I did my last training ride for 2009 on the very last day of the year. I decided to do something similar to the upcoming DDD to see how I'm doing on fitness. Last year taught me that I really needed to up the fitness, especially the Pushing a Bike Through Deep Snow part. Yeah, be careful what you wish for.
I left home at about 10:30 a.m. under sunny skies, 24°F, and a northwest wind at 15-25 MPH. The city of Madison does a really good job of clearing the bike paths, so the first 7 or 8 miles were an uneventful warmup.
Then I turned onto a short section of the Capital City trail, which hadn't been plowed after the nuisance snowfall the previous day. Still easy going.
Then took the half-mile connector to the trailhead for the Military Ridge rail to trail, about 10 miles from my house. This part of the trail is not plowed, so it was here that the real training began. I bypassed a little bit of slogging by riding through the old weigh station (several acres of plowed pavement that stands mostly unused) and fording a little stream to get onto the trail.
I think our official snow cover is probably in the 20-inch range, but we've had significant rain since the 14-inch event on the 9th. Pretty crusty but compacted and not terrible for short distances. I was very glad to find day-old snowmobile tracks on the trail itself.
Even though they really aren't supposed to be there on this section of trail.
Personally, I'd be fine with snomos on this part of the trail, given adequate snow cover. The two miles to the section that is open to them took about 45 minutes. After that, the active snowmobile trail was a very welcome change of pace, from about 3 MPH to about 8 MPH.
Next was the five-mile leg through Verona and into Riley, where I had hoped to stop for a burger and a short tapper. The trail turns northwest just south of Verona, in this case directly into the jaws of the wind. Four miles of it. Started to encounter snomos out here, but I was on my politest behavior and yielded to every single one of them. Saw a couple of skate skiers and a few people walking dogs; even walked and chatted briefly with a guy going my direction. Mostly pretty desolate though. I was really beginning to look forward to a stop at the tavern.
Too bad they were closed. I guess it pays to call ahead. So I had my backup lunch: a Clif bar (frozen nearly solid) and some mercifully hot coffee from my new little thermos. Not the most satisfying thing in the world, but it hit the spot.
So I headed for home at this point, grateful that the wind was now at my back. The Pony did really, really well on the snomo-packed trails, and the studded tires held the off-camber stretches just fine.
I stopped in Verona and got some lunch, a meatball sub, some chips and a refill for my coffee. I really shouldn't have had a meatball sub. Duh. I lived to regret it. Then I rode back to the slog section and spent another 45 minutes hoofing it back to the Madison trail system.
Once I got back to the Cap City trail, I decided to add another 5 miles to my daily total and follow it home. It still wasn't plowed, but the inch or so of powder accumulated since the last plowing was hardly noticeable except that it muffled the sound of the studded tires. This trail runs through a couple of preserves, so some of it is quite open to the wind. I eventually had to walk a couple of short sections that had drifted over, but nothing like the unplowed sections of the Military Ridge.
About 6 miles from home, the trail turned to the north and I found myself again bucking a headwind. The temperature had dropped to about 12°F by this time, and the sun had gone down, so this was rather unpleasant. I caught myself telling myself "you can do this" at one point, which is sort of a bad sign for me. Turns out that I could though, and I arrived home at about 5:15 p.m. in pretty good shape. 45 miles, approx. 7.5 MPH avg. Many thanks to the missus for indulging me the time to do this.