May 25, 2013
Last week I put new tires on. It had been a rougher training week than I anticipated; the weather made me put off my first 50-miler (fifteen minute break at the halfway). Then work and life bogged me down and I mainly was getting commute rides of fewer than ten miles in for a week. I decided I needed to add more long rides and did a second 50-miler.
The first half of the ride was great, but my pace had lagged badly on the second half, and for the first time I was experiencing some soreness. I was stiff in my obliques and feet. I’ve been deciding on what footwear to go with the day of the Century, and thought I’d try wearing toe socks under Vibram toe shoes, thinking the double whammy would keep my feet nice and stretched. By mile 35 my pinky toes felt such pain I was having trouble peddling. I’m gonna stick with toe socks for the big day, but wearing my Merrell’s as I’ve had no issues on long rides with those.
Although an hour of Pilates work took out the stiffness and soreness, for the first time I started to worry about how my body might react to a hundred miles.
I headed to the bike shop to have new tires put on, and I confessed my fears to the shop owner, Kevin. He pshawwed, “You ride enough. You’ll be fine. The only thing you have to worry about is the boredom.”
I understand what he’s talking about. In a long ride there can come a point where you just want to be done, where the scenery and the mental challenge stops being interesting. Since it’s my first Century, I’m thinking the mental challenge of those last twenty five miles is going to be the tough part, but even during training this past week there have been moments.
I need to ride again?! This thought was prevalent early last week when rain and overcast skies made it hard to get excited about getting on the bike. I’d planned on doing a 34 mile ride down to Three Floyd’s Brewery in Munster, Indiana on Friday, and last week my friend and Pilates colleague, Amanda, expressed an interest in tagging along for both riding and beer drinking purposes.
It is no surprise to those who know me that a great motivation for a long ride for me is to put beer at each end of it. What I had forgotten about, is how motivational it is to ride with someone.
One of the things I noticed about joining a bike group is how my inherent competitiveness kicked in. Not only did I want to keep up, I wanted to be in front. There have been times when, alone on a trail, another cyclist passes me and I suddenly kick in and draft them, taking my pace and physical effort up to a place that clearly I was capable of, yet I hadn’t somehow found on my own.
Yesterday’s ride wasn’t about speed, though. We had decided to ride to the brewpub, have about a two-hour lunch break, then bike west to the Homewood Metra station and take the train back to the city. Amanda rides pretty regularly as a commuter, but this was a longer ride for her, and I had a pig roast to get to in Hyde Park by 4, so it seemed best not to try to ride the whole route back.
I carefully mapped the route down to the pub, but we still missed a turn. We stopped to notice the views of the lake, the deadened parts on the south side of town, noted the change of the smells as neighborhoods changed. We commented on how driver’s courtesy differed by area, how people on the trail in Indiana said “Hi” as you passed. We noted the names of diners and discos, of hair salons and ice cream shops. “Homestyle is Best,” said a sign above one of the many restaurants with the word “family” at the end.
We saw cemeteries covered with fresh bouquets of flowers marking the Memorial Weekend and I thought about how many veterans must have lived in the area. We commented on changes in architectural styles and about how time touches some places and leaves others alone. We arrived in Munster to find a huge line of people buying a recent release of Zombie Dust, and a half hour wait to eat. We chatted and planned a Pilates clinic for cyclists. A bartender at Three Floyd’s photobombed our picture spectacularly.
Amanda noticed the table behind us was three cyclists we’d passed back in South Shore and we chatted. Hours later, in Homewood, we sipped Frappucinos and a couple lady cops directed us to the correct train platform, laughing and joking with us.
I think about a lot of things when I ride alone, and I enjoy that mental time. But I have to admit the miles flew by having someone else to muse with. I managed to get us lost on our way back to Homewood (the area I knew “so well”, I didn’t bother carefully mapping, and bungled a turn.) Overall, we did 49 miles, not including our morning commutes. It was the kind of day that reminded me of how easy it is to overlook the bond you can have with a perfect stranger, with a colleague, with a friend, and how you should try not to. A great ride is a wonderful thing, but a great ride with a friend is even better. And a great ride with a good friend AND good beer, well…