This morning, I got on my bike for the first time since my injury. I have been on the trainer--but that really isn't the same thing. (A notable difference: riding on the trainer sucks.) I also climbed up Squaw Peak road for the first time of the season. Here are the numbers of the actual climb--not the ride--which I got from here:
Distance: 4.33 miles.
Altitude Gain: 1680 feet
It is pretty steep most of the way, and darn steep in some places. At first, I felt myself slowing down. I managed, however, to speed up and get into my groove. It felt good. I was going at a good clip (for me)--better that the other times I've climbed it.
The strange thing about the groove is that it is often faster than I would think. When mountain biking, I always find my groove at a higher gear than I think I can handle. I also find that if I take a break after a particularly gut-wrenching section of trail, I lose my groove. On a bike, it is after I speed up and realize that the pain is somehow more tolerable--even if more intense--at that particular speed.
Getting in the groove can sometimes be a difficult thing.
Ever been in a pace line where they were pulling a little too fast? You find yourself constantly slipping off the back, then fighting to get back on. The combined effect can kill your energy fast. Or, perhaps all your buddies are riding slower than you'd like. Either way, sometimes, riding with people makes it even harder to get in your groove. Though I love to ride with people--especially those faster than me--I do most of my riding on my own. Me against me.
Another way to miss your groove is to eat the wrong food. Or, eat too much. Or too little. I can remember a few rides in the heat of the day when I kept tasting that heavy pizza I just ate--over and over again. If I don't eat enough, I always miss my groove. This can, if you're not careful, develop into a full-blown bonk. If you bonk, you're not in your groove. I've taken to planning my before/during/after nutrition/hydration more than I used to. As a consequence, getting in my groove is easier.
It is easier to be in my groove on my road bike, than on my mountain bike. I suppose this is due to the somewhat complex nature of mountain biking. It isn't just about energy and pace with mountain biking. There's also how well I make it over obstacles in the trail, and how well my bike is running.
When your bike isn't shifting/braking/suspending well, you can't get in your groove. This doesn't necessarily mean a nicer bike helps you get there better, it only means that whatever bike you're on needs to be functioning well.
My road bike functions well almost all of the time--there is much less on it to go wrong. When things are wrong, they can often be remedied by a barrel adjuster. I love that about road bikes.
The weather can prevent me from getting in the groove. Bad weather almost always makes for a bad ride. As does bad trail/road conditions. There's a trail up in the foothills here that, when wet, turns into the worst kind of mud: thick clay. It is totally impassible when soaked. Other types of weather are tolerable, if you're prepared. A chilly morning can be bad if you planned for 75 degrees. When I plan well, I am more likely to groove.
However hard it may be to get in the groove, it is what keeps me coming back for more. Whether I'm there because of an open smooth road and a beautiful sunrise, or because I cleaned that technical section smoothly on the first try, I always have hope for that groove--The Groove. It is what gets me up early in the morning when I haven't slept enough, and what motivates me to improve my fitness and my skills. It is the only real motivator I've found to help me loose weight. It is what keeps me daydreaming throughout the day of riding.