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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Brevet Training Time

It is that mad time of year again, brevet training time.  In my head it is my sensible self against myself.  Sensible self, "You're not actually going to try to train for the brevet series, are you."  Regular self, "Well, I thought I might."  Sensible self, "You're crazy.  Why do you want to do this?"  Regular self, "Why not?"  Sensible self, "Because it will hurt, because you don't have to, because there will be wind and bad weather, because you are getting old, because I really don't want to put up with your whining about it again. And you know you will whine and complain and even blame me for not stopping you, particularly on the 600K if you even get that far this year. You might get the puking sickness you had the day of the 300K last year.  Then all that preparation is for nothing."  Regular self, "Too bad isn't it.  You're stuck with me and I'm doing it.  I suppose we could divorce and become a dissociative identity disordered person." Sensible self,"Without me, God knows what you would try and we both would end up dead before our time.  Okay, I give in.  Let's not divorce.  But I won't quit nagging you throughout the brevet season."  Regular self, "I am not the only one who whines;-)"

So far, I have managed to get some long rides in, but not much of the in between, shorter rides due to a combination of work and weather.  And you see, I am a "bicycle trainer" hater.  Yes, I know you can put a tape on television, that you really improve your speed and peddling mechanics while using a trainer.  It just is not my thing.  I am always amazed at and in awe of the mental fortitude of people who spend mind numbing hours on trainers.  They emerge at the end of a long, dreary, snowy winter as strong as ever. And very occasionally I will give in and use a trainer, but it doesn't take a session or two to realize that what I love about cycling has nothing to do with improved pedaling mechanics or increased speed or getting exercise or keeping off weight.  I like those things, but they are not of primary importance or why I love cycling.  Loving cycling has something to do with changing scenery, with the wind in my hair, with the hills that need to be conquered and put in their place, with the hills that conquer me and tame my ego, with the freedom to chose my way, with the surprises you find along the way, with the things you learn about  yourself along the road.  What I love about cycling is being alone and having time to think, being with friends and laughing until my sides ache and I worry that I will wet my shorts.  What I love about cycling are the challenges, the not knowing if I will prevail, and the satisfaction when I do.  What I love about cycling are those times when all the hard work comes together and a difficult ride is easy. And so much more.  But it is not the trainer or the benefits it bestows.  And so, with all the snow and bad weather, brevet training will be a tad more difficult this year than in the recent past.

Oh, well, as T.S. Eliot once said, "If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall your are."  Regular self, "So I may be in over my head.  At the end, at least I'll know how tall I am."  Sensible self, "Sighhhhh.  Here we go again."

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mistakes During Brevets and During Life

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
BY― Neil Gaiman

When I came upon this post by Mr. Gaiman, I was immediately smitten  by his idea.  Who hopes to make mistakes?  Who wishes this for others? Mistakes are those things that you castigate yourself for making, things that cause your self view to deteriorate rather than build, things that cause that inner voice to stay stupid, stupid, stupid.  But perhaps I have been looking at things the wrong way all along.  Perhaps mistakes are good things as well as just being necessary and inevitable things.

I thought about my years of riding and the mistakes I have made and what I have learned from them.  The knowledge has been invaluable and has laid the groundwork for future successes.  Perhaps without those mistakes, there would have been more failures and less successes.  Or perhaps the failures were the successes because I certainly learned more from my failures than I have from my successes.  Perhaps even my idea of success has been convoluted.  Perhaps all actions are successes so long as they help us to move forward rather than to sit motionlessly.  And can I, a person who is troubled by changes, who struggles with changes,  make this change in my way of thinking?

When I first began riding, I normally used a camelbak to meet my hydration needs.  Firstly, my bicycle handling skills were lacking even more so than they are today.  A hydration back pack allowed me to keep my hands on the handlebars and respond more quickly.  Secondly, a hydration pack kept me from drifting to one side as I pulled the bottle out of the bottle cage and allowed me to drink without worrying I would cause someone to have an accident. And thirdly, in the winter, worn underneath my jacket, it kept the water from freezing so there was something to drink. But I remember one winter ride where I was in a rush and I didn't cap the pack correctly. The water spilled out during the ride.  Luckily I was only about 20 miles from home when I realized I was sopping wet.  By the time I reached home, the jersey was beginning to freeze and stiffen and huge,uncontrollable shivers were claiming my body despite pedaling to beat the band.  

What did I learn from this?  I learned that it pays to take the time to be sure that your equipment is operating the way it should.  That it can be uncomfortable or possibly dangerous not to do so.  And this extends from camelbaks to all your equipment. Check tires before rolling, not just for air but for bald spots or imbedded shards of glass.  One nightmare I have is a front tire blowing out on my way down a gloriously long and steep hill, possibly because I have seen this happen to another rider much more skilled than I and perhaps because I sometimes take downhills much faster than perhaps I should.  Luckily my friend was okay, just bruised and shaken,  but it could have been so much worse.  If you are going to ride, you just have to accept the possibility that these things could happen to you, probably will happen to you at some time or another, but accept that risk and not dwell on it. Because another mistake is not doing things because of what "might" happen.  Things happen regardless:  all we can do is make the best possible preventative measures.

I also learned the value of appropriate winter clothing, an ongoing lesson and an ongoing experiment with myself.  I have come to love wool and to use it and to use bar mitts even though I don't love them.  I have learned that for the most part, you get what you pay for, and that some things are worth saving for even if they are outrageously expensive.   I have learned that you can be comfortable under most winter conditions in this area if you have the appropriate clothing.  I have learned that the importance of warmth far exceeds the value of fashion and to ignore people when they sneer at my less than attractive winter riding gear. 

Another time I was on a brevet with two friends, Dick "Grasshopper" Krakowski, and Bill Pustow, when I had a flat after heedlessly crossing a  metal bridge that had a sharp edge that caused me to flat.  Cursing the loss of time but not yet concerned, I changed the tube and pulled out my CO2 inflator to fill it with air.  The inflator broke.  My regular pump was on another of my bicycles. Grasshopper said not to worry, he had his pump, but for some reason or another he either had forgotten it or it didn't work.  Bill thought he had something as well, but if I remember correctly he also had forgotten to pack it.  After what was a comedy of errors, somehow, and I don't remember how, I got the darned thing inflated and we were on our way.  But I learned to always check my bags before a brevet, or before any long ride, to make sure I have at least the basic repair tools with me.  As I have often said, it is better to carry things you don't need rather than to need them and not have them.  And while he would desperately try, my husband would never find me out on the country roads that are the Kentucky brevets.

And I could go on and on about the mistakes I have made:  not drinking enough, not eating enough, not resting enough, not dressing properly, not riding at my own pace, not testing new equipment before depending on it, etc.  But that would a novel unto itself.  I could go on about my fears, enough to fill several novels, but I overcame my fear of brevets, at least for the most part, though I do respect them. I suppose everyone makes as many mistakes as I do and maybe has as many fears.  And perhaps that is a good thing.  Neil Gaiman says to do something that I am afraid of doing, and perhaps that will be a New Years Resolution because it is hard for me and I  am afraid of so many things, including making mistakes. It is just hard to choose:  there are so many mistakes to be made including the mistake of being afraid of mistakes;-)  Ride on, friends, make the mistakes and learn.  We will make them regardless because that is the nature of the beast.  But what a shame when our fears stand in our way of trying something new.