Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bridging the Gap

No one likes to get outside their comfort zone, the cocoon that is so safe and comfortable. By staying enclosed in the protection of our little world, the potential lurking inside is never realized. We all want to become beautiful butterflies, but we don't want to go through the process of becoming. Can't we just "be"?

With Jeff as my inspiration, I decided to give it another go at connecting with the world of United Skinnies, otherwise known as roadies. Not that I am ever going to become the butterfly of road riding, the least I can do is stretch myself a little. If I can put one wheel towards bridging that vast gap, maybe I'll meet another wheel halfway.

This past Saturday, the erratic weather once again thwarted our plans for a long day in the saddle riding the Pinhoti Trail. We knew we should have joined in the Kennesaw road ride, but just could not bring ourselves to do it. Instead, we made a last minute call to head south to Jackson for the Dauset Trails. Cyclesmith, PJ, Polemac, and MetamucilMan were quick to join us in hopes of avoiding the rain.
For whatever reason, I did not start out feeling so great. My tummy was upset, and getting my heartrate up did not help matters. An upset stomach was not going to kill me, so I just meandered along the trail while the rest of the crew played ahead. It had turned out to be a beautiful day of warm air and sunshine, and that made me happy as a plum regardless of the state of my midsection.I am a slow starter, in more ways than one, and I figured it would either get better or I'd fall over. After an hour, things took a turn for the better and life returned to my body.
We had a fun time on the zippy singletrack. The temp kept climbing, and got up to 80degrees! I was not the only creature excited about the warm air. Two separate occasions we came across black snakes warming themselves in the sun. PJ was most excited of all of us. She wanted to touch a snake...."I've never done that before," she exclaimed. Uh, neither have I, don't plan on it!
After taking a break, we were pleasantly surprised to see Patty and Steve drive in the parking lot. Having just met Patty 4 months ago on a Chilly Dawg ride, it was a treat to see her again. Steve is one of our longest standing riding buddies. We go back over 15 years with him...mostly mountain biking of course.
They too were trying to get mega hours in their legs in preparation for the Cohutta 100 race coming up soon! Everybody has a goal, a race at hand. I'm beginning to think Raja and I are a bit too simple these days with our only goal being to have Fun.Who can resist the siren call of singletrack bliss in the company of good friends? Obviously we are easy prey.Our 4 hour ride plan was cut down to just 2 hrs 40 minutes. The rain was moving in so we decided to call it quits. Are we ever going to buckle down and get some substantial time on the bike? These Fun rides are starting to catch up with me. Fun doesn't deliver when you're hanging off the back, struggling for dear life just to keep the pack in sight. I knew this meant another visit to the Crit come Tuesday night. I must leave the land where men aren't afraid to wear argyle socks, and ride where men aren't afraid to wear white lycra shorts. I had 2 days to get in the right frame of mind.
After our ride on Saturday, we barely made it home in time for me and Robin to get to the Georgia Ballet on time to see their Spectrum production. Janusz was one of the choreographers being featured in this collection of a Spectrum of Color Dance Pieces. Although the dancers appear to move about effortlessly, I know the hours of practice and discipline this represented. Talk about getting outside your comfort zone!

Sunday was cold and gray, and once again I could not motivate myself to get out in the elements. It is so easy to desire to be that butterfly, but so hard to become one. It was hurting my wings to suffer through the cold. I'll do something Monday.

Monday wasn't the cup of sunshine I wanted and still cool. At least I got on the windtrainer for a bit. I'll get serious tomorrow, at the crit.

This time I tried to go with a little more open mind. Daryl, Tim, and Dave were my kind escorts again riding over from the house. A few people said hello, this is good. There didn't seem to be as much tension in the air this time. Maybe it was the warmer weather, or maybe it was my warmer attitude. Kim, Trish, Alexis, and I loosened up the legs in the Prologue. Last week I survived 13 minutes. This time I was shooting for 15, but I was having my doubts considering how difficult is was to keep an easy pace. "Stop your whining", I told myself. It's either now or never. You have to pay sometime, and that sometime has come. If I can whittle away at this week by week, bit by bit, I might just get somewhere.

I started mid pack this time. After the 2nd turn though, my tentative riding allowed 2 riders to move in front of me. Knowing that's not the right tactic, I tried to get on a wheel, but the pace was furious.

Flying down the hill at 34mph was tough. Each time I went through the turn, I let the same thing happen. Keep this up, and you're going to be at the back of the pack in no time. Sure enough, I found myself at the back. A small gap was just ahead that I hesitated to take, not sure if the guy beside me was going to jump it. "Go ahead, it's yours," he said. As if in slow motion I began to take the gap. "You have to go, you have to get up there," I heard him say, but in an encouraging almost fatherly voice. I wanted to turn around and thank him for giving me the push I needed. I also wanted to scream out to everyone, "I'm not the noobie dork that I appear to be. At one time I used to know how to do this!" I appreciated his patience and kindness. United Skinny courtesy. It does exist after all.

I tried so hard to get nose to nose on a wheel, but it's as if there's a switch in my head and someone has thrown the breaker. That aggressive factor has not surfaced. It's in there somewhere, but I can't find it. Put me on a mountain bike, and I'd win "The Most Aggressive" Rider award. It's having that hard asphalt beneath my tiny little tires while flying along at 27 mph shoulder to shoulder with another rider that bothers me. Can't we do this on the dirt?
I barely made my goal of 15 minutes. But I did it! My average was 26.2. I dropped out and recovered a few laps, before deciding to jump back in the mix. Sometimes the pace slacks up a bit after the first 3o minutes.We had just made the first turn and the pace slowed up, causing us all to bunch up practically on top of each other. No big deal, just keep it steady people. Right next to me Tim spoke to me under his breath, "we're getting ready to see a slow speed crash." Ah, it made me feel a part of the group that he even took the time to speak to me during the race. Fortunately we didn't have that slow speed crash afterall!
I know I was irritating the heck out of the guys by letting these small gaps and not riding more aggressively. I appreciate that no one yelled at me in spite of my mediocre riding skills. Maybe as I warm up to the crowd I will become more relaxed and that switch will go off in my head. Ten years ago, I was the one riding in the pack effortlessly while cheering Alexis on, "Come on, you can do it." I would say the words, but had lost touch with just how hard it is to Do It. Now, the tables are turned and I am in need of those encouraging cheers.
I bowed out at just under an hour. The evening light was casting a magical glow on the cherry trees presenting the perfect photo opportunity. I had stashed the camera in the car knowing Raja was driving over. The light doesn't wait on anybody, but I was able to grab a few shots before the golden hour disappeared. These trees won't look like this for long. I'm glad I was able to catch the moment.
Last night made me realize once again how much you can take for granted as a seasoned rider. Once you develop certain skills, you tend to forget what it's like to get back in the game. I know everything I'm supposed to be doing out there in the crit, but it's a different matter implementing those details. It's just a matter of getting it back in my system and working for it. We would do well to take that into consideration when trying to "coach" someone along that is learning for the first time.It's not as easy as it looks even when you know what to do. Patience and encouragement goes a long way in bridging the gap. I think both sides did a little of that this time.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Wow, the tree pictures are gorgeous. That is one thing I miss about Atlanta - It is beautiful this time of year. Congratulations on making your 15-minute goal!!!