Sunday, June 04, 2006

Grueling Hills -- I Should Know Better By Now!
























Salt stains on my helmet straps from the day's sweaty ride.


On Saturday my friends, Grant, John, Michael and I took the Metra train up to Harvard, Illinois. From there we biked to Lake Geneva, WI. The ride was going to be around 60 miles round-trip and several parts were supposed to be quite hilly.

A while ago I got a flat on the Julep, and instead of fixing it, I stole the Bianchi's front wheel. In the morning I put it back on the Bianchi, oiled his chain and was excited for bike touring season to begin!

At first I felt great and easily rode along in front with Grant. This was my first long ride since I injured my achilles tendon back in February. I was excited to shake the lead out, but also nervous about keeping up with the boys.

We split from John in Sharon, WI and planned to meet back up with him in Crystal Lake, home of the hills. The miles started to really wear on me and I felt like I was working hard to keep up...grrrr..... My pride was getting bruised, so I tried to stay in the drops and just grit my teeth and keep pedalling.

Grant said that the road around the North side of the lake was gentle hills, but that the Southern side had some massive hills. I thought the plan was to go North, refuel at lunch and then hit the Southern hills. The 'gentle hills' kicked my ass and I watched Grant and Michael put distance between us after just a few hills. Even the downhills weren't fun, because I couldn't seem to rocket down nearly as fast as the boys did. Normally most guys can go faster down hills than I do because they have more weight/momentum -- but these two flew past me on the downhills as they coasted and I spun a high gear to try to match them.

I soon felt like shit both physically and mentally. My body was tired -- lungs gasping; legs burning and weak. More than my body, I was demoralized by my poor showing. The last time I rode with Grant I pulled him for several miles going 25mph, midway through the second century in two days. My suckiness and the lonely, horrible riding on this ride crushed my pride. I was prepared to tell the boys that since the 'gentle hills' kicked my ass, I wouldn't be able to join them on the massive Southside hills.

At lunch I solicited advice for hill-climbing and learned to my delight that we had just done the grueling Southside hills. Whew!!!! My spirits climbed and I hoped that lunch would pep up my legs for the ride home.

Not to be. The pace we rode for quite a while after lunch was about 20mph and I was hanging on for all I was worth just to keep up. When we hit another patch of hills, I got dropped again and had to dig deep to get up the hills, feeling more and more exhausted and unhappy. There were several times that I seriously considered walking my bike up a hill. Totally unacceptable, but my muscles were on fire and I was exhausted. Instead I just continued my struggle to pedal uphill.

When I caught back up with the fast boys I swallowed my pride and asked that we slow down the pace. Grant was surprised and mentioned how strong and fast I had been in February. I explained that I had barely ridden more than my commute/errands since then because of my injury. They slowed down the ride, thankfully.

Still, I was working my ass off to keep up with them during the now conversational pace. I figured that my legs were just trashed from the day's hills. I felt horrible about myself and vowed some serious time in the saddle to get back into bike touring shape.

I was so glad when we got to the train station in Crystal Lake so I could rest my poor jello legs. The deep sunburn on my back couldn't even dampen my joy at being able to rest on the train. Grant and I talked about how much I sucked and how I might have to bail from the 200+ mile single-day ride he was organizing a few weeks out. Disappointing and Humiliating.

When Grant and I grabbed our bikes to get off of the train in Chicago I joked, "wouldn't it be funny if we discovered something wrong with my bike to explain how much I sucked today?!" Jokingly I lifted the front wheel to give it a spin:

The Wheel Only Moved An Inch!!!!

Grant knows my sometimes poor maintainence of my bikes, and he also recognizes (but can't understand) my inability to realize that something is wrong when pedaling is too hard, after I rode for several miles last year with wheel rubbing hard against the brake because of a broken spoke.

We loosened the brake so that the wheel spun freely and Grant shook his head in disbelief while muttering, "Jesus, woman."

I was absolutely delighted and felt my poor riding and lack of energy on the day's ride was justified. I guess I got more of a workout on the ride than I should have. Riding the Bianchi back to the neighborhood from the train station felt awesome -- effortlessly fast. It was like riding a new bike -- a total joy! I felt a big goofy smile on my face from both the pleasure of easy riding and from not feeling like a sucky-loser-failure.

Truth be told, after discovering the problem, I'm pretty pleased with my performance on the ride. Grant's odometer read over 70 miles round trip, most of which was a pretty fast clip -- plus all of those damn hills. Adding in the extra resistance from the brake rubbing on the rim makes my riding pretty good for the day.

I feel good about the touring season ahead, and instead of bailing from the upcoming 200+ mile ride, I am again excited about it.

In the future when I suck more than I deserve to, I seriously need to check whether there might be a mechanical explanation. This scenario has happened far too many times for me to not learn from it. This ride took the cake for me being clueless and out of touch with picking up on clues from my body. Had I learned of this rubbing wheel earlier, I would have probably had a blast riding fast with the boys, instead of the unpleasant, grueling ride I experienced. I should know better.

Luckily there is the whole summer ahead for fun, fast riding.

7 Comments:

At 6:06 AM, Blogger George said...

An inch?

60 miles?

Oh my God.

 
At 7:51 PM, Blogger jojo said...

Yeah, it was pretty miserable.

I'm retarded.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

Jesus, woman!

And you felt happy when you realized this? I think I'd've shot myself...

You, Jojo, are fucking hardcore. Woot!

 
At 7:16 PM, Blogger jojo said...

I wasn't happy that I was an idiot -- I was happy that there was a reason for my suckiness besides my ass being out of shape.

After the battering & bruising my poor ego took, I was thrilled to regain a semblance of pride.

 
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