Sunday, January 13, 2008

How To - Descending Tears

Unlike where I used to live in lower Fairfield County, around here there are some relatively long hills. Although this means that I struggle on some of the roads around here, there is some payback - the descents on the other side.

Now back in FC the fastest I'd go was down a 0.8 mile hill in Weston. On a great day I could sprint at the top, tuck, judiciously use some traffic, and hit and maintain maybe 50 mph.

Not very fast, considering the woman who got clocked going 68 mph while commuting to work.


On a bicycle.

So my estimated 64 mph top speed on the road stage of Fitchburg suddenly seems very possible (I've always doubted my math, but then sometimes it's inaccurate in the wrong direction). I had sprinted at the top of the hill, tucked an insanely aggressive tuck (I chose everything on the bike knowing I could trust it on massively fast descents), screamed past the, well, screaming marshals. When I started to slow I started pedaling, promptly hitting 160 rpm in my 54x11. I re-tucked and made it just before that right turn before I had to start pedaling.

And I was still going 30 mph.

I did the math later and I figured out that 160 rpm in a 54x11 was about 64 mph. So I must have been going faster since I thought I'd slowed down 10 or 15 mph when I started pedaling.

Whatever, I can't prove it now and I don't think I have the guts to replicate my experiment.

Anyway, back to crying during descents. There are four reasons you cry during a descent.
1. You are sad.
2. You crash and it hurts a lot.
3. You get dropped and you become very sad (then see #1).
4. Ferocious wind hits your eyeballs and makes them sting.

I wear normal glasses, don't like contacts, and tried the prescription protective eyewear that fit me. I've decided to stay with my normal glasses. Therefore I get quite a bit of wind in my eyes when I descend. And Reason #4 becomes a reality.

My eyes tear up.

Although I can't tuck properly wearing all the winter gear at this time, I regularly hit 45 mph while tucked and hold it for a short while. Short is relative to California descents, where you might descend for 30 hair raising minutes at a time. I'm sure as the weather warms up and I can tuck more aggressively, I'll be hitting much higher speeds.

So what to do about the tears in my eyes?

I realized in the middle of one of many 45 mph descents last week that the tears are there to protect your eyes.

Think about that for a second or three. You need tears. Your blinking actually wipes your eyeball with tears, just not too much. But when you subject your poor eyeballs to dust storm like wind, your eyes go into Defcon 1. Or is it Defcon 5. Whichever. You turn your head (the most protective thing you can do), you close your eyes a.k.a. blink (the second most protective thing), and as a catch all your tear ducts go into emergency overdrive and dump nice protective solution on your eyes to protect them.

Tears are normal.

You therefore have a couple choices (three if you wear protective glasses).

1. Try and prevent tearing by squinting, turning your head, etc. Effectively you're taking your eyes out of the wind. However, since you're doing things like looking away, closing your eyes (fully or mostly), and you have to blink frequently, you compromise your ability to see.
2. Use tears the way nature intends. Cry gloriously while descending, wide eyed, aware of everything out there.
(3) Use protective eyewear and do #1.

On a particularly windy day, on a particularly windy descent, I gave up trying to control my tears (i.e. #1 above) and let them stream down the sides of my face, whisked away off my cheekbones by my now-rapid pace (i.e. #2 above).

Once I accepted that tearing is a good thing, I realized I could descend without blinking. In fact, blinking screwed up my vision more because it takes a moment for my tears to puddle up enough before they exceed surface tension and go streaming on their way. The tears keep your eyes lubricated and washes away contaminants (which is what blinking does) and my glasses keep things like rocks or bigger non-dust things from hitting my eyes.

The only drawback to my revelation is you have a runny nose after each descent. But hey, that's worth it for me.

This is not recommened on the plant Dune since water is very precious there. Anywhere else it should be fine.

Here's to "tearing" down descents.

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