10 December 2008

The Rider

Tim Krabbe - The Rider
In 1919 - Brussels - Amiens was won by a rider who rode the last forty kilometers with a flat front tire. Talk about suffering! He arrived at 11:30 at night, with a ninety-minute lead on the only other two riders who finished the race. That day had been like night, trees had whipped back and fourth, farmers were blown back into their barns, there were hailstones, bomb craters from the war, crossroads where the gendarmes had run away and riders had to climb onto one another's shoulders to wipe clean the muddied road signs.

Oh, to have been a rider then. Because after the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is Nature's payback to riders fro the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses: people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. 'Good for you.' Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few suitors these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms she rewards passionately.
I'm not as hardcore as some - I've seen bike commuters out in weather I'd never dream of riding in. But I do enjoy the occasional rain ride - a constant spray in your face that means you won't need to drink from the water bottle, that zing you'll only get from the trail of water off your back tire and up your back..

Having started my riding career with seven mile jaunts around the neighborhood (with a rest in the middle!), I can relate to the whole "Good for you" bit - it starts that way when you're used to doing nothing. But eventually seven miles isn't enough to be worth the effort - anything short of 20 feels like cheating yourself.

Of course I'm not really riding outside right now - right now the routine of intervals on the spin bike at the gym feels more sustainable than the occasional road ride. I've been doing 4 minute standing 160-170 heart rate intervals (one minute off) for an hour, and it seems like a good place to start.
I stopped doing everything else, I trained harder and harder, my body began achieving things I'd no longer thought possible. I was touched by its loyalty. I had neglected it for so long, but there were no hard feelings, it seemed only pleased to have me call on it again. I raced with Stephan in Anduze, I applied for a permit in Holland - full of disbelief, I worked my way up in those races through the hierarchy of being dropped, of sticking with the bunch, of taking part in a break, of placing, of winning.
That's how it works with cycling. My first ride at Eagle Creek was an eye opener, my confidence lacking, but eventually I joined in on the sprints. Eventually I even lead a few. It's starting all over again. I've just got to be patient and put the work in.

* * * * *

I called my the gentleman my advisor at NIFS recommended last night, and the guy was amazingly nice and helpful. We had a conversation about what I was really looking for (to get better, and faster, and to have a team to push me and to learn from), the dangers of teams (they can be a bit clique-ish and hard to crack) and he is now doing a little research to find me some folks to work with. And what's he get out of it? I haven't offered anything. He's just a good guy. I don't know why I waited so long to call.

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