Easy. Hard. Easy. Easy. Easy. Waaaaaaayyy Too Hard.

After another 300 mile week, last week I decided to take it easy.  
On Monday, I took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday and rode in the cooler morning air and got in some moderate miles. That night, I soft-pedaled the Tri-Hard group ride and cruised with a guy who was cooked himself. I wasn't interested in riding hard, it was dark, and this guy didn't know the course. Perfect. Spin the legs a little and then call it quits.
Refreshed somewhat, I hit it on Tuesday at Destroyer. As this is my favorite ride of the week, I couldn't sit up. It's also my only real dose of intensity. I threw stupid attacks and sat up, recovered, and did it again. The other guys said they loved it, as apparently not a lot of other riders down here do that sort of thing mid-ride. This encouraged other people to throw their own attacks, so instead of a grind fest there was the tactical aspect as well. Lots of fun, if not particularly easy.
I'd been riding for nine straight days, so I skipped the Pain Train Wednesday. My legs were pretty much cooked.

Thursday's Base group ride was 1:15 of slowly-increasing intensity. The last lap has evolved into a hot lap, and one by one the riders fell off the pack until I was the last one left standing. The legs still felt like lead, but as this is my "big fish in a little pond ride" I had to maintain the pecking order. Other riders are slowly developing their engines week by week, so I expect them to beat me down by the end of my trip.
Friday I got out of school and took a nap. I never got up. It was glorious. I just sat in the room and ate whatever processed crap I had on hand and didn't look at my bike.
When I awoke Saturday, I really didn't have a lot of motivation.Eventually I kitted up and rolled out of the door at 11:00 AM. I noticed it was warmer than it had been, and quickly realized I was going to lose a little water weight. I headed north with no particular destination in mind, and eventually found myself on the road to Snow Boogers. My legs settled into a rhythm, and the miles ticked off at a reasonable pace. 
A stop at the store in Big Level is kinda required for a couple reasons. One, there isn't much else I know of for miles around, and I needed to refill the bottles. The bigger reason is that the store's owners were extra-nice to us on the Southern Magnolia, so I like spending a little money there to pay them back for their hospitality. Also, I just really like the rural community vibe. Farmers walking across the road to shake hands and catch up. Kids playing on the dirt pile next to Snow Boogers. An older guy came out of the store and chatted with me for a while, wishing me safe travels at the end of our conversation. People just being normal human beings. It reminds me a lot of the area around my parent's farm, just a lot flatter.
Still feeling strong, I decided to explore a loop a nice man had described to me on a previous visit. Tree-lined roads rolling through the countryside with little traffic other than the odd truck pulling a trailer full of cattle. The legs were still ticking over 15 miles later when I completed the loop and returned to Big Level. I had ridden a little over 55 miles at that point, so I figured I deserved a Snow Booger.
As I stood on the deck waiting for my strawberry shaved ice, I started to feel a little light-headed. Nothing serious, but a little troubling. I'd downed four large bottles of water in three hours, but it apparently wasn't enough. I sat down on the steps and ate my Snow Booger (I just like saying that), trying to straighten out my head a bit before I got on the road. A trip to the store for a Coke and more water helped refresh me a little more, and I pushed off, slower than before. I still had 40 miles to ride and not a lot of other options.
The further I went south, the more the afternoon headwind off the coast intensified. It was like it was pushing me back, saying, "turn around and head back to Big Level. You like it there far more than Biloxi." I kept trudging along. My legs came unglued, still spinning, just without the same enthusiasm they once had. Blackwell Farm, a magical road that expands or contracts depending on how you feel, stretched on forever. Each little rise and false flat was like a further insult. I stopped in shaded spots here and there, and the sweat poured of of me without the cooling effect of riding. Nice to know I could still sweat.
Eventually I made it home. 95 miles on the nose. My kit, so fresh and clean that morning, was streaked with salt and soaked with sweat. I leaned my bike against the wall and sat under the shower to cool off and stave off further saddle sores. I climbed into bed to put up my legs and download the Garmin file. Eventually I cooled off enough the air conditioning chilled me, and moved my legs under the sheet. As they bent at the knee slightly, charley horses ripped through both legs for what seemed like an eternity. I might have screamed. Massaging and manipulating the spastic muscles eventually settled things down, and I started downing anything salty I could find. Chug chug chug eat eat eat.
It was late and I needed to eat something more substantial than I had in the room. I was also afraid to take a nap, since I might bend a leg in my sleep and fire up the charley horse again. My legs were cooked, so I wasn't walking anywhere. I looked at the bike leaning against the wall, and resigned myself to climbing back into the saddle. I threw on some baggy shorts and a t-shirt- and then it hit me. In the over two thousand miles I had ridden since I had been down here, these were the first ones I had done that I would term utility cycling. Not training, but riding for a mundane task. Weird.
I rode out to the club (one of the few places open on base at that time) and sat at the bar, nursing a beer while I waited for my burger. Not what I wanted (I was thinking steak), but it was what they had. When it arrived, I wolfed it down, paid my tab, and walked outside to be slapped in the face by my old friend, the wind. All the way back to my room I ground, soaking my cotton clothes in sweat. Another shower. 101 total miles for the day. The last century was a lot easier.
Sunday I rode, but you can be damn sure I didn't ride hard or far.
My "easy" week was over 265 miles. I think I did that wrong.


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