I took advantage of my Bethel Spring Series preparation trip to get in a ride with a new teammate of mine. He's been mentioned here before, he of the Mushy Giant. He has a new bike coming in, a very non-mushy Specialized. I have a very non-mushy bike, the Cannondale I really, really like.
I got to his house and he came out to greet me. He had his two bottles of energy drink ready to go and set them down to say hi. I met his very nice family - wife, new daughter, and two dogs - and we loaded up and headed out.
It was a bit grey. The roads were a bit damp. And it was snowing.
But, hey, it's um Wednesday. Can't skip the ride because of a few snowflakes. Plus this was a "taper" ride for him, an easy ride.
He wanted to go easy, not hard. We started rolling along. Easy rides on roads with wide shoulders means riding side by side, shooting the breeze. So I sat next to him and we talked about stuff.
I forgot about the kinked front derailleur cable, the one that keeps the chain from dropping into the 39. I grunted it out on a few short, steep hills in the big ring until my heart rate was at 158 and I started to run out of breath. Finally, after kicking the front derailleur a bunch of times, it moved over.
I found that somehow the air started thinning out. I had problems pronouncing words due to the lack of air. Whenever I talked it felt like my head would explode. And so I did a little less talking, a little more thinking. Yes, small ring. Yes, I'm breathing. We're just going hard or something.
We were going up some steep hill, his chain banged over into his lowest gear, me struggling in almost my lowest gear. I looked down at my two full bottles, thinking about how much they might weigh. Then I looked up at his bike. Empty cages.
"Yo, I think you forgot your bottles at the house."
He looked down.
"Crap, and I thought I was just riding good."
(In case you don't know grammar goes out the window when you're riding, plus it helps disguise your learnedness).
We kept going and at some point, my heart rate at race pace, the thin air (we're at about 140 feet above sea level) threatening to overpower me, I looked over at him and in my coolest, most "I'm not about to explode" voice asked him very quietly.
"What's your heart rate at?"
"132. What's yours?"
"160???? We gotta slow down."
He slammed his chain across his cassette and stopped pedaling. I had to brake to stay with him. It was kind of funny actually. He was barely going and I was, well, I was dying.
Within 15 or 20 minutes we were back up to speed. I didn't remind him of my heart rate but I watched it bounce around in the 150s for most of the ride, hitting 172 on a particularly extreme climb. I sat on the climb, chain in the 39x25, my lowest gear, and rode it out, ignoring him with the threat of truly exploding a reality. My front wheel came off the ground on each pedal stroke and then the grade eased. His voice started registering.
".... the Empire State Games course came up this hill."
A pause. I felt obliged to respond.
My front tire came off the ground again. I had shifted up into the 21 and it was still lifting.
I felt strong. Powerful. But then I realized, first, I don't understand what he's saying, and second, he is probably at 145 bpm, and I'm at 170.
We kept going, meandering near where I grew up. I recognized some roads - I used parts of the route to ride from my old hometown of Norwalk on up to Kent, a nice 6-7 hour round trip ride for me.
The ride was nice, the conversation good, at least when the air wasn't too thin. We told each other race stories, compared notes and experiences with different racers, discussed the upcoming race, and we talked a bit about the whole concept of getting married and how that went. He has a kid now so it's a bit more than me, but it was sort of funny how we each approached the whole thing. Me, the "take forever to decide" guy who asks his girlfriend if, "theoretically", she'd get a diamond, what would she get, months and months and months before actually proposing to her. In contrast he simply turned to his girlfriend as the ball dropped and asking if she'd marry him.
A few hours later we rolled back into his driveway. I realized I hadn't had a sip of water, nor a gel or crack pack. I turned down food too since a friend wanted to grab a bit with me. We talked of our mushy Giants, the difference we felt immediately with our new non-mushy bikes, and some other stuff.
Miraculously the snow had stopped. My front derailleur, after a few kick starts, was moving side to side just fine. My legs felt good, helped in part by his "Dude, you look thin" comment when I first arrived at his house. My tickly throat, the harbinger of doom, had subsided a bit. I took a short, hot shower, dressed, and left. Psyched to be racing soon. Psyched to be racing with this team, and specifically, this guy who'd be my teammate.
I'm no motor and the ride reminded me of this in the harshest way possible. But, as my friend pointed out, I'm no motor. Well, he used the term "aerobic engine". That's not my gig. My gig is sprinting. And when it comes to that, well, I can hold my own.
The goal, of course, will be to confirm that on Sunday.