Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Frozen Snot (director’s version)

This was not at all like last year’s ride. We had a kick-ass tailwind on the way up to Milwaukee. Also different was that people didn’t ride in large groups this time. Our first (and only) group stop was in Evanston to attend a press conference. Afterwards we could go at our own pace. Weirdly, the slower riders were in the lead and everyone poked along.

At this point I was chatting with Dan and we agreed that the pace was too slow and that someone should make a break. I offered and he agreed to follow my lead. (Dan usually hangs in the rear of the front pack at the Tour, pedaling like crazy to stay in the draft.) We expected that the other faster riders would follow us. We were (sorta) wrong. For quite a while it was just us two ahead of the pack, before Paul and Jordan finally joined us. They didn’t tuck up behind Dan and I and we ended up dropping them in short order. Then Jim Freeman zipped past on his new recumbent and we sprinted ahead to keep up. Jim is a fast, fast rider on a regular bike – winning the race portion of the last Tour and usually coming in among the top ten riders. On a recumbent he just flies.

Keeping up with Jim was thrilling, but hard work. After a few miles I was overheating and sweating. I realized that Dan was nowhere behind me and told Jim that I needed to stop to strip down. We pulled over for water and clothing removal. Dan arrived and the boys ate some food. Then a pack of other riders rode on past us. Dan said that he couldn’t keep up with Jim and me, so he wanted a head start to catch the pack and left. I waited a bit longer for Paul, but didn’t see him, so I too, left ahead of Jim – knowing that I wouldn’t be able to stay with him if he sprinted to catch the front group.

After a bit, I saw Dan’s helmet in the distance and I started closing the gap. After a while he caught the group and hung in the draft as I attempted to do the same. Then I got caught at a long, suburban stoplight and the group disappeared from sight. In Highland Park I took a wrong turn and went about a mile out of the way, turned around and met up with a lot of the normal-speed riders who were taking a break. Paul wasn’t there, and I assumed that he was ahead of me – and thinking that I was ahead of him. I saw a few other bikers a ways ahead, so I jumped to catch up with them. To my delight, I also happened to see the silhouette of a recumbent zip onto a path about two blocks ahead – it was wearing Jim’s helmet! Giddy-up!

Jim’s helmet bobbed in and out of sight as the bike path curved. I wanted so badly to catch him and zoomed past a few other riders while on this mission. Still, I wasn’t making much progress closing the gap. Finally, he stopped and I noticed that there was another rider stopped with him – it was Paul! I joined them, hot and sweaty and wanting to keep riding. They were hunkered down for a rest stop, though. After a bit my sweaty clothes chilled my body considerably and I told them that I would ride uphead, slowly, to stay warm until they caught up. This was a good idea in theory, but not so good in practice, because biking slowly didn’t warm me up, but did create airflow around me. I stopped to put on warmer mittens and hoped to see Paul, but alas, no. So I poked forward. Jim screamed past me, but I didn’t follow and instead continued slowly until Paul arrived.

I wasn’t very happy with this situation, because previously Paul and I had agreed that we would try to ride with the super-speedy group. In my opinion he hadn’t even tried to keep up. I imagined that somewhere ahead there was a fast group of Grant, Dan, Josh and Andy (soon to be joined by Jim) who were having a great time riding fast to Milwaukee in a pack/pace-line. Instead, I was left to ride with only Paul, or join one of the slower groups. Neither option was ideal for me, because I wanted a bigger group that also rode fast.

Unlike last year, there was no set lunch meet-up spot to possibly join up with the fast group. Paul and I basically rode the rest of the ride together. At times we leap-frogged with other riders, who passed us when we stopped, but none of them were going fast enough to keep up with us for very long.

As I mentioned earlier, my Bianchi resented being stabled for the last several months and my fabulous seat had morphed into a torture device. Being in the saddle was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I just wanted to get to Milwaukee as fast as possible and get out of the saddle. Otherwise, my body felt fine. Keeping my temperature comfortable was the only other problematic thing. Most of the ride I wore a thin merino wool long sleeve shirt, armwarmers and different combinations of gloves and mittens. At times I also wore a super-thin silk turtleneck. When we stopped, my body would quickly switch from ‘too hot’ to freezing as my sweat cooled. I wanted our stops to be very brief: pee, hydrate, leave. It seemed to me that Paul was trying to freeze me to death with his dawdling.

Somewhere between mile 70 and 80 I felt my energy lag. It felt like I was spinning too much, but there wasn’t any higher gear to shift into. Then I noticed a shocking sight – I was in my middle chain ring. My tiredness made sense now – I had spent the day riding in too low of a gear for my mashing tendencies. I flipped into a higher gear and almost immediately felt better once I could slow down my cadence.

We stopped for a leisurely lunch in Racine, had several shorter breaks and got to the end point in Milwaukee by 3:30. There was one other rider there, who said he hadn’t taken any long break. I figured that the ‘fast group’ had arrived in Milwaukee earlier, but decided to go to a museum or something (the fast group did that last year). Nope. The riders slowly trickled in. In some strange turn of events, the ‘fast riders’ that I imagined having fun zipping up to Milwaukee and then having more fun at a museum, were actually behind us. Racing ahead in hopes of catching them was actually putting more distance between us.

The next day was awkward, too. I very much enjoyed the ride until Kenosha because we were riding with the group that I wanted to, and riding fast. Grant, Dan and I were in front for a lot of the ride and setting the pace while chatting as the miles rolled quickly beneath us. At one point when I was pulling I felt like I had let the pace slow, so I clicked up a gear higher and settled in the drops. I heard Grant make some sort of approving sound and we rode on at the faster speed for a while. He then yelled, "damn woman you can pull – you do know that we dropped the group a long time ago, right?" Oops.

Grant agreed that it was fun to ride fast, but we slowed down a bit and Dan caught up with us. I couldn’t see Paul or other members of the group and we were heading into Kenosha. We rounded a curve along the lake and I decided to wait for Paul to catch up, thinking that he would like to take pictures of the lovely view. I dropped back and watched Grant and Dan get smaller, but still no other riders were coming. I also was getting cold, so I decided to catch back up with them. I rode with them until we reached the Kenosha Metro Train Station.

Paul’s ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend were taking the train up to meet us and then ride back to Chicago together. Their train was scheduled to arrive at 12:15. It wasn’t even 11:00. I pulled over and waited for Paul, wishing I could continue riding with Grant and Dan, because it was a fun, fast pace. Riding in a group and riding fast helped to distract me from my saddle soreness – which wasn’t as bad as the previous day.

Several people rode past, and then Paul did too and we stopped for lunch. A lot of the rest of the ride annoyed me. I was resentful that I had give up riding with the fast boys so that we could meet Paul’s ex-girlfriend. Earlier I had suggested that they get off of the train at an earlier spot so that we didn’t have to wait as long for them, but the suggestion fell on deaf ears. I also was annoyed that Paul wasn’t keeping up.

Clare and Scott were at the station and informed us that they hadn’t eaten yet – even though Paul instructed them to eat so that we could get on the road as soon as they got off the train. They were completely fresh and not in synch with the rest of the people on the ride. At several places they wanted to deviate from the route to explore a town or some other nonsense. At one point I bitchily said, "As I mentioned before, my position is that I want to get to Chicago with as little time in the saddle as possible; I don’t want to detour; I don’t want to explore; my bike seat hurts and I don’t want any unneccesary riding." Plus, the chances of running into other riders would lower if we got off of the route.

Basically I was grumpy. At one point we met up with another group of riders and joined them. This was fun. Too soon, we had to leave them so that Clare and Scott could have their lunch. Grrrrr....... They also seemed to be getting tired, so Paul and I pulled much more than they did. I wasn’t very pleased with the situation.

Anyway, we made it into Chicago....showered.....changed....went to the after-party.....had a good grumpiness dissolved. The Julep felt great to ride – even though I accidently tried coasting on her several times, resulting in her kicking me.


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