Three years ago, on my very first day at the club ride, the advanced club ride I should add*, a person I’d never met approached me long before much of the club had gotten there. He said that he missed running because running was a lot more social… Now, I may have been a noob back then – heck, to say I was wet behind the green horns would be an understatement – but I’d read up on cycling in a group in preparation for that ride and it had been touted in everything I read as one of the most social of all forms of exercise, certainly more so than running which is much more pace-defined and exclusive (the faster one runs, the harder it is to run slower to be social and vice-versa). I asked the fellow what his average pace was (mine, solo at the time was 20 mph). He answered, “16 mph and they just never wait for us slower guys”. A friend of mine refers to people like this as hostage takers. “I expect someone to hang back with me so I can get my workout and feel like I have a friend, even if that means they don’t get the workout they were looking for”.
I explained that perhaps he was at the wrong ride, that it’s not surprising the advanced group doesn’t wait for anyone – it’s my job to keep up… He rolled away, miffed. He was dropped a mile down the road. I was dropped seven miles later. He never came back, I was hooked.
Funny thing, that.
I’ve learned a thing or two since then. Not much but probably enough to be dangerous. Over time I’ve come to understand just how important riding a bike well is to a group.
I’ve written about another guy I call (not affectionately) “TT Guy”. The dude can bust up a good group inside of a mile. He’s a nice enough guy, he’s just really not good on a bike – then add to that, he’s riding a TT bike. The problem here is that, as much as I’d like to say, “Look dude, you ride like ass. Take a couple of months to learn how to ride in a straight line and come back… With a road bike.”, I just can’t get to that place in my melon where I can choose big-boy words to say it kindly.
TT Guy sucks the fun out of a group, and he will suffer for his poor riding by being dropped at every opportunity and he will be excluded from every invite only ride that we put on. So this post will get into depth on how not to be that person.
1. Job number one is ride in a straight line. You must be able to ride a straight line, even in windy conditions. You won’t have to be perfect, but wild moves to the left and right of more than a foot or two are simply intolerable and dangerous.
2. Job number two is to know thy place in the group. If you ever have to respond, “But I like riding here [in this position in the pace line – usually in the middle of a double pace line].” You. Are. Wrong. You do not dictate to the group where you will ride. You take your proper place in the pace line and hold your line. Period. You get a better draft, riding in between the two lines, yes. But you absolutely screw everyone behind you. They have to eat wind to ride behind you and believe me, you’ll win no friends making them work harder for the unenviable position of riding behind you.
3. Control your speed. Being in the right gear is a necessity. Too hard a gear or too easy a gear will mean that you can’t react properly to surges in the group. This leads to gaps and others having to work harder to make up for your inability to hold the group together. Again, not the best way to win friends to continually make the group work harder than they should have to just to put up with your existence.
4. If you have a tough time holding a good line, if you don’t quite know how everything works or where you fit in, your place is at the back of the group, where you’ll limit the damage you can do. Swallow your pride and stay back there until such a time as you have mastered numbers 1-3.
A cycling pace line is a very funny thing, it’s actually a testament to why Bernie Sanders and the 30% of Democrats who support him (an alarming number indeed) and Socialism suck so much… When everyone knows their place and does their job in a pace line, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. It looks choreographed, even. Everything is efficient and the group rolls down the road much faster than any two or three guys could do on their own. However, as soon as you throw someone in there with an ego who, even though he thinks he’s doing well, screws up the choreography, the pace line falls apart and disintegrates into small pockets of riders. You end up with pockets of fast cyclists getting stuck with slower cyclists who didn’t make the gap to the lead group and those pockets have a tough time working together… Then, the unlucky pocket that gets the poor cyclist has to struggle all the way back, working extra hard because that one hitch in the giddyup makes it so nobody can work as a team. This is Socialism – and exactly why it sucks so bad.
*If you’re getting tired of reading “the advanced club ride” in my posts, I sincerely apologize. Unfortunately, every time I’ve failed to mention this in a post (and sometimes even when I do), I get a no-drop complaining about how I/we should be more like their no-drop ride and Shepherd everyone along like the sweet wonderful sheep they are… Suffice it to say, if I wanted that I’d have joined a knitting club.
Alas, last night was our final club ride of 2015. The year is done. Over. Finete, Finished. Au revoir. Mooi loop, 拜拜, Ni sa moce, ciao, sayōnara, arrivaderci. Saved the best for last… I am part WOP dontcha know.
I know, now I’m just showing off. Suffice it to say, the $#!7’$ in the can.
It was fun, slow (I ended with just over a 19 mph average), and, even a little challenging at times.
We rolled out with a really small crew of seven “B” groupers at 5 last evening because it gets dark so early now. It was chilly but not cold, actually quite pleasant considering the time of year, but windy. We spent much of the first half of the ride with a helping wind too. Mrs. Bgddy and our friend Diane (who usually rides a tandem with Adam) were both in attendance so we had a decision to make early… Drop my wife and Diane and leave them to their ride or stick together). My buddy Mike is pretty cool that way, we chose to stick together. We had my wife and Diane hang out on the back while Doc Mike, Mike, Ty and I did the bulk of the work… I think I spent the first fifteen miles either first or second bike. Of course, this spelled trouble later on in the ride.
Once we headed into the cross wind and headwind, we had to watch our speed so we didn’t drop the ladies – nice at first, but it grew increasingly more challenging. My wife and Diane decided to take a shortcut and cut a mile or two off of their route so we agreed on a meeting spot and went our separate ways, picking up the pace. We were holding about 22 mph into a pretty heavy headwind and rotating quickly. We caught the ladies at a crossroads, about three miles early and commenced to taking it easier again. Now technically, “taking it easy” is a fairly relative term – we were still holding an 18-19 mph average into a tough headwind.
Coming into our first little town, I was in the lead and planning out when I’d make my brake for the first City Limit sign when I heard someone upshift a bike or back… I was trying to keep it just fast enough that the others weren’t encouraged to go around but slow enough that I’d have some gas left for the mid-way sprint. Somebody else was thinking along the same lines as I was. Out of nowhere, and way too early, Doc Mike came charging around me. I caught his wheel and stayed with him but he was really picking ’em up and putting ’em down. I managed to hold his wheel for a lot longer than I should have but my buddy Mike came around me, just as I was running out of gas… He finally got me.
Also, unfortunately, TT-guy was back. He’d showed up late and did the route backwards to meet us. So, in the space of five miles we went from a perfectly lubed seven man (and woman) machine, working together to beat the wind, to a discombooberated mess, just trying to find shelter and not get wiped out. I had a tough time keeping my positive demeanor.
Before long, the ladies started struggling to keep up with the diminished draft and fell off the back. Originally I decided I was going to stay with the lead group – with only four miles to go, surely my wife wouldn’t hold my dropping her against me. I had a change of heart a quarter-mile later and started to drop back. The idea was, because Doc Mike had stayed with them, was that I could drop back, rest on the way back, then take the lead and try to bring them back to the main group. It didn’t work out that way. Mike ended up splitting off and trying to bridge the gap himself and I stayed with my wife and Diane to bring them home. We rolled across the finish line with just shy of a 19-1/2 mph average. Not bad considering the conditions.
With that, until next season, this will conclude the Tuesday Night Club Ride Series, with one exception: Next week (or possibly the week after depending on the weather) will be the Tuesday Club Ride: Night Ride Edition. Every year, on the first Tuesday after Halloween, our final ride of the year is an easy 30 mile ride around the normal route but we start at the normal time. With the time change on Sunday, we’ll be starting out in the dark – headlights and taillights will be on order. I’ll be sure to take plenty of photos…
Let me make one thing very clear: I am not as fast as I could be. I can work harder, I could be faster. There’s no doubt I’d have to work harder, smarter… Better, but it could be done.
The question, of course, is am I willing to change who I am and how I ride to get faster and I’ve answered that. Often. No I am not. This begs two questions: How fast is fast enough? And how far should one go to get faster?
Unless you’re at the top of the pro field, almost anyone can get better or faster with a little extra “want to”. I could. I know I have the potential to get faster. All I’d have to do is commit to some gym work, put in some time with a coach, push the edge just a little harder… So on and so forth. I still have a little room to grow and I’m pretty stinkin’ fast already.
I get a wild bur every now and again that I oughta give it a little more effort. Not to race, I’m pretty much certain I don’t want to do that (if you just thought, “Well he didn’t exactly shut the door on that”, you’re perceptive… I know). Still, should I push it just a little harder? Should I give it just a little more? I wonder if we all don’t go through this every now and again.
The answer is never in “What do I want right now”, but in “What do I want to get out of cycling”.
I have enough work in my life, I simply don’t need more. This is my answer: I just want to have fun. That’s what it all boils down to.
The answer to those two most important questions is to be as fast as is necessary to dish out pain to my friends, nicely. I don’t want to plow them into the asphalt but I do want to be the guy they want at the front when the ride is tough and they need a draft. I want to be fast enough that my wife gets just a little turned on by how easy I make fast look. I want to be fast enough that when there’s someone to chase down, they say, “Go get him Jim”, and I do. I want to be the guy who can do five miles at the front when we’ve only got three in our group and we are all cooked. I want to be the guy who gets a call on vacation from his best cycling bud and he asks when I’ll be coming home ’cause he needs a rest (some help pulling the group). I want to be fast enough that my friend says to my wife, “We all know, when it’s Jim’s turn up front, it’s time to go”. I want to be just fast enough that I can still ride with my kids after 70 miles with my friends…
And I want to be just slow enough that my wife doesn’t become resentful at putting in too many miles. I want to be just slow enough that I don’t come home too smoked to participate in the family.
Now don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not coming at this from an egomaniac’s position… The idea is to be a contributing member of my group – to be of use to my wife and friends…
I want to be that guy, and that’s why I train how I do. That’s why I ride so hard. And no harder.
Being fast is no fun, alone. Being pretty fast, with a smile on my face and my wife and friends there with me, well, there’s nothing in the world better than that. Nothing you can do with your clothes on anyway.
No ride Saturday morning, rain and crap weather had me making everyone’s breakfast sammiches before I had to take my eldest down for her first swim meet of the year.
Mrs. Bgddy had left earlier with the youngest who swam in the morning session and managed to drop at least five seconds on each of her events.
Then came the eldest. She dropped five seconds on her first, seventeen seconds on her 200 free, a pile of seconds on her 100 medley and almost five on her 50 free. It was her best day swimming, ever.
My girls, are no longer in the early heats, they’re mid-way through, and they’re only getting stronger. Their effort so moved my wife, she was brought to tears a few times.
My cycling season may be close to over but my year isn’t, not quite yet… We’ll ride when we can, right up till the snow flies but we won’t rough a whole lot of precipitation. Cold, no problem but not rain, sleet or snow. The days are getting shorter but our evenings are filled with swimming practices and our weekends with meets – and that’s fine with me. I get much of the spring, all of the summer and a month and change of fall where we’re not running all over God’s green Earth for swimming meets so I can ride. That’s good enough.
Sadly, as November is finally upon us, my weekly mileage takes a tumble. I went from 220 miles a week to just 105 last week, over four days of riding. On the plus side though, there was a time not too long ago where 105 miles was one of my better weeks… On the other hand, I should be passing the 7,000 mile mark for the year next week, so I can live with a few short weeks.
In short, all is well.
42 Degrees Fahrenheit (3-ish C), mostly sunny (or at least clear, the sun was still coming up) and a breeze under 5 mph, on a Sunday morning so traffic in our neck of the woods is practically nonexistent.
I made the mistake of thinking my wife didn’t want to go so she ended up being a little late getting ready but we were both waiting at the corner when Mike and Matt crested the small molehill a half-mile from where we were waiting.
I had two Gu’s, one bottle filled with Gatorade, twenty bucks in my back pocket tool bag and no clue how far we were going or how fast we’d get there.
42 calls for wool socks, toe covers, leg warmers, compression shorts (that extra layer, though technically a no-no, makes the cold much more bearable), cycling shorts, a light base layer, my new Specialized Therminal long-sleeved jersey, a neck gaiter, my Headsweats beanie, full fingered gloves and my helmet. Simple, easy, awesome and absolutely perfect. Not too cool, not too warm.
I can remember not too long ago, when I wouldn’t ride if it was colder out than 55 degrees. I can’t tell you how surprising and awesome it has been to learn just how cold it can get and how a few key items can keep me comfortable, happy and pedaling hard.
My wife split off after twelve and a half miles to head back and spend time with her dad while he’s in town and staying at our house. We rolled on unperturbed by the few cars on the road.
My bike is rolling so nice lately. Smooth, quiet as a field mouse, and fast – a well oiled (lubricated – no self-respecting high-end bike owner uses oil anymore) machine.
Rather than a pre-planned route, we simply followed our noses, deciding to see how far we could take roads that we rarely ride. It made for a fantastic time.
I had a Gu, Jet Blackberry, about 25 miles in and only bothered sipping on my Gatorade, another benefit of riding when the temp drops. We ended up on part of the Tuesday night route, and thanks to my wife choosing north instead of south, we had the mild breeze to push us home.
43 miles done, a smile plastered across my face for every one, I pulled into my driveway, wishing we had just ten more miles to go…
I love that about cycling lately. With the exception of centuries, which I’m more than glad to be done with at the time, I’m almost always bummed when a ride is done. This one was no different. I could have kept going, of course, but I have other things to tend to.
It’s good to be me. Happy Sunday everyone.
…Because Rigorous Honesty SUCKS when it comes to Weight and that River in Egypt. Getting Off the High Horse.
As an over exaggeration, there are about 42 meanings in that Title, here’s the intended one: Having to use rigorous honesty on oneself, sucks. The following will be a post in which I finally make my peace with a commercial that’s always bugged me, using my own alcoholic past and rigorous honesty to do it.
The commercial in question is one of the Tread Climber commercials. An attractive blonde talks about her past and says that she was “big” but never really considered herself “fat”. She then goes on to say that at the height of her bigness she was 245 pounds. At 245 pounds, if you’re built like a brick shithouse and 6’5″ tall, that’s “big”. A 5’5″ woman at 245 pounds, especially the one in the photo they show of her, is the very definition of fat. This is rigorously honest. Also rigorously honest is, “plump”, “large”, “big”, “heavy”, “chubby”, dude, “fat” is fat. Get over it already, right? After all, what’s the big frickin’ deal already? Why try to talk around reality?
Here’s a little more rigorous honesty – and this is the real reason most people get a little ugly when talking about weight and obesity (it most certainly isn’t sexism or something silly of that nature, the argument many will employ when they don’t have anything better in their attempt to bully someone into shutting up): See, I get very emotional, call it angry, when people refuse to embrace their reality. I lash out with what masquerades as rigorous honesty, its ugly cousin, brutal honesty. This is why I struggle with politics, much of modern political journalism, Democrats vs. Republicans (and vice-versa), black vs. white (and vice-versa) and men vs. women (definitely vice-versa). When people refuse to simply be honest, with themselves or others, I get pissed – especially when the person in question tries to mask the truth with something else that simply sells better… Don’t even get me started on that.
I embraced my reality, at a very early age, that I am a butt-ass drunk and there is no way I can possibly drink alcohol (or do drugs – for the utterly ridiculous marijuana maintenance people) like normal people do. Once I start down that path, oblivion will follow, it’s just a question of when. There’s no talking around it and no amount of wishful thinking that will change it. I have no problem calling my drunken past what it is, in fact (and this is the important part), I can’t look at my drunken past in any other light than with rigorous honesty. To color my past rosy serves only to make a return to it easier. See, I still have those weak times where a beer commercial can make alcohol look good. I still have those times where I long for the escape and feeling of well-being that getting good and loaded brings about. What I don’t have are delusions about how bad it will get (and how fast that will happen) if I do pick up that first drink. That’s where rigorous honesty comes in and sometimes that’s my only defense against going back to that misery (though I’ve always maintained a rigorously honest perspective of the misery as well, so that would be a second defense).
The delusion, a belief that is not true, is the problem. This, by the way, is why anti-drunk pills will never work… You can’t cure a delusion with a pill, but I digress….
Here’s where my rigorous honesty falls short. Here’s where I fall short: I couldn’t be told anything before I was ready to be done with alcohol. I was so hopelessly lost in the weeds of my own delusion that I said (and thought) some pretty foolish things about my alcohol. Chief among those things was, “I’m not (or it’s not) that bad”… Or, in other terms, 245 pounds is “big”, not “fat”.
My problem with fat, and alcoholism to a lesser extent, is that I’ve become a bit of a bleeding Deacon. I’ve forgotten how hard it was to peel back the haze to see clearly – and this is why I defend rigorous, sometimes brutal, honesty so fiercely… Time heals when it comes to alcoholism and obesity. Time dulls the edges. I can forget how hard I had to work to sober up (getting thin again was much easier in comparison) and if I forget how hard sobering up was, if I forget just how bad my life really was, if I forget that I was always a two-fisted drinker, over time I might be defenseless the next time a thought like, “Geez, a beer sure would be nice right about now” comes along.
After all, I don’t need to go for my ride this morning and man, a Double Whopper with extra everything and a Coke sure would taste yummy right about now.
And therein lies the rub. What I really need to work on is remembering “Brutal honesty for me, not for thee” and “Rigorous honesty for we”. I can be brutally honest with me because I know I’m not going to wither away because of it. Others, however, may be weaker or sicker and unable to deal with the fact that “big” is ten or twenty pounds overweight. 80 or 100 is just plain fat. This is the answer: Looking at those who choose to live without rigorous honesty or in victimhood as “sick”, as if I would someone with the flu or some other malady is critical. This way I can feel for them without giving them a big, wet, sloppy kiss and catching what they’ve got.
My wife asked me yesterday morning if I’d ride with her later in the evening after she dropped the girls off at swimming practice. We’d talked about doing this for quite a while but just never got around to taking the bikes down there… My kids swim in a small city where a lot of the decent, fun hills are located so what she was proposing meant a fair amount of climbing. She then texted two of my friends to see if they wanted to join us. They both showed up, we were four:
Now, you’ll notice there are four in the photo and that I’m not in there, so that means I’m the one holding the camera, off the back a little bit (for safety)… My three favorite words.
We met in the parking lot at the high school. Chuck had been there already, to get some extra miles while our new friend, Ron, showed up right on time. We headed out into the perfect, clear, cool evening breeze on our way to a subdivision notorious for its hills. We climbed and descended, chatted, and generally took it fairly easy while keeping a decent pace. It was one of those perfectly enjoyable paces where you know you’re working, but you’re just far enough below the red that even the tougher climbs are fun. You can’t beat rides like that, I absolutely love ’em.
We approached the subdivision somewhere around nine or ten miles into the ride and the climbing really ramped up. A quarter of the way up the first hill, we noticed another cyclist up ahead. Now, when my wife isn’t with me, another cyclist ahead is almost impossible for me to not chase. When my wife’s in the group, I can let him/her go for her sake. My wife asked, “It’s killing you, isn’t it?”
I replied, “No, I can let it go…”
Then I started thinking about it… Oops.
We wound our way around the subdivision and when we reached the bottom of a little climb we saw the solo cyclist look back to see where we were. He must have noticed that we’d closed the gap a little bit because you could instantly see a change in his cadence as he tried to get up the hill. The four of us had a chuckle watching it. Ooh, now I wanted to go get him. That’s exactly when my wife uttered my three favorite words to hear on a group ride: “Go get him”.
I passed Ron and Chuck, trying to contain myself and build my speed slowly. The three caught on and I got to work on the quarter-mile that separated us. I had him within a mile. I love reeling people in… and there was my wife, at the back of the train. I can’t put into words how proud I was that she’d stayed with us – I really had to drop the hammer to make up that much ground in such a short distance. It turned out that Greg, the guy we caught, was a part of the Flying Rhinos Cycling Club – a group that we regularly see represented at a lot of the local supported rides, and in force at the Assenmacher 100. We finished the rest of the 25 mile loop without much incident (I missed a couple of turns while in the lead because I didn’t know the route) and rolled into town with a smile on our faces… Until I saw the City Limit sign.
My wife and I have developed a penchant for racing for signs. I saw this one with only a few hundred feet to spare so I leapt out of the saddle to start a sprint… I took the sign uncontested just as my wife realized what was going on.
A quick loop through one last subdivision and we were on the home-stretch where I took those photos. We finished with 24-3/4 miles in 1h:27m, an average of just over 17 mph. A great average considering the amount of intense climbing we did. It was one of those perfect nights, just fast enough that you know you did something but slow enough that there weren’t any “Man, I can’t hold this pace for much longer” moments. It was one of those, “Geez, this is why I bought a bicycle in the first place – this is what I always wanted, nights.
And I got to hear my three favorite words. Thanks sunshine.
Now, humorously enough, my wife ribbed me about wanting to chase Greg down as we were packing up the bikes afterward, she had a chuckle about how I so much love being the guy they send out to reel people in… so I looked right at her and said, “Honey you’re right, but you like me being that guy too. You think it’s sexy.”
Bullseye. She even admitted it. Enthusiatically. Damn I love cycling with my wife.
I skipped the Tuesday Night Club Ride Tuesday, thus no post about it yesterday… That was the first one I’ve missed this year, if memory serves. I had something far more important to tend to.
My daughter is smart. Like, “How did my DNA produce a kid that well put together” smart. I’m no dummy, but she’s next-level, crazy smart.
My daughter is like me in that she’s got a bit of an awkward childhood going on though. When I was a kid, I thought I was skinny and ugly… I didn’t find out that I was wrong, that i saw myself in the mirror differently than others, until my senior year of high school. Unfortunate that. I missed our on a lot of good times because I thought, incorrectly, that I was “less than” others. My girl is wrong too, of course, but there’s no telling her how truly beautiful she is…
See, here’s the problem… my Bella has a little sister who is stunningly beautiful. I mean, I’m glad I own firearms, pretty. The younger is more of a social butterfly and is wildly popular.
One day she came home in tears over their difference and it really broke my heart. I mean deep down, dad hurt. One of those where I wished I could take that pain and carry it for my girl so she’d never have to feel it again… See, my first daughter is living, breathing proof that I recovered from being a drunk, that kid is very, very special to me. She’s starting to hit her stride though. She advanced in swimming because she’s absolutely killing it, she’s starting to grow into herself, she’s well on her way to becoming a fine, beautiful, young woman.
Then, a few weeks ago, she was asked to be a part of the National Junior Honor Society. Last week, she received a letter from Northwestern University (THE Northwestern! Watch out Christopher, I may be sending her your way…) asking her to consider taking the SAT to possibly start classes early.
My daughter is twelve years old. Twelve.
Well, Tuesday night was my baby’s big night.
This was one thing vastly more important than a club ride. One of the proudest days of my life, next to the day I decided to sober up, the day I married my best friend in the whole world, the day my daughters were born…
A very big deal was made of this night. It was as it should have been. My baby is brilliant, and thank God when it came to brains, she got more of her mom’s DNA than her pops. I wouldn’t have missed that one for anything.
Bella, I am so very proud of you, of the effort you’ve put in to excelling at everything you put your mind to. You are truly awesome, kiddo. Congratulations tough girl. Keep it up.
Yep, some things are more important than a bike ride.
***A special tip for new dads: When your baby is born, while you’re giving your wife a break and when your baby is quiet or sleeping, lay down with your baby facing you and let your baby breathe on your face. Then let this roll around in your melon for a minute: You made that.
It changed my outlook on life.
Lemon Soup For The Soul – http://wp.me/p3JW5y-Ftq
It took me back a bit and warmed my heart. An excellent “parent” post.