I've alluded to the fact that I went for a ride the day before the wedding. Not only that, it was just before the rehearsal. My best man Rich and I went to a local (to my dad's house) shop Cycle Center to meet up with two of my good friends Kevin and Greg. Mike (my groomsman), who all of us desperately wanted on the ride, was unable to attend, having to finish a beautiful Aston Martin by Sunday - for a show, I guessed, and it ends up there was a high end car show Sunday morning.
One of the problems in getting a ride set up was the fact that Rich and Kevin both live really far away - California and Colorado respectively. So neither had a bike out here and Kevin didn't even bring pedals. Seeing as Greg is about the same size as Rich and Kevin, I'd asked him about borrowing some bikes from him (he usually has a bunch of bikes or friends who can loan him bikes). He told me he'd take care of it and said to talk to Nate at Cycle Center.
Cycle Center? Was he storing his bikes there?
It ends up that when Nate heard of our predicament, he volunteered us two bikes - his own and a demo. They fit Rich and Kevin perfectly after Nate did some seat adjustments. Kevin bought some pedals, I bought some Enervit stuff, and eventually we kitted up and headed out.
Rich got Nate's personal 'cross bike and although he was initially skeptical of the various "shock absorbing" things on the bike, he seemed quite at home on the bike and eventually admitted the bike was pretty comfy. His Indurain-like pedaling style put the hurt on Kevin and myself on the first big (up) hill. My heart rate was starting to rise.
Luckily the road leveled and the three of us commented on Rich's steady but spirited pull. Rich was modest about it - it's hard to judge pace when you aren't looking around all the time. Nevertheless he backed off a bit on his pulls after that. With him a bit out of the "attacking" picture (in other words, this was a ride for me, not a hammerfest ride), Greg or Kevin ended up pulling ahead here and there.
Me, I was sitting in like usual, except when I wanted to go fast on the more thrilling parts (descents and a curve or two). I rode in a familiar zone because these guys and I go back a long way. Before Gene helped me with the Bethel Spring Series, it was Rich who was there, week after week, year after year. He worked with me as well, and as a friend, he's offered advice and observations, at times quite pointed. But that's what friends are for, right? Because if they don't tell you the real deal, no one will.
And just like Gene would work hard for me in my most important target races (like the 2005 Bethel Spring Series final where Gene absolutely rode his legs into the ground to support me), so too did Rich work his heart out for me on the bike. In one of my posts I detail his work as the then-unidentified Primary Leadout. What was incredible (and for which I felt bad) was whenever any race we were both in started winding down to its last laps, he'd always be looking for me, looking to pull me to the front, drop me off in a prime spot for the dash to the line. It seemed that he never thought to go for it himself.
Kevin was just like that before he moved out west. He, too, helped at the Bethel Spring Series. Similarly, he also helped me with my shop (again, making some pointed observations). In races too he'd look to lead me out - one race in particular sticks out as he was racing for a different team - I had two leadout guys competing to lead me out! And way back when, he helped me simply by being my second roommate during the first few years I had my house (and was dying for a paying roommate). He even found my third roommate after my first one moved out after she got married. His helpful nature manifested itself as he couldn't resist calling with offers of assistance the day before this ride
These "help your friend" habits die hard it seems. Towards the end of the ride, when the missus called to check where I was, I had to ease up to pull the phone out of my pocket. Kevin eased with me and watched as I flipped open my phone. I answered with "I'm running a bit late," and then made sure I knew what to wear, etc.
After I hung up Kevin looked over and commented that perhaps a different opening might have been better - the "I'm running a bit late" could have been improved to something like "Hi honey, how's it going?". Nonetheless, with the reasonably tight schedule in mind, his helpful mind turned to the task at hand - he asked me if he should go to the front to up the pace.
I felt like I was in the Yellow Jersey in the Tour.
Minus any doping allegations of course.
Greg too somehow always wanted to help out. I've known him a while - and if you've followed the posts, I've written a few bits about him, my favorite being the Purple Jersey post. Even at the peak of his riding he'd ask if I wanted to ride with him (imagine being asked by a Chris Horner if you wanted to ride with him - nice, yes, but how much good would it do Chris to have to wait for me everywhere?). Whenever we rode, he'd talk about "Oh man, I should lead you out for Gimbles" or Bethel or whatever ride/race we happened to be talking about at the time.
He's a lot younger than me - in fact, I was already an "adult" when I met this scrawny 12 year old kid. And like most kids, he had his issues - one that bugged me was his lackadaisical attitude towards time.
A long time ago he told me he'd ride with me at a particular time. When he didn't show up for a while (perhaps 20 or 30 minutes), I called him up and let loose with a lot of choice words. He claimed it wasn't a big deal, etc etc etc. Although it dampened our riding (and talking) for a bit, we smoothed it over like friends do.
Well, it seems that life has taught him a few lessons. Rich and I were running late with the car swap taking a bit longer than expected (ditto the physical). We'd told Kevin and Greg we'd be there at 2. I was driving my brother's Honda as fast as I could, meaning slightly above the limit on non-highways but accelerating hard (and faster on the highways). At the same time I was trying to listen for some indescribable "axle noise" reported by my brother (I didn't hear it). I'd been talking to Rich about Greg, how he's matured as he's gotten older (don't we all?), and I told him that Greg would probably call as we're running late. As if on cue, my phone rang. I glanced at the time before I answered it - 2:00:55.
Greg, it seems, gave us about 55 seconds leeway. Not bad for someone who used to show up 30 minutes late for stuff.
"Hey, where are you guys?"
Anyway, we were riding, I wasn't pulling much (basically never), and I used my lower frontal area and equal weight to descend like a rock. Greg (the only one who still lives and rides around the area) led us around on roads I'd forgotten about and it was nice to rediscover (and remember) the various descents, fast curves, and fun stuff on the ride. The whole time I was conscious of the fact that I had a rehearsal and dinner, and I knew we were already pushing the time envelope. This meant riding conservative, working hard on the hills, and letting the guys do the work on the flats.
You know, like old days.
That was until a little truck went trundling by at about 30 mph. I looked at it lovingly - an absolutely perfect leadout truck.
But no, this was my pre-rehearsal ride and I didn't want to show up at the rehearsal absolutely shattered.
That was when the back end of the truck went by - and the trailer it was pulling started past me.
The trailer pushed my self control out the window. I glanced, made sure I had some room (I did, barely), and jumped like the finish line on the Champs Elysee was 200 meters away. The car following the trailer tried to pass me (i.e. nudge me away from the back of the trailer since I was all of ten feet behind the trailer, not enough room for the car to actually pass me) but I doggedly stayed on the trailer, shifting up a few times until finally I was in my 11T, flying along at what the Power Tap claimed to be 42 mph. For some reason I kept going as long as I could and then ka-blam I blew sky high.
I coasted down and realized that I'd just done what I didn't want to do - totally annihilated myself. Luckily there was a light and stuff but we turned right and started up a hill.
Oh crap. I remembered this hill. It's long (and it's why I usually turn left at the light, which is what I was assuming we'd do). You know what assume stands for right?
Anyway, my back had gone numb (it does that after big sprints), I felt pretty queasy, and my legs were totally spent. I could barely bend my legs to turn the pedals - Mister Power Tap says I rode at about 6.5 mph for the next 10 minutes or so. This was a bit slow for the guys so they stopped and waited (sort of like old days again) and we went at a much reduced pace while I recovered (again, like old days).
Kevin was chuckling. Apparently when he saw the truck he just knew I wouldn't be able to resist. Of course I went flying by - and after the three of them watched me scamper away, Kevin turned to the other guys.
"Just wait a second... wait.. wait... There! Did you hear that?"
"That was Aki exploding."
Chuckle chuckle and all that.
When they stopped at the top of the hill to wait for me, they had enough time that they were busy examining the two loaner bikes and comparing notes on them. We headed back at, our time for riding quickly vanishing, Kevin doing some good pace making, even gapping Rich and Greg at one point accelerating through the last hard turn of the ride, but as we headed down the last stretch of road to the shop, Greg rocketed off. We sat up as he looked back with a big cheeky grin plastered across his face.
Some things, it seems, never change.
Of course, if I had the legs, I'd have gone. Of course. But I was already in a decent amount of hurt and decided I didn't want it bad enough. That looming rehearsal and all that. Right.
We got back, said some thank yous, I learned at that time about Nate's reason for helping so thanked him profusely. It was a great ride - great weather, great company, and a fun route. The distant guys (Rich, Kevin) caught up with both each other and with Greg. I'd been in reasonably contact with all of them so I suffered quietly - or not, I suppose you'd have to ask the guys. Kevin was so happy after the ride that later on he suggested to his (shocked) wife that perhaps they should move back east.
I wish that more of the guys could have made the ride, but with work and all that, I know it'd have been difficult. The lack of a definitive plan didn't help - we only solidified the ride time the day before because, frankly, I didn't know my own schedule. I suppose that when we move into a house we could do a BBQ/training ride thing - we'd have more than the two parking spots we have now, hopefully we'd have more than one shower, and I think it'd be a great day to spend a day, doing a fun ride and then hanging out with a whole bunch of friends.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The ride couldn't have happened without Nate at Cycle Center on High Ridge Road in Stamford, CT. He explained it away as saying that since it was a special weekend for me, he wanted to help in whatever way he could. He did, we had a great ride, so my thanks go to him.