I have always been interested in weather. And, certainly, Arkansas is a great place to get a look at just about every type of weather you can imagine.
Thunderstorms and tornados are commonplace in the spring, which means your favorite TV shows are commonly interrupted by weather alerts and coverage. I’ve learned a lot about weather just watching these interruptions. But, since taking up cycling as a hobby, I’ve learned a lot more about the weather.
When you’re trying to squeeze in as many miles as possible around your real life, you’ve got to know what’s going on with the weather. I follow weather folks on Twitter, check the Weather Channel app as soon as I wake up in the morning, then I study the radar and check the 10-day forecast. And that’s just my morning weather-checking routine.
The other great thing about Arkansas weather is that it allows you to ride a bicycle out of doors pretty much year-round. Some folks might look at you crazy when you’re out on a 50-mile bike ride and it’s only 40 degrees outside, but that’s really not so bad. Layers, it’s all about layers. We’ll get to that in a few months. (Maybe … it’s been pretty warm lately. And by lately I mean since January.)
That said, weather has affected a couple of my rides lately. And it’s given me something to write about. So that’s a plus. (Or negative, depending on your taste, I suppose.)
Saturday my plan was to ride the same 46-mile route I did a week earlier. This seems sort of like a boring plan when I really put some thought to it. But, I was disappointed with the ride last week, and I think more than anything I just wanted to have a better ride on the same route.
I think the plan worked. It was a better ride. It was just as slow, but I felt better about it. The route features a couple of hills. I hate hills, but I like to mix them in so I feel like I’m actually getting some exercise out there.
The legs felt great going up the first set of climbs. I rolled up the hill without having to shift to the small chainring. As I rolled over the top and headed downhill, I had a brilliant idea. I decided to attempt the entire ride in the big chainring.
I figured since I wasn’t going as fast as I really wanted too, I would give myself some other goal.
And, guess what? I did it. Bam. I felt good about that. But my legs were yelling at me. It had been a while since I pushed that hard on a ride. It’s been more than a month since I’ve had any charity rides to look forward to, so I’ve been just riding to ride, which apparently leads to less effort.
This also tells me I need to get in more group rides. That’ll spark a little competitiveness that you don’t get while rolling solo.
OK, anyway, I was feeling good about me feat, but I still had 12 miles to go to finish the ride. The last 12 miles are pretty flat. There’s one hill that spikes up a little and always pisses the legs off after a long day, but I wasn’t worried about it.
I figured I’d knock out the last 12 miles and then retire to a good long rest of the day on the couch.
The other thing about this last 12 miles is that it’s not as shady as the first 34. And, boy, it didn’t take too long to realize how hot it had gotten outside over the past couple hours. (Finally, the weather I was talking about.)
It was inching close to 100 degrees and it was only 10 a.m. Crazy. And it was noticeable. I trudged on for a while, but finally decided at one point to take a shortcut and just head on to the house. As long as I top 40 miles on a Saturday, I’m happy with that. I had 40 out of the way, and figured my shortcut would put me at around 42 or 43 miles.
I ended up coming in at 44. To recap, I took a shortcut that sliced just two miles off my planned route. The shortcut also took me away from the only real shade on the final 12-mile bit of the planned route. Winner.
But, I settled onto the couch a touch earlier than I had expected. So, there’s that.
Maybe more interesting weather-wise, and really the only reason I even thought about crafting up this post, was my eventful morning ride today. I woke up, realized it was cloudy outside, but after my aforementioned weather-checking, determined a ride was in order.
Sure it was overcast and sprinkling. But after the insane temperatures we’ve been dealing with here, a nice ride in a cool mist sounds mighty appealing.
That was, until, about 2.6 miles into the ride. About to take a right turn, there it was. BAM! Lightning strike. It wasn’t incredibly close, but definitely looked like it was near where I was heading.
I’m tall. I’ve always been leery about being outside with lightning popping off. I don’t know if there’s any validity to this, but I feel like the fact that I tower above things makes me more attractive to lightning. Being on a bike full of metal parts makes being out in a lightning storm even less desirable.
I immediately turned around and started hoofing it back. Lightning is a good motivator. I put my head down, got into the drops and flew back home.
The thunder and lightning continued for much of the morning, with barely any rain to show from it. I’ll take that as Mother Nature’s way of telling me an extremely short bike ride was just what I needed and that she’s OK with my continued avoidance of mowing the yard by letting it just continue to fry.
Here’s to better weather.