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Saturday, February 24, 2018

To Ride or Not to Ride



"The hardest thing about the road not taken
is that you never know where it might have led."
Lisa Wingate



Next week-end  is the Kentucky 200K, and I am in no shape to ride it.  I have not been idle all winter, but I have only done shorter rides and some spin classes.  Accidents that left me with some lingering issues combined with the loss of the Big Dogs site and the loss of any long rides on the club schedule took away some of the motivation I had to get out and ride long rides all winter.  I grin thinking of the irony of this:  finally I have the clothing and the knowledge of how to pretty much stay warm unless it gets abnormally cold for this area, and I am not out there. But I forgive myself.  Most of my energy is focusing on retirement now that the long awaited finish nears.

Steve Rice tempts me saying that he also is out of shape and that perhaps our paces will match each other, for while I have enjoyed solitude on some brevets in the past, being widowed I know I spend altogether too much time alone and it would be good to visit and catch up a bit.  Then again, I know how hard it is to ride a brevet with someone.  Energy levels rise and ebb when there is that much distance to be covered and you have to take advantage of those moments when you feel strong. I contacted him to see if the route was marked as it has been in the past, but I also tell him  not to mark it my account as I am unsure if I will even attempt it.  And so, I waver back and forth, one moment deciding to give it a go and another not.  

My thoughts take me to the hard brevets, the ones where there were times where my strength was depleted.  I am on the road with Bill Pustow, Steve Royse, and Grasshopper, the wind is howling so loudly that we can't ease the ride through conversation, the sleet falls in a slant seen only through our headlights.  We lose Steve and we don't even know.  I remember thinking that if I stop, if I do not continue to put one foot in front of the other and continue turning the pedals, I will perish out here.  But I also remember the beauty of the unexpected eclipse that night and the elation at the end as we pulled into the last control and knew we had mastered a course that quite easily could have mastered us.  I remember the companionship as we shared a meal at Waffle House before heading our cars to homeward.   And I remember the warmth my husband's arms wrapped around me as he held me after I arrived home and how he called me crazy and how I knew that he was proud of my strength and my endurance despite the fact he did not understand what drove me.

My thoughts take me to brevets ridden in wind and cold and all day rain that soak into your very soul until you feel you will never be truly, deliciously warm again.  Only movement can salvage any semblance of coziness and comfort on those type of days:  the moment I stop I am doomed to chilling that shakes my entire being all the way to the core.  I remember riding with Claudia and Grasshopper and getting almost to the end only to find a train broken down on the train tracks we needed to cross, hardly fair after conquering the mountain on Oregon Road. But then my mind takes me to the happy moments, the laughter and the companionship and the beauty that is Kentucky in the spring.  One year a section of the road held what seemed to be hundreds of wild rabbits out in the dusk as I neared the last control, tails bobbing as they skittered here and there.  The allure of night riding, that feeling that it is just you and your bicycle and that everyone and everything else is asleep, snoring in warm beds.  My almost collision with a possum who took issue with my traversing his road. The amazement on the faces of store clerks as they sign control cards to prove you passed their way.

In the end my decision will probably depend upon the weather prediction.  If it were a PBP year and if I were committed to riding PBP again, (I'm not)  I could probably talk myself into an all day rain with a strong head wind on the way back or cold and windy conditions; but since I have not and am not committed, I doubt that I would once again ride some of the conditions I have in the past for I know how it will hurt.  Perhaps, I think, I have had too much hurt or perhaps I am too old because I don't know if I can go there again. Perhaps I have just changed. Or perhaps I am just not as strong as I used to be.  Oh, I know I could physically finish despite not being particularly fit right now.  Brevets, however, after a certain point, are less about physical fitness than they are about mental commitment.  I must admit, however, that if I decide not to ride, I will have the above mentioned "road not taken" syndrome, for during a brevet you never really know what might happen.  Decisions, decisions. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Trek Woman's Mountain Bike Clinic 2018


"There is freedom waiting for you
 on the breezes of the sky.
And you ask, 'What if I fall?'
Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?" 
Erin Hanson


 For numerous reasons, I have been trying new things or variations of old things.  I am exploring myself, my interests, even my friendships, trying to picture how I want to forge my path forward as my life changes yet again. So recently I e-mailed a old friend that I trust who mountain bikes and works at Scheller's Bike Shop about mountain biking and was told of an upcoming woman's clinic sponsored by Trek and the store happening at the Mega Cavern in Louisville.  John Molnar sold my husband my first bike, so perhaps again it is a way my husband has of pointing me in a way I might go.

I must admit, I have always been a bit concerned about mountain biking.  I had a supervisor at one time that would mountain bike, and I lost count of the bone breaks and injuries he had over the years, not just road rash or something small, but significant injuries.  And those of you that know me, know that I loath the thought of another shoulder injury and losing more years of not being able to sleep on my side without pain.  Still, this could happen on a road bike.  Yes, I might fall, but as Ms. Hanson asks, "What if I fly."  I e-mail Diana to see if she is interested in going with me.  She responds that she is in and plans are made.

As the day nears, I find myself surprisingly pumped about it. A grin splits my face as I work on my mountain bike changing pedals, oiling the chain, and making other minor checks and changes.  I think of my first brevets:  the painfully thorough checking of all my bags to try to ensure that I had what I needed.  I must admit, that there is something that I just like about the preparation.  Inevitably, however, despite careful preparation, I think of something that I "might" need, but because of or in spite of my planning I have always somehow managed to get by. And frankly, in this case, having never done it, I am not quite sure what I might need, but I use my imagination.

We arrive at the caverns early because Diana is renting a bike and neither of us wants to drive down and find no bikes available and come home.  After checking in, they tell us we can start riding while we wait for the clinic, and we are some of the very first people in that day.  The air is heavy, but not oppressive as it will become later in the day when activity sails dust into the air.  It is huge in here.  At first I worry about finding my way out, but we both note all the number signs that point the way outwards.

After we ride a bit, we run into Ameila Dauer who is also taking the clinic and is in my group.  It is good to see her.  I don't believe we have ridden together since the Medora Century, and it is good to have a bit of time to catch up.  She tells me that Paul Battle is getting an award for 150,000 club miles at the banquet tonight and I ask her to give him my best.  I have not been to the banquet for a number of years, and I won't go tonight, but I am glad to hear his efforts are being rewarded.

I then find that Sherri Thompson is one of our instructors.  She tells me she had been planning on taking one of the more advanced clinics, but they had not expected such a large crowd and asked her to help and she agreed.  I briefly think how this unselfishness seems to be an integral part of her character.  While I don't know her that well, I am appreciative.  It is interesting to me how many people from different walks of life that I have met through bicycling.  The shared interest bonds us as the game of Bridge bonded my mother with her friends.  (My mother would much rather I played bridge and always hated my cycling).  What makes us pick cycling?  And how many different types of cycling there are to pick from.

We take our class and learn some of the basics.  Eventually we begin to do some basic jumps over a noodle, first lifting our front wheel, then our back wheel, then both.  When the instructor explains the movement involved in lifting the back wheel, it somehow clicks for me.  I never do know how high I am lifting wheels or if I am clearing the noodle completely or knocking it about as some are doing, but I know they are lifting.  The jumping is much easier for me than some of the other moves such as ratcheting.  But now I have something to practice. 

After the class, I meet Diana and we ride a bit more.  It becomes rather obvious to me that she is much more of a natural at this than am I, for I am still stiff and unsure and it translates to my handling. Her quick reflexes (something that will save us from a car accident following the clinic) and lack of tension make her a natural. I fall twice that day, both after the clinic is over.  She does not fall at all. And I know that while I will do this again because it is a blast, I will fall repeatedly before I ever really feel comfortable on paths that twist like snakes and hills you can't pedal up without clipping your pedal on the dirt.  Hopefully, I think, it is like riding with cleats.  You fall down a few times and then something clicks and you remember.  Yes, I might fall, but what if I fly?  A variation on an old theme for me will provide some amusement in my retirement.  And I am glad I came.  Thanks, John.  Thanks, Trek.  Thanks instructors and friends.  It was a great day!