Sunday, August 08, 2010

Training - Class

I turned my head to get a wrench, but as I did, the skid plate that protects the exhaust, carbon fiber driveshaft (I looked, it looks like black plastic), brake lines, and some other stuff, well, the skid plate kind of slid my glasses off my head. Looking straight up, eyes closed, nose jammed against said plate, with my glasses somewhere near my left ear, I paused to think for a moment.

3300 lbs of car, literally squished up against my nose.

A chock, two wheel ramps, a parking brake, and a transmission in first gear. That's all that kept those 3300 lbs of car from squishing more than just my nose.

A lot of things could happen. A tire going flat, a clutch spring or ten failing, the chock slips, a ramp collapses. It would take more than just one of them, but if it happened, it would be pretty ugly. I'd reach up, helplessly, trying to bench 30 times my max, while thinking, "No, no, no, no!"

I had a mild panic attack and wriggled my way out from under the car.

The exhaust system could wait.

I did some internet therapy (Facebook, email, Bike Forums), and then, with a ride with a BF character in the works, got ready to make the drive down to meet the ride. I'd be meeting SOC, Botto (which I'll capitalize even though it's technically not supposed to be), and a few others for a group ride from Clark's Cycles.

I told SOC I'd meet him at his place, then we could ride over. I packed up the car (after I brought it back to earth), got half changed, and jetted off.

A few miles away I remembered something. The exhaust system. Specifically, two nuts on the exhaust system holding about 70 pounds of muffler and various pipes on to the rest of the system. I'd removed them, leaving them finger tight on the bolts so I wouldn't lose them.

In my momentary panic attack, I never tightened them up.

I pulled over where the shoulder was literally 5 or 6 feet wider than my car. Crawled under the back of the car to see what I could do.

Note for all you folks that may do exhaust work on a car in the future: even a 3 or 4 minute drive results in painfully high exhaust pipe temperatures.

With a (ahem) rag in my hand (which I had on my hand the whole time, not after the first time I touched hot exhaust parts, because I know exhaust parts get hot after only a few minutes... I read about that on the internet) to protect myself from some painfully hot exhaust pipes, I unscrewed one nut and, after trying unsuccessfully to tighten the other, crawled back out to retrieve a 14 mm wrench.

They were, of course, all in the garage at home. So, using some channel locks (don't do this at home since it damages the nuts), I tightened it as much as possible without wrecking it.

I called SOC to let him know I was late, but he was still on his way home from work, so I got voicemail. Therefore I texted him the news that I'd be late and to please call me.

I'd gotten onto Route 2 near Hartford, after struggling through some commuter traffic, and started making good time. I tried to be the second fastest car on the road, with an upper limit that I wouldn't exceed regardless of the fastest car's speed.

SOC called back. I had a hard time hearing him (the volume controls on my phone have long since died), but after some comical "WHAT? WAIT WHAT DID YOU SAY?" stuff, I realized he was saying, "Route 2? Why are you on Route 2?"

2, 9, I knew it was one of them.

SOC gave me directions to the shop's parking lot and figured out a way to backtrack to Route 3, a short highway that connects Route 2 to Route 9.

And he told me he'd meet me there and try and stall them a bit.

I pulled into the lot not quite 30 minutes later, a few minutes late, parking next to SOC.

He murmured under his breath that he'd been trying to change slowly to keep everyone there. I, on the other hand, set a record for getting ready.

Then, just before we set off, a guy in a black kit rolled up to me.


We introduced ourselves. And we set off.

It took me about 30 seconds to realize something wasn't quite right. Another 30 seconds and I realized what it was.

I'd let my pedaling form deteriorate significantly.

Not in the 30 or 60 seconds, no. But over the course of 5 or 10 years, yes.

I realized this because Botto had that magical pro-like pedaling form. And I didn't. In fact, I forgot what it looks like because I haven't trained with someone with tens of thousands of miles on his legs in forever. I don't count racing, because you rarely see someone in their "easy riding" mode. There's always a hint of stress, of pressure, something to pollute the pureness of this state of being.

It's hard to describe what it's like, this magical pro-like pedaling form. It's a bunch of different things.

It's pedaling at a high cadence fluidly, with no upper body movement, no strain, not even a focused look on your face. Casual talking, hand gestures, looking around, all while down below the legs pedal at a comfortable 120 rpm.

There's also the feeling of untapped power. You could tell that he had an enormous well of untapped power in his legs. When he got going, later in the ride, the untapped power came to fore, but even in this casual warm up, you could tell that he could kick it hard without any undue stress or strain.

Finally there's the casualness of it all. I sat one back and to the side of Botto, next to SOC, watching him pedal. He and his echelon partner let a gap go to the group. No worry, no hurry. The gap grew a bit, we picked it up a bit (or rather, he did and I followed - he still talked about whatever it was, complete with hand gestures, looking around, and the like), and then we were on.

No fuss, no muss.

Of course, when I asked Botto about his form, he modestly demurred. Apparently some of his training partners criticize his uncouth pedaling style. But since they train with guys like Cipollini, one might expect them to have quite the high standard.

Nonetheless, it marks what is possible for me, and therefore a goal as well.

Later, when the ride got a bit tougher, Botto's strength started showing through. He could pull over and over again, pedaling fluently the whole time. At times the ride would dissolve into a hard paceline. Botto at the front, me second wheel. I pulled through briefly, already on the limit, and planned on pulling off within, oh, 5 seconds.

I looked down to check my six and saw Botto's distinctive tires just behind me.


Apparently the guy behind me didn't want to go, so he let Botto in. I figured I should let him rest a little bit, so I pulled a bit longer, went way into the red, and ended up, a short time later, dropped.

Lesson learned: Don't pull more when you think you're gonna get popped. If you pull through, you'll get popped.

SOC would give us a heads up on course features, like climbs and such, and the three of us would romp up the hills. I came off on pretty much all of them, unable to match their torrid pace.

As we headed back, we once again started going hard. SOC pulled me across a gap to a solo rider, Botto followed (albeit solo), and suddenly there were four of us in a fast double paceline. We'd pull for only a few seconds, pull off, and rotate around.

Rinse and repeat.

After a bit of time I realized that this must be the finale of the ride, that there was no discussion of sitting up at a certain point. It was just hard riding, heavy gears, screaming legs.

And, like usual, I was on the limit.

(That's a You-Rope-Ian phraseology thing, "on the limit").

I declined a pull or three, trying to get the red mist out of my vision, trying to introduce my arms to Mister Coordination again, reintroduce some oxygen into my lungs. The fourth guy in the group, a racer himself, didn't decline any pulls, and he paid the price - he popped off as the pace crescendo-ed.

After a few more minutes of groveling at the back, while SOC and Botto buried themselves in effort, I started to pull through again.

SOC and Botto. Groveling riders to the back, please.
Yes, it was getting dark.

And before I knew it, we were back at the cars.

Yes, we all went out for dinner after the ride. Botto and I were there first there so we sat, drank, and talked.

Yes, we talked about bikes. Yes, we talked about some of the cyclists we knew, both in person and virtually. Botto described it perfectly in the following 1000 words:

(From here)

Eventually SOC and Mrs SOC made it there, and we had a proper dinner. The waitress knew the SOCs as regulars, which made things nice. We got around to a lot of topics - part of it was that Botto raced "back in the days" when I started racing. Another part was that he lived in Europe, close to where I grew up. And, of course, there was all the various bike talk.

But the whole time there was this underlying notion running through my head.

I'd just been schooled, in a good way, on how to pedal a bike.

And like any other class, it doesn't just seep into your head. You have to live it. Go do it. Read it. Study it. Something with it. It doesn't just happen.

make it happen.

I gotta go. I got some practicin' to do.

1 comment:

Shaver said...

i think you might have met another botto.

see you tomorrow.