Saturday, November 25, 2017
I didn’t want to start another title with ‘Riding’, so Martina Franca (MF) is my topic of the day . . . I rode my bike for about five and a half hours today (moving time, about six hours total), and it was a great ride.
My speed was not ‘high’, my distance was not ‘great’, but I felt pretty good. When I am riding, I think of all the cool things to say here in the blog about where I went and what I have seen, but then I don’t have time to write for six hours (or even one really), so here are a few highlights and I hope it captures my day’s enjoyment.
First off, I am trying to find new roads, and given the condition of some of the roads I have been on this is a risky proposition as many of the roads around here are not that great and some are fantastic and getting between them or even remembering which was which can be tricky. But I planned a route last night that would take me through Crispiano again (I enjoyed that climb) and then on to Martina Franca. I see the name in various places, mostly advertising I think, but it seemed like it might be interesting to see the place.
I mentioned my enjoyment of the climb to Crispiano, and today was the same. It’s a pretty steady climb with modest traffic (by Italian standards; by Canadian standards the roads are empty), so I started there, and after a bit of a dip out of town, made a left turn and started my way to Martina Franca . . . and then the climb started.
Climbing on my bike makes me happy, at least most days. Its a chance to test your body and your mind. Often there are beautiful views on long European climbs, and the sense of accomplishment at the top is worth the effort in my twisted brain. The climb from that left turn to the ‘peak’, which was well before arriving in MF was 5.2km at a nice steady 5-7% grade. I wasn’t expecting the climb at all, so didn’t think much about it, and unlike many climbs, there was no vantage or lookout to provide perspective. It was heavily treed and just a nice green tunnel heading up, up, up.
At one point, it leveled out and my left crank started feeling strange again. I looked down and wouldn’t you know it, my crank arm was half way off again. This time, my bottom bracket hadn’t become unscrewed, just the left crank arm sliding off. This was much easier to fix and I stopped to do so. I stopped at a nice rock fence with wire around and the clear intent was to keep dogs within the enclosure. Which is good because the dogs came a calling. About 6 dogs flew over to the fence and proceeded to bark ferociously at me for the ten minutes while I fixed things. I thought it kind of funny, I was torturing them standing there, my face just six inches or so away from their noses (they were standing on top of the rock wall, the wire was on top of the rock wall). I did look at the lab as I was finishing up and his tail was wagging like crazy, but the other little fellas didn’t look so happy with my presence.
I did get everything put together nicely, climbed on the bike and started down the road. In another post, not on this blog, I mentioned a critical error in my thinking on the topic of torturing dogs. Calling them when they chase you, ignoring them when they snarl at you, etc. Make sure the fence keeps the dogs in. Oops. As I got to the end of the fence one of those angry little mutts was out, standing on a rock wall, snarling and at ear level. Again about 12″ away from my head.
No problem, but I moved my head left very quickly and the dog was clearly not interested in jumping the four feet down to the road to chase me and I suppose riding on my shoulders probably didn’t seem like a good bet for the poor dog. All is good.
And so I progress. Just outside of Martina Franca, I saw a house style I have never seen before. This is not my photo, I just picked it up from the internet, but there are hundreds of homes and garden buildings, etc. using this style. I have to figure out what the purpose is. It seems unique to the region as I have never seen it before.
My ride progressed, and I saw quite a few other cyclists, half going in the opposite direction, those travelling with me passed me while I was stopped and eating.
Given my attempt to do more than 100km, and my complete lack of understanding where to buy a simple sandwhich I put my big bag on the back and packed extra food and fluids so I could eat on the road. (There are no Subway sandwich shops, no McDonalds, no Tim Horton’s, no fast food, anywhere in these parts. I do know there is one McDonald’s near Taranto, but it is a LONG way away from where the boat is.) Generally, doing things this way results in much faster eating, much lower cost and you get exactly what you want. I found a nice side road, a beautiful rock wall overlooking an olive grove and ate a 10 minute lunch.
One of the other aspects of riding in these small towns is that they are often difficult to navigate. Above is a beautiful overlook with Taranto in the background (about 25km away). It was a dead end street. I was in that town for about 10 minutes longer than I wanted to be, but the streets were beautiful and the views very pretty.
As I began to tire, I had to transfer fluids from my bag to bottles (Coke is great fuel on these really long rides. You get sugar, caffeine and fluids.), and if you have to do that work, why not stop somewhere beautiful to do the work. Here is my bike, with my big Carradice bag parked along a beautiful Olive grove and driveway into the home or farm. There are so many beautiful things to see, you just stop looking at them as ‘unusual’ after a while.
As I reached 90km, I realized that I was getting my mojo back. I don’t know if it was the food, or that my fitness is getting better, but I felt good on the bike. To explain with a little more detail, riding a bike can be hard work. You get sore, hungry, tired, maybe even bored and often combinations of all of those things. When riding super long distances, it is a constant fight to control your brain, body and their environment to manage these issues; to survive if you will. But then you reach a point where it isn’t hard anymore. You get the food right, you control your mind, you aren’t suffering; you’re just enjoying a day on the road. At 90km, I was there. My legs were firing consistently and strong. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t tired, it was all working (okay, I may have been a little cold).
My legs hurt a lot today, but everything else was working just great, and that is a sign I am getting my fitness back, and hopefully figuring out what fuel I need. Again in Ultra-Marathon cycling, the key is to fuel the body. We know that, with training, the body will continue to produce power as long as it has fuel, and today I felt that feeling again. It’s the first time in a while that my legs were working without my brain knowingly giving them instructions and it felt good. I hope it continues as the winter training progresses.
In the end I completed 124km, and got back to the boat just as these other poor souls were out getting their particular form of torture (ahem, exercise). It seems a very popular thing here, and the lady in the first picture was working like crazy. Amazing.
These folks were having a much more leisurely afternoon on the water, and the helmsman kept barking at them (or someone else) just the same, but they didn’t seem so interested in over exertion.