Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rituals and a Friend in Need

Cyclists tend to be ritualistic by nature. We do this ride this day; we do that ride that day. We need this coffee, energy drink, or ionized water before we feel good to go. We count pedal revolutions, miles, kilometers, hours, heart rates, and power outputs. Then we sit around and compare the numbers from this day with the numbers from that day. When the numbers don't add up, we get agitated. Now my buddy Juancho may chime in here and say, "I don't count no stinkin' numbers!". And to some degree, he'll be telling the truth. But even the most free spirited of our kind have some degree of the ritual in them. It could be as simple as remembering how many "smoke breaks" were taken during the ride, or how many days it's been since your last ride. For Fat Lad, it's the mumbling of "...helmet, shoes, buff, camelbak,...", as he wanders the house in hopes of forgetting nothing important before he embarks on the day's adventure.

Sometimes I get aggravated with myself for getting caught up in the numbers. Am I getting caught in a rut? Do I need to be so regimented? Where's my free spirit? Relax, man! This is supposed to be for fun!!

But some of these rituals are part of the fun. Some are down right comforting. All winter I look forward to summertime and the return of daylight savings time. The time of year when it stays light out until 8:00pm and later. This time of year brings back a thursday night ritual that I've been a part of for the past 10 years! Unfortunately, this year the ritual looks like she's on the ropes and may be breathing her last.

I didn't start the the thursday Joe's ride. It had nothing to do with Joe's back then. Ricky Silk, Ace Lashley, Double D, and I think Bob Bacardi, were the architects of the loop through Killearn. They came up with the route to add some road training into their growing expert and semi-pro mountain bike training, back in the early to mid 90's. The loop travels through a large, established neighborhood with very wide roadways. There are plenty of hills and turns to keep your from becoming bored with the straightline monotony that can perpetuate too many road routes. Back then, the rides were not too big. Maybe the original four with a few visitors.

I'd only done the loop a few times, but at some point when I was working at Joe's Bike Shop, we started running this ride out of the shop every thursday during daylight savings. The rock stars in town all lived for the wednesday night Food Lion ride, but those of us who were more second tier, we waited for thursday. This was our ritual. Food Lion is your typical, take no prisoners, road race simulation, hammer fest. I've tried to hang on that ride more times than I'll ever remember, and I'll try again, but thursday, the efforts are shorter. Their defined in such a manner as to prevent the "all out", start to finish, mentality of Food Lion. After the efforts, the ride chills, to let those dropped, come back. And if you can't get back on, the loop is short enough that you can just back track, and join in the 2nd or 3rd go around. This encourages those of us not quite fast enough, to participate. At Food Lion, it's all I can do to sit in, and I still don't make it. At the Joe's Ride, guys and girls who are hangers on at the fast rides can actually go to the front and play a role, with less fear of getting left, permanently dropped, out in the boondocks.

It's safe to say I've developed a heavy duty attachment to this summertime, thursday ritual. She's like an old friend that moves back every summer. Over the years the ride had swollen to include as many as 20-30 riders on any given thursday. The energy was a blast! Every year there were a ton of new faces, as well as old friends. I've been out of the shop for almost 5 years, but guys like Carl, at Great Bicycle Shop, the boys over at Higher Ground, and sometimes even Larry from Sunshine, kept the shop presence alive every thursday. My crew would roll from the office and do a warm up lap, then we'd meet the shop crews at the beginning of the loop. Shop versus shop. Mountain guys versus road guys. Juniors versus everybody. The entertainment would begin again every summer.

But this year, something has changed. I was amped for the first ride of the year. I had about 8 guys roll from the office, but when we met the others, there were only about 8 or 9 people. Oh well I thought, first Joe's Ride of the year, and they did move daylight savings up to March this year. Maybe word hasn't gotten around, yet. Halfway into the first sprint, one of my crew gets a flat. We wait and never rejoined the ride. With daylight savings so early this year, it looked like it would be dark rather early, so no 2nd lap, and no regroup. I was pretty bummed, but there's always next week. The next week, I kept the stoke under control, not wanting to be let down again. But this week I get wind that Gillis and the Atomic Team are planning to ride the Food Lion loop again on thursday. So there went a half dozen of the guys who showed for the first ride. When my crew met the ride this time there were only about 6 people, plus our 5. I'm not liking this trend. As the 3rd ride of the year comes around, I don't know what to expect. Atomic is doing Food Lion, again. I only had 5 guys out of the office, but 1 is going home early. Our 4 met the main group that included a whopping 2 people!!

Now I'm definitely more attached than most, but the Joe's Ride is in trouble. I'm not sure what happened this year. Carl moved to Orlando, and I've seen no one from Great Bicycle Shop. I've seen maybe 1 guy from Higher Ground. What happened to all of the shop guys? Do they no longer do group road rides? Where are all of the FSU team kids? Did that club die again? I guess without the shop spokesmen , the word doesn't get out as well. I'm thinking that maybe I'll go around to the shops this week and see what's up. Maybe I can stir some interest. Anyway, if any of you enjoyed the thurday night Joe's Ride, come on out this thursday. If we don't get participation up so the word spreads, she'll die before long. Who knows, she may die this week. Either way, I'll be out there thursday night. I figure I've been there this long, I may as well see it the end. Hopefully the end isn't as near as it seems. I don't really feel like looking for a new thursday night ritual.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ego Boost or Ego Bust?

I stepped out of my usual routine this morning. Usually it's all about getting together with the crew for nice mountain bike ride to wash away the grime of the workweek. Today, I opted to attend the Saturday Chaires Road Ride, as I clearly needed to have my ass handed to me. Marko, Rodrique, and Big Jim Slade decided to play along, and joined in for the fun. I use that term, "fun", very loosely!

Oh dear Lord, that ride turned me inside out. Marko and I made it to the end with the A Group, but in their defense, it was an easy ride this week. Nothing like being stoked to have suffered through seven levels of hell, and then be told nonchalantly at the end, "Yeah, it was nice taking it easy today, I'm a little under the weather." Or my other favorite, " Today was a nice tempo ride. I'm glad it wasn't so fast for a change."

They can all kiss my @55!! I saw way more 170+ time on my heart rate monitor than I thought I was capable of.!! Mark wasn't giving them the satisfaction and promptly responded with, "Yeah, we haven't been out here in a few years. It was nice to come back to a slower ride for the first one." Complete BS, but I'm glad he had the wherewithal to play the game, 'cause I was still too far in oxygen debt. At that point I'm pretty sure I was pondering more important things like, who's legs those were pedalling my bike, or if I'd actually ever feel my taint again.

We arrived at the truck to discover that Rodrique either made it back and drove home, or someone had stolen his truck. Big Jim Slade, however, was nowhere to be seen, while his truck was still where he left it. We had hoped he'd used one of the shortcuts to beat us back, but no such luck. I started changing back to street clothes and trying to stretch a little when my phone starts ringing. Obviously in a low blood sugar moment, I was cussing the phone for disturbing my inventory of body parts that may never feel the same. Mark insists I grab it in case it's Slade, but I was just a second too slow, story of my life. I open the phone to see I've missed 5 calls from our missing compadre. I call him back and he answers, " What the hell??!! I haven't seen the first search party yet!!! Are you guys coming or what??!!". As soon as we get through laughing, Mark and I load up and go looking for the last of the Lost Boys.

It was definitely an eye opener to go that hard for that long. You lose focus for a few seconds and a gap opens that you may not be able to close. Ask Jim, it's a long ride home solo.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


This is what happens if you hassle Big Jim Slade too much, when he's really concentrating on premier line choice.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'll Take Trial and Error. Heavy on the Error please...

Well, after a rough day of flinging his body to the ground in various fashions on Sunday, word on the street is that Big Jim Slade is geared up and ready for round two. Singletrack training begins tonight.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Evil Siren Song

It's happening again. It happened this same time last year. Despite my best efforts to stave it off, the longing creeps back in. Keeping the desire away is about as fruitless as holding water in your cupped hands. One weak moment on a friend's website, and my heart swells with pride at his accomplishments...again.

I swore it off after the first venture. I was weak and returned for a second tour of duty. It's funny how a year will fog the memories of sleepless nights, and days. Long hours of caring for tired riders and their machines that carry them across this great big country of ours. And I promise you, this country is a hell of a lot larger at 25mhp! The 2nd RAAM was alot harder for me, than the first go around. You'd think it would be easier, with experience, and all. Maybe the experience was the killer. Having the knowledge of just how big an undertaking we were on kept my nerves on edge. I always felt like one mistake would topple our monstrous house of cards. Carl and Paul stayed on a high all the way through their first year, as did I the year before. Maybe the knowing what was behind the curtain sullied the polish.

Regardless, I found myself on the teamtype1 website tonight, and those evil longings of participating in that grand debacle crept inside my defenses again. I've fended off the calls to battle so far. My adopted little brother, Phil, is not on the RAAM team this year, as he's part of the pro team now. As a matter of fact, he's enjoying the steep part of the learning curve at the Tour of Taiwan. As a big brother, I reserve the right to snicker at his suffering. His not being at RAAM this year makes it a little easier for me to bow out. But it still doesn't stop the desire.

This year I've reserved my time for a new grand adventure, which hopefully will be substantially less stressful, albeit substantially more expensive.