Monday, May 31, 2010

Shrine of the times

Memorial Day

Saturday was the Lewis and Clark 12/24. I've done this race (12-hour version) twice before on my single bike, and the goal this year was to do it on the tandem. We didn't aspire to any enormous distance in our allotted 12 hours, just log some fun miles and establish a tandem course record (there isn't one).

The weather forecast was grim all week, and I announced that it if was raining, I wasn't going. Climbing and descending a mountain pass in the rain--after 4 hours on the bike--didn't sound like any kind of fun. Funny enough, it was not raining at the start. The promoter's bribes to the weather gods had paid off. Briefly. Within 15 minutes, the drizzle started and my captain was saying "I thought you said you wouldn't race if it was raining." Yeah, well, I'm here now, let's go. Sadly, the bike had other notions. When we started up after a "nature break," the front shifter snapped off inside the brake hood. The derailleur was about halfway between the small and middle chain rings. Eventually we found a screwdriver and got it to run well enough on the middle ring, but it was pretty clear that we were neither going to climb any steep hills nor have much fun on anything even slightly downhill with that gearing. So we limped our way to Stevenson, found a nice coffee shop, watched the Gorge winds, and caught up on Facebook. And then we turned around and rode the 46 miles back to the start. 50 rpm uphill on a tandem when you can't swing the bike or mash the gears is absolutely brutal.

DNF. Boo. For a bike racer, my competitiveness is down at the low end of the spectrum. But DNFs really leave me disappointed. It was worse than suffering through the rain and cold; it was a flat feeling of being let down. It was a no-fault DNF, and there was no one to blame, not even myself. And it compounded the lingering feelings I had from the Ring of Fire 12/24 last September where hot temps did me in (that one was more my own fault, and I learned from the experience, but the disappointment was palpable).

What to do? Yes, plan and train even more and better and smarter for Ring of Fire. But I had so many eggs in that basket last year that my performance was devastating. Then I noticed Gina's sage advice to Jennifer about setting up a shrine to the crit gods to induce them to treat her better and realized that maybe I need my own shrine of the times, this one for the ultra (so far defined in my book as 12 hours) gods. So now it is set up, and in a spot where I will see it often. In addition to appeasing the ultra gods, it will remind me of Gina's wisdom and Jennifer's competitiveness--and hopefully some of each of those will rub off on me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kamikaze squirrel

Monday, 25 May

Spoiler alert! This will not spoil the outcome of a bike race for you, but it might spoil your lunch. Do not read this if you are ultra-sensitive about the fate of animals.

It finally happened. I ran over a squirrel. Bad karma, mea culpa, oy vey.

I was riding down the Old Woodinville-Duvall Road (a quiet detour off the busy W-D Road, and a nice little climb besides), not paying too much attention to wildlife, and suddenly there was a squirrel shooting under my bike. It happened very fast, but I do remember time to think “this is not good” (usually the vocabulary I come up with in such situations is not repeatable). I fully expected that it would be about like trying to run over a brick. Since I was going 20-25mph, definitely not good.

Who knew? Squirrels are soft.

I kept the bike going in a straight line, stayed upright, and did not stop. What could I do? While I would like to know how the squirrel came out of it, I don’t think I improved its wellbeing (I’m pretty sure I ran over more than its tail). If I stopped to inspect the damage, I was neither going to save the squirrel’s life (call PAWS?) nor dispatch it into the next if it was maimed (grab it by the tail and fling it high into the woods?). Don’t get me wrong. I could not have harmed the animal intentionally. I was quite distraught for the fate of the poor little creature, but—honestly—how could I have helped it? (To be really cruel about it, eastern grey squirrels are an invasive species here anyway.) Hopefully it at least managed to get out of the road so that all the Tour de Cure riders who had to go up that road on their century ride didn’t have to look at it lying there. When I did stop at the next intersection about a mile down the road, there were no traces of squirrel on my bike, just the usual worms and slugs that accumulate from wet roads.

Maybe next time you ride down that road you’ll see a gimpy but otherwise healthy squirrel? Maybe my bad karma is dissipated by the squirrel’s own Darwinian behavior?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday thoughts

Thursday, 13 May

I seem to have been on the receiving end of a lot of pity aphorisms today. Many are remarkably relevant to my work and personal lives, and some nudge me away from dour thoughts that overtook me on my early morning ride. Here are the best of 'em:

If you’re old, and you wake up in the morning and nothing hurts, you’re dead.

They found out what’s at the end of the tunnel: another tunnel.

It's good to have guardian angels, mentors, and people that push you to do MORE.

A dollar’s worth of jelly beans can change your day.

Little things can make such a difference; a little smile, a little treat, a little extra.

Do something new every chance you get and make it fun.