Something struck me this morning, made something in my life make sense.
I wrote the other day about a friend of mine getting hit by a car on the way out of town, in the opening miles of a nice three-hour bike ride. My initial reaction to the accident, to seeing a seasoned citizen knock down a friend, even if he didn’t appear to be seriously injured, was white-hot anger. I was pissed-off enough that when he walked over to check on the cyclist he’d struck I had to walk away.
Once the hub-bub died down and my brother-in-chain rings headed home, the remaining 63 miles or so calmed me down, or so I thought. In reality it tired me out and being tired only dulled the anger. Later on, in front of my in-laws and my kids, I went off on my wife over something utterly stupid. I didn’t see it then, don’t think I could have, but all of that anger that I’d stuffed down from the ride came spilling out in a moment of idiocy directed at my wife. As with most things in life, my wife played a part in this and my reaction, while way over the top, was not without merit.
That said, the only thing I can really change – the only thing I can do anything about, is me. If I’m truly working on being the best person I can be, I had to make amends for my part in the fiasco and I did just that on Sunday, even if I didn’t understand the full scope of why I was apologizing. After all, you can’t stay pissed at your wife on Easter Sunday. I think there’s a law or something. Then, when I could finally see the whole picture for what it was, I called my wife and let her know what was going on with me.
Sad fact is, I’m not used to being mad about much – I’m a fairly easy-going kind of guy. I’m just not used to being angry like that. That said, my amends are fully made and all will be well and forgiven (including my anger toward the guy who hit our compatriot).
Now, if you’re curious about why I made the initial apology to my wife almost two days ago now, before I could even fully understand why I blew up in the first place, the answer is very simple: Eating crow sucks, but it’s a lot better warm than cold - or worse, rotting.
Today was supposed to be a day off the bike. I’ve put in a fair amount of miles in the last couple of weeks, hundreds, and a lot of them hard. I needed a day off…
On the other hand, for the first time this year we’re experiencing temps warm enough to pitch the arm and leg warmers to the side. No toe covers, hats, full finger gloves… None of that crap.
Now, with temps at above 75, there was simply no chance I was staying off the bike. No chance I was missing out on the first day to sweat. What self-respecting cyclist could?!
Not this one.
I opted for short rather than easy. That 30 minute, ten mile ride did more to boost my attitude that I can put into words without sounding goofy. Oh how I missed sweating!
In other news FR news, the trademark process is almost done for my new company. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. To that end, to all of my cycling friends out there, please polish up your A road bike and snap a photo (you on it or not). It’ll come in handy as soon as this is done.
While I was out with the boys on Saturday for a 65 mile training ride, It finally struck me just how tough it is to ride 100 miles with a decent pace. Last year, with just five guys, we did a century in just under five hours (20.7 mph if I remember correctly). Our pace was pretty slow on saturday, under 18, but I was hurting those last few miles. Part of this is all of the cold weather crap. Arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves and the cold itself all restrict movement and actually mean you’re working harder – combine that with this only being April and I’m doing better than I usually am this early but I still felt like I was a long way from being ready for a century on Saturday.
Now all of that out of the way, as this was swirling around in the gray matter, I also realized how fortunate I am that I’ve been cycling for coming up on three years now and I’m just now understanding how hard 100 miles on a bike really is. I was so set on attaining certain goals that I never bothered to consider how hard any of this is to actually accomplish – I just kept pushing harder until I got the results I wanted.
Now that I’m at this point of understanding, I wouldn’t say that I’m a freak or special in any way (indeed, quite the contrary), but I finally do get the idea that I’ve managed to accomplish something special – either through determination or plain stubbornness, take your pick.
When I started this little adventure, I didn’t know my butt from a whole in the ground – I didn’t know anything about bikes (mountain, road or otherwise), training plans, nutrition… Nothing. I just knew I wanted to go as fast as I could so I did, one day, one mile at a time. There was a lot of trial and error but I was there before I knew it.
Without recapping everything, which would take a post so long even I couldn’t stand reading it (let alone write it), I think not knowing what I could or couldn’t do helped more than hurt. Sure I could have started out with much better habits, including rest and a few nutritional tips – maybe a few good hydration items as well, but in my ignorance I never bothered to wonder whether a 4-1/2 hour century was too hard or not, I just did it.
Now there’s no doubt, I needed a whole lot of help to be able to do that (we had a huge group), but there I was with my friends, crossing the finish line. As I’m preparing for this season, getting in my base miles, working myself up from 15 to 65 miles in a matter of four weeks (maybe five), I realized it’s better to concentrate on what’s next, rather than how hard it was to get here.
I will do this, as I always have, by interrupting the negative thoughts of how hard my path was with thoughts of what’s next because if I know anything, it’s this: If it was easy, anyone could do it.
A group of Tuesday night regulars gathered at a local high school for a brisk ride this morning. 40 degrees (F) but sunny as a day gets (there still isn’t a cloud in the sky 21 hours later). The temp was supposed to rise fairly quickly so I started out under-dressed in just a jersey, arm warmers and a light long-sleeved jersey. It was a cold start.
Not two miles into the ride, heading out of town on a busy but unavoidable road (that local cyclists frequent several days a week), an old man (85+, you know, one of those old-timers who no longer belongs behind the wheel of a car, who can barely stutter out an intelligible sentence let alone drive a car) clipped one of the last riders in our group on the left arm with his mirror. The cyclist went down instantly, hard. Fortunately he was up and walking right away. It could have turned out a lot worse. As I understand it, the guy wasn’t the last in line either, so it was amazing that the other(s) avoided him. I was just two riders from the front off the front so I saw nothing.
We all dismounted and I called the police (I could hear the sirens before I got off the phone with 911, maybe five minutes). One of the more level-headed guys went over and talked to the old man who’d hit our friend. Before the police showed up, as the old man was ambling over to check on the cyclist he’d hit, he looked at me and said (this is a quote) “But there was a car coming the other way”. I saw red and walked away without a word. Let me finish the sentence: There was a car coming the other way so I hit a guy riding his bike on the side of the road instead of waiting for a few seconds for opposing traffic to clear. The casing of his mirror was laying on the ground.
From that point the rest of us just stayed out of the way. We had two or three police cars, an ambulance and the freaking Fire Department show up with a pumper truck within ten minutes of the accident. One of the other guys and I checked out his bike to make sure it was at least rideable (we checked the wheel alignment, shifting mechanisms etc.) and the rest gathered on the sidewalk.
Our friend was checked out and released by the paramedics, the cops took his statement and talked to the old man (I could hear him say, “but there was a car coming the other way” again, and it looked to me like the cop lit into him pretty good).
That was the end of the ride for our buddy. He’d had enough so he got on his bike and rode the two miles back to his car. We went on.
We got in a pretty good 100k but fought the wind most of the day and we had a tough time… The group was shaky all day. And it was such a great day for a ride.
The well-known Velominati list of “The Rules” contains an interesting one: Don’t shave (the face, ladies – this is a guy only rule) the day of a race.
Now their reasoning I tongue-in-cheek and I don’t race but I’ve applied that rule to “long rides” and found that I prefer not shaving the morning of – technically, I’ve gone both ways on this and simply put, sweating is much less irritating if I haven’t shaved.
With that said, here are a few other special rules I stick to concerning long rides (we’re – my two best riding friends and I – going 75 miles in a few hours):
1. Never one drop more than two cups of coffee before the ride – and coffee consumption must be cut off a minimum of two hours before lift-off. Nothing worse than having to pull over to pee ten miles into a 75 mile ride.
2. Mom’s Best Blue-Pom Wheat-Fulls cereal is a must. Best pre-ride fuel I’ve ever consumed.
3. Shower before the ride. Nothing worse than drafting behind someone who stinks so bad that you can smell them at 25 mph.
Where do you come down on shaving before a big day on the bike?
I would add to the types of rides, the “Everybody gets dropped” ride. Everybody gets dropped, leave your pull-ups at home because nobody cares that you got dropped. That’s the point. Some of this guy’s rules are really funny….
Once in a while I run out of good stuff to write about. Hey, you put out a minimum of one post a day for more than a couple of years and it can happen (1,418 posts and counting). When I run into this wall I like to check out the cycling magazine websites for a topic – and if I’m lucky, I find a good one. Like today.
When I change a tire, I’ve always completely removed the tire from the rim to check for pebbles, glass or metal stuck in the tire. It never dawned on my that I don’t actually have to – so leave it up to Lance to show how it’s done (and Bicycling Magazine to write bring it to light – thanks Bicycling Magazine):
Another trick I liked was blowing into the presta valve to get the initial bit of air in the tube rather than hooking it up to the pump and then rolling the tire onto the rim (it’s that last foot that’s always a bear).
Finally, he shows proper disdain toward the black plastic twist-on cap… “Don’t put this back on”. Now, for those who don’t know the difference, I’ll get a little deeper into tubes than is probably necessary but you never know, this could be new. First, the old Schrader valve (the same valve on your car tire) is notorious for leaking air – especially when you’re talking about the high pressures involved in road cycling. This is why they came up with the Presta valve. It has that tiny little nut on the stem that locks the post and seals the valve so it won’t leak air. Now, when that nut is screwed down, the valve post presents a sharp point on which the tube can rub during shipping and while it’s sitting in your saddle bag/back pocket/cage keg waiting for you to get a flat. This is why they put that plastic cap on it – so it won’t wear a hole in the tube before it’s installed.
Once the tire is on the bike, the cap no longer serves a purpose. Therefore, if you put that cap back on, you are not seen as an anti-cool/anti-establishment hippie. To put this gently, it’s as bad as showing up to a club ride with your tighty-whities sticking out of your cycling shorts.
One other piece to the tube packing that, usually, isn’t necessary is the little steel nut on the valve stem:
Many people use that little nut to secure the valve to the rim. In the vast majority of cases, if you have the right length of valve stem, you can throw that right in the recycling bin – it’s absolutely useless unless you want to wear the paint off of your rim. On purpose. There is one scenario in which it could be useful: When your valve stem is too short for the rim. See, when you put the new tube in the tire (if you didn’t blow air into it in the first place), if the stem is too short for your rim, you won’t be able to get the pump nozzle to grab the valve stem. That little nut will hold the stem up so you can get the pump nozzle to grab the stem. Next time just make sure to get a tube with the proper length valve stem.