This past Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, one of the most famous single day bicycle races treated us to a very special outcome. No, it was not the favorite that set the record for his fifth victory- most wins in history. It was not a world champion proving his place and stature among the greats. Nor was it a loved Swiss strongman and 3 time winner going for his last victory before retiring from the sport. Nope, it was a little known Aussie journeyman racer just shy of his 38th birthday that raced the race of his life. And just barely squeaked past the favorites in arguably one of the most amazing finishes ever in the infamous spring classic.
So I turned 50 today. It might be a milestone year but I did not feel that “special day” vibe. This one came and went as quickly as the last 49. I’m not saying that it did not leave a bit of a wrinkle, I’m just not sure I am ready to embrace the reality. Some might celebrate with fanfare, parties, and black bowed gift bags containing geriatric products all intended to spark a response as if to say “hey look how old you are and how closer you are to staring the grim reaper square in the face. So you may as well toast it with a glass of prune juice. Yuk Yuk.” So this morning I filled my bidon with water and set off for my first 50 mile ride of the year.
It really is amazing how far sports marketing has come in the last few years. The leaders in the industry continue to innovate in order to make an impact with professionals, and amateurs. This is a case study on how one of the biggest brands in sports decided to make an impact on the weekend warrior. Using an unknown, slightly overweight, amateur cyclist you may know as Heavy Eddy.
According to “Mighty” Mick “back in the day, they used to train by chasin’ chickens. If you could catch a chicken you could catch greased lightnin’!!!” I don’t know why that goofy quote stuck with me. It might be because it was a great euphemism way ahead of its day, or because it led to another famous quote from Mick about eating lightning and crappin’ thunder! Or maybe I just needed to succumb to my primal urge to chase a flightless bird through a back alley in hopes of turning it into a golden fried mouthful of greasy goodness. But really, who chases chickens? Who even has chickens to chase in the middle of Philly? And what does any of this have to do with cycling? I digress. I guess what I am getting at is there are ways to train that if they don’t identify you as a total jack-ass and ensure you lose any remaining sense of dignity, might actually make you better, faster and stronger.
I’ve just spent 2 weeks recharging my battery. Sure, I’ve spent time on the bike, after all what kind of vacation does not include cycling? But it’s been 2 weeks since I’ve really pushed myself through any prolonged efforts or taken a visit to the pain cave. Since then, I’ve stopped mid-rides for Italian ice, conversed with friends during rides without gasping mid story, and even been able to even hum a few bars of my favorite Taylor Swift ditty while rolling on the fattie. Basicly, I’ve been riding on rainbows, in the company of unicorns and fuzzy bunnies for the last 2 weeks.
I walked in the shop and he was still taping up the bars. I was envious! So tasty. This Surly Ice Cream Truck sports 5 inch tires, drop bars and a brand new Brooks saddle. It is menacing to say the least. This combo puts it over the top and into its own category. Pure viciousness. Not to mention the massive saddle to bar drop. As I said, we are flat-landers and this beast is perfectly suited for long flat stretches of crushed limestone prarie path. Only to be ridden how a roadie likes to ride his fat bike-FAST. When the momentum of those massive gyroscopic wheels roll up to speed and C gets in his drop position, I know were in for a fast ride! The combination of big, power and speed is something we cannot get from our other bikes.
Only 2 miles from home, the sky growled and the angry bolt strikes surrounded us. They test us and motivate us to go harder. The conditions were unsettling but there was little choice. Then the downpour. Generally, I like a refreshingly random rain ride but there was a feisty anger in this morning’s drenching that marked an ominous cap to an oddly eventful 6 a.m. ride. When I got home and sat down my chamois pad squished beneath me and released what seemed like a quart of gritty water onto the floor below me. I looked over at my shoes and a quarter-inch of water had pooled in the bottom of each one. I could swear there were a couple of minnows swimming and calling my Specialized road shoes their new home. I just hoped my iPhone managed to stay dry enough to keep from shorting out. Sometimes, you just take what is given to you.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. Mark Twain was not a cyclist. But he was correct when he spoke these words. It is ignorance or in fact it’s emptiness that allows room for confidence to grow. Don’t over think it, just get on with it. An attribute that allows us to achieve many things. Unfortunately, it is an attribute I do not possess in the amounts that are critical for success on the bike. But this Wednesday night was a turning point. Through a good night on the bike and a poignant observation, the baby rhino finally took a charge in the right direction.
I am a flatlander. I have few climbs around me and the ones I do are minimal and pale in comparison to the true climbs and challenges that test most Strava athletes. This weekend I decided to record my first ride in over 3 months. It’s not just any ride, but one of the regular rides I used to do with my brother when over 20 years ago back in “the D”. The ride is a loop that encircles a man-made lake and quite beautiful little local park area. What I love about this ride is what the Strava score really illustrates. At a glance the mapped out route echos the shape of the Ebola virus. And the topography map is amazingly similar to an EKG heart rate recording. Looking at this recording can tell you more about the ride than what you will ever see by looking at any scores and times.
Today was my first day out on full team road ride in over a year. I coughed, gasped for mercy, got dropped, then was allowed to get back on, I gagged on my water bottle, hit a turtle sized pothole, felt my legs whine like little school children, brought up the rear as I limped up the local mini hill, and suffered as I helped lead out during the last town line sprint. I did not set any records for myself. I did not find any superhuman strength in my legs. I wasn’t even able to fully hang on throughout the whole ride. However, I bypassed any efforts I had been able to achieve for quite sometime. All while hanging on to one of the fastest rides I had done in over 18 months. At the end of the ride, I was able to roll in together with the group. Today was a good day.