It’s been [pardon the pun] quite a ride. The story line so often isn’t found in the destination as much as in the miles between the start and finish. Behold, the 2012 season in review.
Top 10 List
2. Ice-cold Coke and BBQ chips while sitting on the curb in front of a convenience store
3. Climbing a 14% grade and 3600 feet through Crawford Notch, NH, followed by eating ice cream with a fellow cyclist on the curb in front of a convenience store [convenience stores are a major theme]
4. Watching storm clouds building on the horizon and wondering if I’ll beat the rain home – seems like I did most of the time
5. Hugging my daughter at the finish line of the Habitat 500
6. Fall colors in Northern MN – and what will be revealed around the next corner
7. EATING ON THE BIKE – hucking banana peels into the ditch…peeling string cheese with no hands on the bars…peanut butter, organic honey and banana sandwiches [which taste great even when smushed]
8. Averaging 27 mph with a stiff tailwind, the hum of the drivetrain, and being stretched out over the brake hoods pretending I’m an aero deity like Bradley Wiggins
9. Riding through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru to get an espresso and a donut – the girl didn’t want to take my order because I didn’t stop to talk to the menu sign – in Jamaica, VT where no one wears dreads or says YA MON
10. Breaking the posted speed limit while descending the hairpin turns on the backside of Kancamaugus Pass, our own local CAT 5 Sugar Hill, and through the hills on the north shore of Lake Superior.
11. Putting on fall riding clothes with long sleeves and realizing that it’s all winding down soon – and the urgency to ride a few more miles before it does
All the numbers
3588 miles, 102998 feet of climbing logged during 111 rides. I rode 5 century events [100 miles], participated in a 500 mile charity ride and did my first mountain tour in so-long-ago-I-can’t remember. If I include the Spring classics and the three grand tours in France, Spain and Italy, I’m guilty of watching something like 115 hours of pro cycling. This doesn’t include time spent watching re-runs. I hasten to add that watching cycling can be like watching paint dry…ripe for multi-tasking.
I went through 2 1/2 sets of tires. For this I must credit the state of Vermont – due to their perfectly wretched roads that butchered one set in 2 days of riding. I used up three inner tubes, patched and recycled 3 more. There were 3 sets of shifter cables, 2 rolls of handle bar tape, 1 tube of lithium grease, a set of bottom bracket bearings, half a bottle of Pedro’s citrus chain cleaner, and a pair of bike gloves.
I found out that Italian saddles make me SORE. Then I found out that soft saddles make me…SORE. But then I found a non-italian, firm saddle that made me…NOT SORE.The search for the right saddle is an epic crusade right up there with the Fountain of Youth and the Holy Grail. When you find it all the meaning drains from your life [because the quest is done], but you can sit down without wincing. Desitin works wonders over night…
(Note: my theory is that Italian cycling teams [known for drama and infighting] must ride Italian saddles that make them grumpy)
I closed down the season with the Strava Scratch Labs Challenge. Looks like I came in 181st in a field of 1124 in the over 50 category of Lutheran men from MN: 456 miles, 10757 feet of climbing, 17.6 mph avg speed over 11 days.
I was blessed to have only two minor crashes all season with minimal road rash. There was one near-miss when a psycho-driver in a Ford Explorer tore past me at twice the speed limit, and for no apparent reason nearly took me out with his passenger side mirror. There was no oncoming traffic, I was riding to the right of the white line: so I concluded that he either (a) hates cyclists, (b) doesn’t believe in cyclists [which makes them invisible], or (c) belongs to a fundamentalist pedestrian jihad sect. I felt the mirror graze the cloth of my jersey.
During day 2 of the Habitat 500 we rode into a screaming headwind all day. It blew so hard that I got pushed out into the roadway several times. Epic headwinds make you resign to the suffering. You can’t do anything about it but persevere. It’s almost always the case that there’s an annoying click from an unknown place on my bike under these conditions – which always disappears the next day.
An old Outward Bound compadre James Dowd has had a bicycle and parts of a bike stolen this year. Which reeks of the highest form of low-minded, bushwacking, low life, dumpster-diving pettiness. Jim, soldier-on, and for heaven’s sake, man, TAKE THE LANE!
In a recent century ride, the first cold storm of the fall was winding down, and I had every stitch of clothing on. When we turned north into a 39 degree SCREAMING headwind for the run up to Itasca State Park I began to get very cold. The dangerous kind of core chill. I downed 400 calories and ground it out at 12 mph – while trying to cope with the clumsiness that comes with the onset of hypothermia. I emerged from my funk as I coasted into the food stop and a concerned support volunteer pressed a cup of hot cocoa into my hands. Then the sun came out.
Itasca has a 14 mille loop of rolling hills on perfect pavement that climbs about 1000 feet. It’s an amusement park ride where the speed down the hills carries you up nearly to the top of the next one. Sublime.
Sublime often lies in the poetic and theological juxtaposition between darkness and light [Translation: some days are better than others – especially sunny days]. Nothing in the world is quite like baking in the sun whilst the miles fly by. The looseness in my back and shoulders…when the morning’s embrocation cream does it’s work…and the sun on my bike shorts melts away the knots. Sublime.
And lest I forget: when Jenni and HFH 500 support crew handed me an ice-cold drink of water at the end of every day of the ride…sublime.
I want to make an insincere apology for carbon. My footprint…or tire print is substantial. Greenpeace has me on their watch list. Parts from my bike will survive an apocalypse or two, and still be useable. Like Kermit said, “It’s not easy going green…”
I bought my first carbon bike this year, and my days of being jack-hammered by aluminum are over. It soaks up the road shock like nothing else, but gives away nothing in terms of road feel. Where have you been all my life? My 62 cm bicycle weight went from 21 lbs to 16.4 – and you really notice it when climbing. Even though my Trek has a racing geometry I feel fresh at the end of the day.
I’m a functionalist, not a weight weenie. My carbon bars keep my elbows and wrists happy – plus the Kevlar could save me during deer season. My carbon pedals have a larger platform for my size 46.5 dogs – the click-in on the Look Keo Blade is so positive that I haven’t fallen over at a stop sign in quite a while. Gore cables take all the stickiness out of shifting – especially when climbing. Beyond that, it’s all pretty much how it came out of the box.
Expensive wheels are guaranteed to make you go faster, turn heads, and give you something to talk about over a post-ride beer. Rotational mass gives way to speculation on inertia and the finer points of spoke tension. The more you talk, the sicker you get. I resisted that siren’s call…until July. I found a pair of take-offs that were 300 grams lighter. I’m no longer inertially challenged.
Stuff I [re] learned
I learned that I don’t always know why I do this, but that’s okay. I learn this every year, and I wonder if this small mystery might be part of the allure that draws me back. I don’t really need to know why – it might spoil the fun.
Endurance cycling teaches me to be patient with an unfolding story that’s revealed by the mile – sometimes by the pedal stroke. Some days I want the ride to be over before I get on the bike. This may give credence to all those annoying quotes about patience. GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT?!
PLEASE! If I’m cured of instant gratification, what will become of me?
Endurance riding is a powerful metaphor for faith – there’s much in it that directs me to hope, tenacity and the kind of grace that gives a gift with no price tag. It’s precisely because this sport humbles me [through tiredness and adversity] that I depend on God. When I am weak, then I am strong. When I am weak, I am open to what He wants to give me.
I’m going to take a break from all this intensity. It’s time to get out my mountain bike and go pretend I’m 15 again. I’ll bomb around through the woods and jump off of stuff until about November, when the cold will finally drive me indoors. Then, like many of you, I’ll start dreaming of next season.
The spark of anticipation will begin to grow while we spin on our trainers and look at the basement walls. Then a sunny day will come in March, and we’ll look out the window and realize that it’s time. We’ll go for our first REAL ride of the season with a cleansing wind in our faces – and it will all come back to us.