Saturday, September 29, 2012

Finally, the 'off-season'

The last of the Deerfield TTs ended a couple of weeks ago, and with it my planned race year.

I'm both happy and sad to see it end. Happy, because in the last few weeks of training I was creeping toward the sharp edge of burnout. After my last interval workout a few days before the TT, it seemed that my entire body was staging a protest. The miles were too long, the intensity too overwhelming. It was getting near time to stop.

And yet, I kind of already miss the routine of having distinct training days, knowing that it's gonna hurt - that it's SUPPOSED to hurt. And I love the way  all that hard work made me feel super strong, overflowing with energy, and loaded with confidence.

All of that is completely unnecessary as the off-season begins.

There will be other 'races' this year, of course, but all of them are races I do for fun. CX is all about mud and beer, my only goal to show up, get lapped, and have a good time. Not exactly the same mindset as training for summer racing, but I think it's a good diversion and a way to remember that cycling is, above all else, supposed to be fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'm starting to look like my bike

Common wisdom suggests that when you spend a lot of time together with someone, you begin to resemble each other.

Does the same hold true with bikes?

Between Neil and the Bianchi, we've spent a lot of time together. And it shows.

My legs have taken on the rigid, sleek lines of aerodynamically-engineered carbon. My arms meld into my TT bars like they've been fused. Every fiber of muscle is in tune with my gear selection, as if I'm now just another one of the components of my gruppo. My heart ticks in time to the cadence of the gear  I turn, blood and chain grease circulate through one interconnected system, and become indistinguishable.

Like a sailor confined to port, any time off the bike is disconcerting. Walking is too slow. Ascending stairs seems inefficient. The hours in between rides are purgatory. I hold my breath and start to shake until the next time I can mount up.

And then, it's as if I've crawled back into my true skin. I clip in, find my gear, breathe deep. I open it up.

I am redeemed.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Winding Down the 2012 Season

Leigh, Paul, Mike, me, Dave, Bob, Stu, Brad, and Tom in front of our sponsor's store

Only a few more weeks left for the Tuesday night "B" rides, and then this season is officially over. 

I'm not sure how I ended up the ride leader this year (I'll accept "Queen B"), but I've had a lot of fun with it. We've had a decent turnout every week, and quite a few new members joined our ranks since spring. I was pleased to see so many women join, and I've got some big ideas for a women's race squad next year.

I've witnessed the evolution of this "B" group over the years: from a handful of sometimes riders and stragglers who fell off the "A" train, to an organized and committed bunch that seem to want to ride as a team.  I can't speak for anyone else, but this club feels to me more like a band of brothers - and now sisters - who look out for each other, encourage, challenge, and root for one another. And, just like hanging out with my brothers, Tuesday night rides are guaranteed to include lots of banter, good-natured competitiveness, and plenty of camaraderie. And a fair share of trash talk.  

There was this unspoken code of coolness: Someone was always willing to hang back to help a teammate. Someone was always willing to take the lead to keep the ride moving smoothly, and at a decent pace. Someone was always willing to drop the hammer after we all summited the climb. No one complained about slower climbers, and there was no whining about the 'Hill Rule'.

Now that I think about it, my only job as 'ride leader' was to figure out a route, tell everybody when to show up, and make sure we didn't lose anyone. But really, the success of these rides came from within the dynamic of the group itself, and from the individual team members who took it upon themselves to make sure every rider would want to come back next week, and the week after that.  

Brad leading the pace, with an impressive rider turnout behind him

Tom waits until the last few miles, then he rides that bike like he stole it. 

Stu helps keep the pace consistent and reasonable, and is quick to offer encouragement

Bob's coaching on working together in a paceline really started to pay off towards mid-season

Brian's blistering pace up Highland Rd. ensured he would have to go back down and ascend it again

Me and Heather aren't planning on getting passed by any of the guys on the ascent

Bob on his borrowed Trek bike

Tiffany waited for me while I fixed the 2nd of 2 flats in the same night. Really, we just wanted to ditch the ride early and go have a drink up at Bricco. 

Brad loves Snowville. EVERYBODY loves Snowville.

Dave M is known to dole out some really great ride advice, often in the most abrasive way possible

A rare appearance by Ron, and then he broke a spoke. We haven't seen him since, but I hear he made it back OK.

Tad pretending he isn't part of the "A" group
Heather doesn't know it, but she helped resurrect this group just by showing up and doubling the number of women in the club. And now there are at least 5 women who regularly come out and ride with SFW. 

Leigh was always gracious about staying back with slower riders. And then he would come back up front and put the hammer down so hard we couldn't catch him. 

All photos used in this posting were taken by Leigh Atkins, except the top photo which was taken by a bystander  (with Leigh's camera) and for the one of Leigh, which was taken by me...