T.S. Eliot wrote that “mid-winter spring is its own season ? suspended in time, between pole and tropic.” The local mid-winter spring cycling season finds our riders at widely disparate fitness levels. Some of us have been at work at laying down slow steady base miles as we wait for the inevitable up-tick of warm weather in March. Others come out of winter like a rocket, ready to climb cold hills and ride at a summer pace. The difference can be based on several things.

The first is genetics. No matter how hard I work at keeping fit for cycling over the winter, I know that local riders like Mike Stec and Michael Newbery start off with superior God-given legs and lungs. Of course, it would not hurt my genetic predisposition if I would lose about 20 pounds, but that is another story.

The level of early season fitness also depends on each cyclist’s goals for the year. Some cyclists are content with “coffee rides” throughout the season. These low intensity, low mileage rides can be just the ticket for busy parents who do not have much time to sneak out and ride.

Other cyclists have their goals set much higher, say an ironman triathlon in August or September. These people are already getting serious about increasing their mileage and intensity.

One local cyclist, Tim Smith, will be riding his first ironman triathlon in Phoenix this April. It is no easy feat to ride major miles during the coldest months of a Chicago winter in order to prepare for a Spring long distance event.

Even more extreme, Michiko Perry Michael is competing in March in an ironman in Malaysia. That’s right, Malaysia. To prepare for this tropical event, she was grinding out 70-mile rides during the cold weekends of January.

Many of us have set our goals somewhere in between. Signups closed early in February for the 1000 riders who are registered for this year’s Horribly Hilly Hundreds in southwestern Wisconsin. This 124-mile June ride has over 10,000 feet of climbing. Once again, a large contingent from the Lake and Harlem Group will be riding.

To prepare, a number of us will be making our annual trek from Rockford to Galena and back over a weekend in late April. This self-supported two-day ride (100 miles out and 80 back) is mostly flat until it gets very hilly about 20 miles from Galena. Last year’s ride met with a strong headwind in each direction. The second day brought a bit of snow and hail.

Each year, one or two riders in this group of about 15 poop out before Galena and end up riding in the Sag Wagon. To properly prepare for Rockford/Galena/Rockford, we will need to pencil in an easy-pace 100 mile ride or two in late March and early April. It also would not hurt to ride some painful hill repeats around Waterfall Glen in the southwest suburbs.

Eliot also wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” but with the riding schedule laid out before me, I am betting that it will be March.

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