Monday, March 5, 2012

Lost Lake, Found Courage

Lost lake Ride
Yesterday I went on a stunningly beautiful ride  - a woodsy countryside loop with the fabled Lost Lake as its midpoint attraction. I'd been hearing about Lost Lake for some time, but could not quite picture what was being described. They said the road around the lake consists of dramatic "rollers" (short, steep hills) that keep coming at you until you don't know which way is up and which way is down. "There is a section where you will be braking uphill, you'll see!" explained the Blayleys gleefully.

After that sort of description, I did not imagine my first ride to the lake taking place on a day with more snow than we'd experienced all winter prior. But that is exactly what transpired. 

Wintry Spring Weekend
You know how sometimes you try so hard to avoid something you're scared of, only to end up doing that exact thing? That more or less describes my weekend. On Saturday morning I awoke to a downpour washing away the snow from previous days. The weather report said that the rain would end by mid-day, and that the temperature would rise to mid-50s. I believed it, and set out for a quick ride to Lexington at noon even though it was still drizzling. A few miles in, the drizzle became a downpour again. Then the temperature started to drop instead of rising. And as I proceeded North on the Minuteman Trail, I began to encounter stretches of snow and ice. It was supposed to all have been gone by now, and it was supposed to be warm! But, well, it wasn't. And since I was already en route and soaked, I kept going. 

Thawing Minuteman Trail
The first couple of times I encountered snow on the path, I got off the bike and walked. But as the stretches kept coming and I got increasingly wet and cold, annoyance took over and I began riding through them - first cautiously, then more brazenly. My narrow tires cut through the slush and cracked the weak ice. The thicker snow was trickier, but I didn't panic and got through it. Before I knew it, I was riding through the very conditions I'd been avoiding all winter. Only toward the very end did the path become completely impassable, and I walked ankle deep in wet snow as freezing rain poured relentlessly.

Thawing Minuteman Trail
Soaking wet head to toe, I finally limped inside the Ride Studio Cafe. They took one look at me and brought out space heaters and towels. I removed as much of what I was wearing as was acceptable and sat there shivering and drying my clothes, swearing at the weather.

After some coffee and quality time with the space heaters, my mood improved. Later that afternoon the weather indeed cleared up, and the sun even came out. When I was finally dry enough to ride home, most of the snow on the trail had melted - which made it logical to conclude that I'd be fine doing the Sunday ride the next morning, since surely the roads would be entirely clear by then.

Great Brook Farm, Carlisle MA
What I failed to account for, is that the Sunday ride to Lost Lake would take us north. And in the North it's, you know, colder and consequently the snow takes longer to melt. Had I realised this in advance, I probably would not have gone. But then I would have missed out on some truly magical scenery and an extremely fun ride. The roads were not bad, but there was occasional slush and ice, and quite a bit of sand. Had I not gone on that hellish short ride alone the previous day, these road conditions at group-ride speed would have been out of my comfort zone. But because I did, I was now (just barely) okay with it. Very cautious on downhills, but otherwise fine.

Dina, Pamela, Near Lost Lake
There were four of us (Pamela, Dena, Emily and myself). We rode at a comfortable pace, the temperature was not too bad, and the scenery was just unreal - endless winding roads through snow-covered fields and pine trees, almost like a staged scene from some winter sporting good catalogue. Except of course it was March, and we were not cross-country skiing but riding bikes.

Somewhere Near Groton, MA
By the time we got to Lost Lake, I was so full of the day's impressions that I'd forgotten all about its roller-coaster reputation and did not remember until I was already doing the loop around the lake. I have to say it wasn't scary at all, just really exciting. The hills are so steep and short, that after you climb the first one there is really no need to do any work - you just steer the bike and hang on. The first downhill is so fast that you end up coasting all the way up the next hill and then it's downhill again, repeated maybe half a dozen times. And yes it's true that there is one particular section where you have to go leftish on an uphill - but you're flying up that hill so fast that you have to brake in order to make the turn. Fascinating.

I think this ride will stand out in my memory for a long time, not only because of how beautiful it was, but because I was less focused than usual on the aspects I found challenging or scary. I just kind of went with it, relaxed and enjoyed it. I am grateful to have experienced a winter landscape this perfect, and glad that fear did not stand in the way.

40 comments:

  1. Wow! That hill thing sounds like so much fun. There are a couple of up-and-down stretches here in town where, if you build enough speed downhill, you don't have to work to go uphill, but nothing that extended or traffic-free. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Lovely! What filters are you using to get the sepia look?

    Richard

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    1. Thanks. They are taken with iPhone, edited with Camera+ using a variety of filters and settings. The sepia tone can be adjusted to whatever shade you want.

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    2. You can get the same effect with Google's free Picasa software. It'e easy to use.

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    3. Lots of software can do it. Camera+ is 99c and it's the nicest phone ap I've tried. For editing photos on the computer, Gimp is a free program that can do most of what Photoshop can.

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    4. Just started using Camera Awesome, a free iPhone app with cool filters and image enhancement.

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  3. "What a lovely landscape. Had you trained in January and tapered through March you might not have seen such a beautiful sight! So called 'experts'; what do they know about overcoming fears?"

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    1. it done been brought.

      4 tuff girls sloggin' it.

      *like.

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    2. More like 3 tough girls and me. They are probably reading this and laughing. "Wait, what? I don't remember any snow... or hills!" At least I abstained from epic descriptions of the (muddy!) off road stretch which to me seemed endless but was probably jus a few feet in reality...

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    3. New blog name: Lugs Amidst the Cowpies.

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  4. The only Lost Lake that I can find in Massachusetts is out Groton way, maybe thirty miles from Somerville. Does this mean that your wintry Sunday ride was a metric century in addition to a triumph over personal beasties?

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    1. Yes, Lost Lake is around Groton.

      I rode 60 miles that day, but it was more complicated than described in the post. The ride was 67 miles starting from Lexington. I rode a 40 mile portion of the ride, plus to Lexington and back from my place, which is 10 miles each way. Different people joined the ride for various distances, with impressive coordination. It was a fun ride!

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  5. Painted toe nails, nice! What color?

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  6. Was it this loop?
    http://ridewithgps.com/routes/777285

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    1. Yes, precisely. But I did a 40 mile portion of it, plus 20 miles to/from home.

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    2. 40 miles is a nice compromise.

      Routes like this tempt me to skip work one of these days so I can check out Pamela's Tuesday RSC ride.

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    3. What a great route, how lucky you are to live in scenic New England!

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    4. We are doing precisely that ride this Tuesday! The roads are clear, but the snow is still on the hillsides, so it will be as stunningly beautiful as it was on Sunday. Admittedly if I was *picking* a day to cut out of work this week, I might choose a warmer one than tomorrow.

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    5. Thanks for the encouragement. I opted for a quick lunch ride today - CHILLY!

      Maybe I'll see you out there soon.

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    6. "Admittedly if I was *picking* a day to cut out of work this week, I might choose a warmer one..."

      Yes you might : ) Well that's okay, I am looking forward to Wednesday and Thursday and Friday!

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  7. I love reading your posts about the local rides and bicycle clubs, please keep them coming! How difficult would you describe this route and the pace of the ride?

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    1. I hesitate to give the impression it wasn't difficult, because I did get pretty tired toward the end. But it didn't feel remotely as difficult as last Sunday's ride. The hills were shorter and we took a break for lunch. It could also be that I am in better shape this week, so hard to say overall.

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  8. love the title of this post, riding with sand on the road not so much. be careful out there!

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  9. Sounds nice, though probably even nicer in drier, warmer conditions. Not that I'd have a chance to do those rides with the Atlantic in between, but do you plot any of those rides on Gpsies or similar (starting the course some ways away from your home can be good to stay anon)?

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  10. I enjoyed so much reading about your Lost Lake ride and adventure. Looks like you're progressing well. Just think what a contrast your Death Valley/AdventureCorps riding will be!

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  11. For someone who is still very much at the beginning of relearning and figuring out how to ride a bike after many years away from it, it's inspiring, but also somewhat... I'm struggling to find the word - surprising/unbelievable (not the right word, but kind of the right sentiment), that you have fairly rapidly progressed through to, what a simple novice like myself, would consider 'scary' riding.
    Good on you!

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  12. Replies
    1. I've got one, but it isn't fast enough for these rides.

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    2. you need to sell that bike, srsly

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  13. Wonderful pictures, great ride report. Loved the whole entry!

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  14. Sounds like an awesome adventure,and the smiles on the faces in the pics tell the story....a great ride! I don't get out in the cold often enough now-a-days. I always loved taking my mountain bikes out for play in the snow,now I daydream of Pugsleys :D

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  15. Cheers to the Ride Studio Cafe for taking such good care of you! :) Thank you for sharing the wonderful photos. As always, I find your postings to be educational, inspiring and encouraging. Now if I could just find a good balaclava ...

    Anne from Geneva, IL

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    1. The Ride Studio Cafe is out of this world, they take care of everyone. Also having a little club house type of place to meet indoors and have a hot drink before a cold ride can make a huge difference.

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  16. I did a group charity ride that ended up starting in cold rain which lasted all morning. At the lunch stop they had no hot food or drinks, and only a tiny place to get out of the rain. I stopped by the medical tent to get some aspirin for a muscle ache, and they immediately made me come into the tent and threw an emergency blanket on me- said that my lips were blue. I knew I was cold, but I didn't realize I was THAT cold.

    Once I dried out and the sun came up, things got a lot better. That afternoon someone told me about a group of cyclists that had stopped in a small town laundromat, stripped down and dried their clothes while wearing only their rain-gear. That must have attracted some attention :)
    Hypothermia is no joke, and one of the most dangerous things about it is that it affects your judgement and you don't realize that you have it. I'm glad that they took it seriously at RSC

    Glad that the Lost Lake ride was so much fun

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  17. Careful...freezing your toes then rapidly warming them may lead to chilblains (a very painful and disconcerting experience).

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  18. The perseverance you detail in posts like these is what makes your blog so uplifting- and addicting! As in your century ride in Austria, you didn't retreat when conditions failed to improve. You pressed on and achieved your goal. I continue to cheer you on and admire your growth, which transcends the realm of cycling. So inspiring!

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  19. Just moved to the area, will have to try this ride, sounds like fun! Diana B.

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