Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Marsh Creek Rides Again

My return to cycling after a 30 year absence can be divided into four phases. Phase 1 began on August 1, 2008, when I picked up my newly renovated 1960 Bianchi Specialissima from Boone Cyclery and rode it the five miles from the shop to my home. Although I was exhausted at the end of this short ride, it was only a matter of weeks before my fitness increased dramatically and reached a level not very different than what I have today. The pinnacle of this phase came in November of that year when my wife and I took a long weekend to cycle the Hill Country of Texas. Unfortunately, it was shortly thereafter that my wife developed an illness that took all of our attention for the next year and a half. That, coupled with reliability issues with my Bianchi, lead to Phase 2, close to a year where I did very little cycling. Phase 2 ended and Phase 3 began in April of 2010 when my wife's health improved and we each purchased Surly Crosschecks; modern, reliable bikes that made cycling easy and allowed a return to regular cycling. Because I was still working, that cycling was not as often as I would have liked, being pretty much limited to weekends. I was really looking forward to retirement in September of 2011 so that I could ride more often. However, just as I retired, my mother was diagnosed with a fatal illness and I spent the next six months helping with her home Hospice care which required regular travel from my home in Texas to hers in California. Despite that, and due to the generosity of my two sons who bought me a used Bianchi Volpe to keep in California, I was able to continue riding a couple of times a week. One of my favorite California cycling routes was along the March Creek Multi-use trail. Since the beginning of 2012, I have been retired and relatively free of obligations and have been able to train regularly, Phase 4 of my return to cycling.

Fortunately, my father is in relatively good health, and between a care provider a few hours a day and my sister who lives nearby, he has been able to live in his own home relatively independently. However, he is 92, so while my sister is on vacation, I am spending the week visiting him, giving me an opportunity to ride my Volpe and revisit my old haunts. There is a lot I want to do to help Dad during these visits which leaves me fairly tired so I am keeping my rides low key, and the beautiful March Creek Trail could not be more perfect for that. Although bicycles are low on the totem pole on this trail, giving right of way to both pedestrians and horses, this trail is so lightly used that this restriction does not significantly inhibit my riding.

Mount Diablo is the left of the twin peaks.

Perhaps you are familiar with Mount Diablo from the Tour of California; mountaintop finishes there were a feature of this race for the last two years. Folks who live in this part of California have an affection for this mountain that is a minor version of the veneration that the Japanese feel for Mount Fuji; property values fluctuate significantly based on the quality of view of Diablo. Mount Diablo is visible almost continuously on this trail, a real feature as far as I am concerned.

As I have been riding this trail, I became aware how fortunate I am to be riding it now, not later in the season. The reason? Puncture vine! This invasive weed was the most hated of all plants by the Modesto Roadmen. The reason is that the caltrop-like seed pods are shaped such that no matter how they fall, one of their stiff, sharp thorns is pointing up. To ride over one of these is almost a guaranteed puncture. Sadly, the Marsh Creek Trail is lined with huge bushes of puncture vine that lean out over the trail. Fortunately seed pods haven't yet developed, but I expect once they do, the trail will become unrideable. Here is the villain:

Puncture Vine is the bush with yellow flowers to the right of the trail.

This week represents an interruption in my latest training block. Actually, I have found this block more taxing that expected and have had to take a number of rest weeks anyway (more on that later.) More and more I am finding that making sure I am adequately rested is much more important than making sure my training regimen is uninterrupted. I am actually enjoying the opportunity to just enjoy these relatively short, easy rides and expect that when I resume my training, getting back to my previous level of fitness will not take more than a few weeks.