myself a little on the way back; this year I had no time goals, because time goals in a blizzard are a bad idea, but there was no reason to lollygag on the way back, either.

My bike decided to give me one last hurdle; a shift stuck (it happens, in the wet) and I had to detangle the chain before the last mile and a half or so into the finish. I turned in my card, let the volunteers feed me a half a sandwich, picked up my new jersey, and put it on over my clothes as the easiest way to carry it. Then, before we could freeze, T and I set out to briefly ride together again until our paths home diverged, since we were two of the few who'd ridden to the ride.

All in all, a good ride. I finished in reasonable time -- faster than I'd been the first time I did this ride (in good weather), significantly slower than last year (in excellent weather), and much faster than the January ride, which went over a lot of the same hills (or similar ones) in similar weather. So, in all, a good ride; I was grinning when I got back to the finish, amusing the volunteers, since they were mostly expecting people to be in poor spirits. My legs and back were sorer than they really should be today, and I was exhausted last night; my goal usually is to be ready enough that this particular ride leaves me energized, not beat, but whether it was the weather yesterday or the cumulative effects of the winter, I'm not quite there yet. Fake it untill I make it, though, should do me OK.

Next up: the NER 200k. It's a different route than usual -- very flat, headed south, and really just 200k (rather than ~130 miles), so it shouldn't be too hard; the 300K will be the real beast, as it's less than a month away and quite hilly.

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