Tough break

Getting up, I knew I wanted to scratch time out of the day to ride, but threw the curtains back to reveal the city smogged over. Smog never elevates a mood. It agitates it. I’ve learned to cope with it, yet each low air quality day gets to me.

If you let a smoggy day stop you from riding here, however, you’d likely never ride. Especially as we zero in on the Cold Uncomfortable, the days are short, damp and grey. You can’t tell if it’s fog, or human-created waste in the air. It’s one thing to force yourself into the elements, for at least there’s some relief in the freshness of it. There’s silence riding in snow. The air smells like earth when it rains. Smog is a little different.

When air quality is particularly shitty, there’s an acrid smell that seats itself at the top of your sinuses. You can’t really tell where it comes from, it’s just there disrupting your senses. If you exercise and don’t use a mask, you get a scratch in your throat. Your tone of voice drops an octave. You likely develop a baseline cough, like you’ve been trying to kick pneumonia and hack up the occasional gray grubby thing. The edges of your eyes get scratchy and your vision bleary after a bit. None of this is very desirable.

It looks awful too. Blue skies are white. Overcast days means everything is grey. If you’re doing elevation, you can sometimes get above a cloud of brown, hovering over the lowlands the city sits in. There really isn’t anything pleasant about it. Least of all is the sensation it gives me. Dealing with a low air quality day is frustrating and belittling. It’s not positive. It leaves you with the feeling that you shit your bed the night before, but struggling to cope with the responsibility of changing the sheets, would rather just continue to sleep in your own excrement. It makes you feel guilty, gross, and greedy. You don’t want to be a human being and you don’t think anything hopeful of the human situation.

As I said, I’ve ways to cope. This includes not allowing it to disrupt my exercise, if possible. Wearing a filtration mask helps tremendously, and at that point, it’s a matter of force of will. I think of this as the discipline aspect. I was lucky in that regard, too, as I made my ways into my favorite hills, looking to retrace a route I’d scouted out recently.

As I came flying down the last rough descent, I flatted. Roadside, I set to the task of patching the tube. It was nice to sit in the sun, taking in the silence of the countryside, air be damned. Attempt after attempt of patching holes, I finally discovered I’d done something remarkable. Somehow I’d scored three simultaneous pinch flats, as well as two independent punctures. I kept my cool, and with the last patch (I used all seven patches in my kit), mended the last hole. Seeming to hold air, I limped it back into town. Maybe today had been a series of tough breaks, but in the end, luck still held out.

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