Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Catherine started it

Catherine started it when she came back from a weekend in Ithaca.  She had one of those  save-the-date postcards for an AIDS benefit ride around Cayuga Lake.  It was her way of saying that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I lost a few pounds.
But I thought it sounded like fun: one hundred miles around a pretty lake on a crisp fall day.  Nice, right?

So, after letting the card sit on the kitchen counter for the better part of a month, I signed up, raised a few hundred bucks, and trained all summer.  And when September came, I cranked out the hundred miles and all I could think about was riding more.  Since then, I have spun my skinny bicycle tires over thousands and thousands of miles of roads both dirt and paved.

This past weekend, I struggled to 18th place in the Tour of the Adirondacks and, if my thumbs and fingers are correct, that slog marked my 10th race.

Now, there are a lot of bike blogs and, as a cyclist, I find more than a few of them interesting for a variety of reasons that only other cyclists understand.  Cycling, to be sure, is one of the many subsets of subsets of social groups that exist in the world.  And as much as this blog is all about me, I do have some empathy towards my dear reader (hi, Jane).  So, after my 10th race, I would like to share a few observations that I have made about bicycling, bicycles and bicyclists.

The sound.  I had never ridden in a pack or peloton before.  I, like other casual watchers of the Tour de France, had heard it again and again: riding with a group is faster and easier than riding all alone.  Well, what can I say?  It’s true.  What I didn’t understand was that it is more like flying in a swarm of bees than riding a bike.  Not all that many people have heard the sound of ten or fifteen pairs of wheels each with 20 or 24 spokes each ripping through the air and each with a narrow tire inflated to impossible pressures working the grain of a country road.  And this is something I think about when I am riding with the club or some other group:  how lucky I am to hear this sound, to hurtle inches from other bodies all doing the same as me, trusting the others to keep from crashing and bringing the whole thing down like bowling pins.  It’s thrilling.

The pain.  We, as people, can’t remember pain.  We only remember that there was pain but the actual feeling can’t be stored or recalled…or so I believe.  Now, I’m very sure there is some pain in cycling.  I know it.  But as I write, I am hard-pressed to give it the respect it probably deserves.  When I am driving to the race, I completely forget the pain and visualize myself laying big patches of smoking rubber as I attack relentlessly on the hills.  But when the race begins and the peloton flies over the first few little climbs or ‘kickers’ I begin to remember the pain.  It’s really more like a low-level insurrection at that point but half way up the first major climb and the insurrection has become an all-out rebellion.  Those imagined attacks on the climb?  Long gone.

The beauty.  Earlier this spring I was riding with two other guys and a storm was brewing as we headed out over the broad, lush flats that drain the foothills of the Taconics.  When the storm hit, sheets of rain lashed us like movie-set waves washing over the decks of a crippled vessel.  But as quickly as the storm was upon us, we popped out the other side to see a golden sunset set the hills on fire and the hayfields turn to molten gold while the storm, a dark gray ball of cloud, sent streaks of lightning dancing over its surface in the west.

Thanks, Catherine.

1 comment:

  1. you are an engaging writer, Kim. I love your natural style. I hope you keep this up too....xx S