Yes, DC was built on a swamp, And yes, there are plenty of summer days feel like you’re sitting inside a dog’s mouth. But setting aside for a moment the possibility that someone might actually like that feeling (okay, not the dog part, but that intense feeling of heat and humidity — I love it), let’s remember that there are other seasons. Such as autumn.
Last week-end the summer heat broke and we’ve settled into that long, gorgeous stretch of mid-Atlantic autumn that will continue roughly unbroken (unless we get a hurricane) until probably sometime in late October or early November. It’s sunny, daily highs are normally around 80 and the lows in the mid-60s. It’ll gradually get cooler (sweater weather!) but we’ll never get those drastic temperature swings that characterize mountain autumns; nor are we likely to get any surprise early snowstorms that rip off all the branches because the leaves haven’t had a chance to fall.
It’s perfect weather for riding. I went out on Saturday intending to do a long-ish ride. It was a beautiful day, but I just didn’t feel up for a ride. I was tired and a little moody and just felt sluggish. The first five miles were drastically slower than my normal average speed, and I was tempted to turn around. It seemed a shame to waste such a lovely day, though, so I stopped trying to “train” and just went along appreciating the fact that I live in a place where everything is still green and lush in mid-September, and where people value fitness and outdoor recreation enough to provide bike paths and wooded parks throughout the metropolitan area. Before long I forgot my tiredness, and my sluggishness fell away.
I ended up having a great ride. After that slow start, I averaged speeds on par with my best days from earlier in the summer, and over the course of the 55 miles that I rode, I even inadvertently set a couple of new standards for myself: Without really even trying I did one five-mile stretch in 15 minutes (I’ve done fifteenish before, but this time I was only seconds away from breaking into the 14 minute territory), and my overall average moving speed was 17.5 mph. Not sure how that compares with other cyclists, but it’s a measurable improvement over my performance earlier this summer — which I guess is all I can ask for, given the fact that I’ve had to squeeze in cycling between work and travel this summer. Makes me feel good.