Thursday, March 15, 2012

Muscle Memory

Winter can be a bitch.  The temptation to stay on the couch covered in furry space heaters can really put a damper on your skills.  Muscles have memory, and like most memories, sometimes they're about as effective as a sieve.

Yesterday was the first solid "Spring is... well... mostly here.  It is Wisconsin dude" day of the year, with record setting high temperatures well into the 70s.  This of course led to the motivation to put on silly looking biking clothes and break out the XC bike.  The one with the clipless pedals.

For those of you not up on your bicycle lingo, "clipless" pedals are the sort that, despite the name, have a mechanism that a cleat on your shoe clips into (the term "clipless" comes from the older style that have straps that your foot slides into, and those straps have been known as "toe-clips" for decades.  The new mechanical ones give you the same advantages (your foot's locked into the pedal) without the toe-clips, so they're "clipless.")

This winter MandaFern and I started up gym memberships at a local gym, and due to Uncle Sam's insistence, throughout the winter, we did many miles on the treadmill.  I never once swapped out the knobby on the back of my bike and put it up on the trainer, meaning I never strapped on my biking shoes and clipped in to my pedals since some point in October.

Clipless pedals have a certain amount of "float" built in to them (about 7 degrees the way I have mine set up) that you can pivot your foot left or right before they release.  This keeps your ankle from getting jacked up and stiff without constantly releasing your cleat and letting your foot come off the pedal.  Yesterday, I must have only gotten the front of my cleat in the pedal, and suddenly felt that I was lacking in this float after about a block.  Right as I started to really hammer on my pedals.  No float = very early release, which leads to my ankle bouncing off the pedal.  Much to my surprise, I don't have a giant purple bruise (sure feels like it though) but it is rather stiff.

Earlier in the day, Cro and I hit up the range (benefits of having your "weekend" in the middle of the week) and spent a good amount of time working on rifle marksmanship.  I had the Anshutz, and Cro was rocking his CZ-452, and we were mainly working on prone and sitting at 100 yards (yes, .22lr open sight, bolt action rifles at 100. It's a challenge, and a fun one.)  

Shooting prone and bike riding suffer the same issue in Wisconsin during the winter, nobody wants to do it.  Proning out in the snow on the frozen ground sucks.  Thankfully bulk 22 is cheap, and my Anshutz works "good enough" with Federal bulk packs (apparently at 100 yards it yields 4-5" groups for the crappy ones.)  It probably took the better part of 100 rounds to actually warm the muscles back up to remembering what they need to do to make a sling loop work right.  By the end I was back to cursing my heartbeat for messing with my sight picture, but there were quite a few called flyers leading up to that (not to mention how small a 600 yard reduced target looks through peeps at 100...)

Thankfully, I'm not planning on racing or going to Camp Perry this year, so I'm not behind the curve.  I'm heading to Afghanistan towards the end of the year, so I've been working on other skills this winter.  Prioritizing is pretty important too.

(To end on a good note, it was a beautiful day, and the route back from the range goes right past the cheese factory... so the grill came out, and the burgers had slices of the freshest Co-jack melted to perfection on top. Those were served up with some of the great offerings from New Glarus to wash them down.)