Thursday, July 24, 2008


Two decades of cycling has no doubt made us rich in experience and memorable moments. However, after a bazillion cumulative hours in the saddle, rides can now be easily relegated to one of 8-10 type categories. Although every ride has its unique qualities, rarely are you surprised in the end. The choices sound something like this; "Alex, I'll take Fast n Furious for $200", "Epic for $500", or "Just Plain Fun for $800." Usually before the ride starts, you have a good idea of what category with which you will end up. Not that there's a thing wrong with that. I am just rarely surprised anymore.

The previous rides on Saturday and Sunday had successfully ripped apart every muscle in both legs, and I wanted desperately to recover in two days. We went to Tuesday night's Big Creek social fest, but the rain was threatening to ruin our "Good Times for $100" party.

Raja was determined to beat the rain and get in as many gully runs as he could on the bike du jour. Surprise, surprise, he still had some test riding to do on the Pivot demo bike.

Eventually I will get to a post reporting on all the bikes he has been testing. That will surprise even me if I accomplish that.

I went along to Big Creek not because my legs were ready to ride, but because we were to meet up with some out of town friends afterwards. Still not recovered from my vicious weekend, a hard ride did not tempt me in the least. I put the camera in my camelbak and went ahead of the small gang to entertain myself by setting up for some shots. Dark clouds and deep woods do not give a photographer with a slow lens much to work with to get success. No surprise there. The Captain and Ony did not care. They hammed it up for a shot everytime they saw me. Typical;-)

Robb was there still testing out the Ellsworth Evolve. The Fox F29 shock apparently had not been shipped to him before quality control did their job, but he fixed that error from Saturday's ride and was riding high.

Treybiker was eager to get back on the bike after being off due to an injury. Janusz was out of town, so there was no chance of Treybiker getting busted over riding. Unless I tell on him (I smell blackmail). An injured rider that cannot stay off his bike, that's not surprising!

Andres, Robin, MOMentum, psychobillycadillac, and regularjoe......a few other hearty souls were out there not scared to chance the rain. My legs did not feel as heavy as I expected, but I still did not push fate. I pedaled easily to the gully run and tried to take shots in the dark while foraging through the poison ivy. I was surprised I was able to get anything at all. With some tutelage from regularjoe, I will eventually get a faster lens. Thanks for your help, EPOjoe;-)

It became obvious the downpour would be arriving soon, so we booked it back to the parking lot. Game over.

Wow, we beat the rain. Now, that's a surprise.
Rest day #2 under my belt. Hope I'll be recovered for tomorrow's ride.

Having such an overactive imagination is probably what keeps me from being easily surprised. It takes alot to catch me off guard. Wednesday's ride was one of those rare surprising moments.

The plan had been to do the Outspokin road ride, not because I wanted to, but because I needed the workout. My aversion to riding the road had gone on long enough, and something drastic had to be done. Instead of easing back into it, I figured jumping into the deep end would be the best tactic.

Now granted, I have been riding the road some; early morning workouts by myself and hitting Hulseytown with the Caminator. Those ride are still very different from the yucky medicine I needed to choke down....a group ride with strangers. Nothing will shake the cobwebs out of your system quicker than a group road ride with cyclists of which you know nothing. You can't cheat by taking advantage of their weaknesses or whining your way into their graces. When you ride with strangers, it's a whole new ballgame that keeps you on your toes.

I still did not feel perky in the morning and considered resting one more day. Our schedule has been hectic and I stay in a constant state of sleep deprivation. Dirty clothes and dishes are piled up to the ceiling, and the house is so filthy from neglect that surely the city is soon to condemn it. There just has not been time to tend to my regular chores, let alone rest. Oh, I wasn't feeling good about today's ride at all. No surprise there.

Raja dropped the Pivot off at Outspokin, and we arrived to the ride start early.

I pedaled a mile down the road to see what the legs would do. They felt bruised. A hill was before me, and my speed dropped as pain ripped through my quads. Yea, this is not going to work, I can tell. Oh well, maybe I can hang with the C or D group, if there is one. Guess I need one more day of spinning.

I was not surrounded completely by strangers. When I rolled back to the parking lot, Tweety and ConcreteBlonde had appeared. They were lucky enough to commute over by bike from home. I miss the days I used to ride to the rides, but Raja will not let me do that anymore. Having only ridden with these 2 on the mtn bike, tonight's skinny tire ride would be a first for us!

Blair was there too. That was a pleasant surprise. G-Off was making a comeback and decided to make a showing since Rlaz was shaming him into it. So maybe there were some familiar faces, but there were plenty of others I did not know.

We rolled out at 6:30 keeping our fingers crossed the alleged rains would not appear. Despite the fact the forecasters had said today was the biggest threat, the radar looked promising. The weatherman was wrong, wow, what a surprise.

From the weather to my ride, the whole evening took me off guard. Totally expecting to just blow on the first climb, somehow my legs were putting out some power. They hurt like heck, and I kept waiting for the usual explosion, but it never came. I did not feel like a powerhouse at all, and I was not about to take anyone on for a showdown. And yet I still found myself staying on the wheel of the lead guys.

The only one I knew in our front group was Rlaz, the other 3-4 guys were strangers to me. I had no idea what to expect or what they would throw at me. I've said it before and I stand by it, guys do not like it when a girl (that they don't know) shows up in their pack. So I put on my best cloaking device, trying to fade into the background while hanging onto the train.

I suspect none of these guys were the real heavy hitters. They all appeared very strong, but I could not help but wonder how the story would have unfolded had Cam or the likes of him been there.

The beauty of it was their consistency, which is what surprised me. Guys are always jumping and sprinting. They will turn around, see you are still there, and do their best to crack you. The pace was high, but always steady. My fitness does not suit itself to sprinting and jumps, which is usually what a weekday intown ride entails. That is why I dislike them so much. It is excellent training, but dang, it hurts.

There was no talking, no socializing. We just rode at a steady high clip, nose to wheel. The entire time I am just wondering how long it is going to last for me. I was a bad girl and did not take a pull. The less these guys were reminded of my presence, the more time I figured I could buy. Besides, a pull probably would have broken me. I may be blond, but I ain't stupid.

The dreadful Freemanville climb came, and 2 of the guys went. My heartrate was spiking at 160. Oh dear God, please help me make this. No KOM for me, but I jumped back on the train with the assist of Rlaz and another guy.

The ride went quickly, thanks to the fact that I was concentrating so hard. Less than 2 hours ago I thought I would be limping back to the car, and yet I rolled in with the A Group. How did that happen? Who knows? Life is full of surprises.

I was exhausted, not from the effort, but mentally from being so focused. Over an hour and a half of riding with no laughing and no talking. Just heavy breathing. What a stark contrast my ride was to mountain biking. Sure, when you fly on a mtn bike, you focus hard. But the focus is different.

Tonight my focus was solely on the wheel in front of me. We could have been riding past elephants, dancing monkeys, and naked men and I never would have known. Whereas, in the dirt, I am always conscious of my surroundings. It is the surroundings that tune my senses and throw me the challenges.

Two very different experiences. I am not saying I think one is right and the other wrong, or one superior to the other. It just really jolted me into understanding a bit more of why I prefer mountain biking. Perhaps because I lean towards being artsy and have an over active imagination.

I am looking forward to our road ride trip in Switzerland though. Not only will we be riding with the Hillseekers, but the scenery will be surprising us at every turn. And I bet we will even socialize during our rides and perhaps stop for a picture or two! (By the way, Happy Anniversary! Congratulations on 15 years of marriage to Becky & Jeff today.) Nothing to prove with these two. They love riding just as we do. Riding in a cool beautiful place will be incredible. That motivates me. Raja calls himself a view snob.

As I grow in life, I am learning there are always surprises around the corner. In your 20's you think you know it all. What is the big fuss with these adults? In your 30's you really think you have it all down pat. Then you turn 40 and you realize you have barely scratched the surface. That's when the fun begins. Surprise, you're living life!


Blair said...

CG--it was good to see you guys last night. Always a good day..when you get saddle time eh?
See ya on the road or in the dirt.

Ony said...

Your experience on that road ride matches very closely to my first and so far only "group" road ride. I was so focused on making sure I would be able to keep up and follow the "road rules", that time and mileage flew by and in the end, it felt like more of a mental workout than a physical one. Still, really enjoyed that I did it.