Yesterday I did the Noon Ride. Turn-out was quite poor: the slightest hint of rain and these guys confine themselves to the refuge of their cubicles (at least those lucky enough to still have cubicles... it's tough out there). Of those of us who showed, only two opted for the climb of Old La Honda Road: for me the light rain we were encountering at that point made the prospect of a slippery cold descent of Highway 84 unattractive. So we stayed in the low-lands. The no-frills Noon Loop. With the small group, basically a "leg-opener".
My focus was to ride efficiently in the group (my first real group ride in over a month), stay relaxed (especially my shoulders), and stay in the drops (a major focus is on keeping a more aerodynamically favorable position when I ride: I tend to drift too upright, in part because of my tendency towards shoulder tension). I accomplished these, but towards the end of the ride a headache and nausea become increasingly prominent. It's been too long since I've been out there.... almost three weeks without a single training ride, far longer since I've done a real group ride. My 02 Jan riding into Vientiane, basically solo, seems so very long ago. 18 days!!! I never spend 18 days off the bike. Ever. I've gotten some runs in during that time, but these have at best only slowed the rate of aerobic decline. Race fitness this year is going to be late March at the earliest.
Still, it feels so good to have gotten out there. Getting that first ride in after a forced (in this case sickness-induced) layoff breaks through the crust of staleness, fear, and even laziness which accumulates when one becomes accustomed to feeling perpetually crappy. It really helps kick-start the final stage of recovery, and indeed today I'm feeling better than I have in over a month, seemingly forever.
It's raining today. It could rain for the next two months, one never knows in the SF Bay area. But even if I'm confined to the trainer, it's way better than not riding at all. Running is great, but at my heart I'm still a cyclist. It's an addiction, but one I wouldn't give up for almost anything.