My rear tire, which has been replaced after covering around 4500 miles since last August.Our first visitors have come and gone and our next guests are a few weeks off. Rebecca's students are on vacation for their trimester break and the weather has been mostly sunny. With the free time and nice weather, I have been trying to cram in as much biking as possible. Some to get in better shape, but mostly to keep exploring the hidden corners of the Poitou-Charentes Region.
I won't be entering any races anytime soon (edit: apparently I will be entering races), but being able to go a little farther and faster allows me to cover more ground and keep expanding the territory available for exploration.
The thing about riding around Poitiers that I will miss the most is the infinitely varying terrain. The gently rolling hills with the roads that gracefully twist and turn to find the path of least resistance across the undulating landscape. A road system diametrically opposed to the rigidly numeric grids of Central Illinois.
Those boxes aren't lines of latitude or longitude, those are ROADS!
So, while Rebecca was charting her increases in speed, distance, and incline on foot, I decided to set some goals of my own. I came up with the relatively arbitrary goal of cycling 2000km during the month of April.
This didn't sound too bad, it is more than I've ever done in one month, but there seemed to be enough free time in my schedule and the sunshine was becoming more frequent.
I got off to a slow start, with rain and the threat of rain keeping me off the bike for a few days each of the first two weeks of April. If you've seen pictures of my bike in earlier posts, you know that it is equipped to handle the rain with full fenders and a mudguard. These are fine for running errands around Poitiers in the rain, or sightseeing in Berlin, Paris, Toulouse, or Bordeaux in winter showers, but the prospect of riding for 3-4 hours in soaking rain makes it seem more like a job than a pursuit of happiness.
My bike rides during the month of AprilI barely made it to 2000 km for the month. The last few days were a little rainy and I wasn't able to ride as much as I would have liked. The last day was overcast for the first two and a half hours of riding, then it started raining and I had to keep going for another hour and a half to make it 2000 km for the month.
In pushing the boundaries of my cycling universe, an unexpected hurdle was consuming enough food to sustain me for the occasional 140 km ride. Eating breakfast, lunch, during-ride snack, post-ride meal, pre-dinner snack, dinner, and making sure there are enough calories in all those meals to replace the ~3300 burned during a 5 hour ride (plus the 1600 burned when I'm not on the bike) can be a little disconcerting.
After riding for a few days in a row, I found myself very lethargic. I mentioned this to Rebecca and we did a few calculations and found that I was not eating enough to replace the calories consumed during 4 days of riding. This came as a bit of a surprise since I eat a lot of food, snacking throughout the day and consuming 4-5 normal portions at dinner.
So now I've been trying to eat a little smarter by consuming more fat (hooray, duck fat, butter, cream, etc.) and protein (beans and meat) and fruit.
This has worked out great so far. I'm not nearly as tired after multi-hour rides and can actually accomplish things around town shortly after getting off the bike. Now that I feel more comfortable going longer distances the train+bike adventures will continue farther afield. We are going to visit Tours tomorrow. It is an hour away by train and 116km (4+ hours by bike). We picked Tours partly because one of Rebecca's colleagues from ESIP lives in Tours and has volunteered to steer us to interesting sights (thanks Ann!), and also because it is the right distance away through the interesting terrain of the Indre et Loire department.
We've been told that Tours leaves a little to be desired from the tourist perspective. Perhaps this is because it was bombed heavily during WWII and its Palais de Justice was the site of the Nazi headquarters for central France. Nevertheless, it is a little larger than Poitiers and hopefully we'll find some interesting things there to tell you about.