[For the next couple of months, I will be posting dispatches from my weekly training rides with Team In Training (TNT), as I prepare for the 100-mile “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” (AMBBR) in Tahoe on June 1 — all to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you’d like to donate towards my ride, you can do so here.]
So there I was last Saturday, going downhill in or around San Leandro (see map below; click on it for ride details), and I realized that I was going really fast — for me, at least. When I hit little things in the road, my bike seemed to kind of launch into the air for a bit, and also my helmet (which I’d thought was really on tightly) started flopping up and down. I found this interesting. Then my front wheel went over a manhole cover, which has a swirly pattern on it (I think), and all of a sudden my bike was acting like a drunkard: trying really hard to swerve, alternately to the left and to the right. I held on for dear life, as traffic zoomed by to the left of me; it felt as though there was a very good chance that I would lose control of the bike and find myself on the pavement, going (at least initially) 34.4 mph. But — within seconds, probably, though it felt much longer at the time — things were back to normal and I was moving forward again, under control.
All of which is to say that I’ve been riding a bit faster lately. I’d already moved up from the slowest group (my hangout in the past) to the next-fastest group, and on Saturday I’m going to move up yet another notch. (Just to be clear, I’m still way slower than lots and lots of the riders on our team — I think maybe they have secret electric motors somewhere.)
But unlike last week — a “Buddy Ride,” not organized by speed groups — on this next ride I’ll be with a coach and teammates, which should be much safer.
Psychologically, it’s an adjustment not being in the slowest group, where my only goal was to — please, dear God! — finish each ride. Now my identity is in flux, and my goals are less clear: I mean, I still want to finish, of course, but I also want to see improvement each time I go out. So I’m kind of competing with myself, which I wasn’t doing before. And the thing about competing with yourself is that, no matter what, one version of yourself will always lose.
Hey, this is great — I’m finding new ways to humiliate myself!!
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My previous ride (see map below) was in and around Walnut Creek. It was both beautiful and full of pain and heavy breathing (which is how I hope critics receive my erotic novel, if I ever write one). I see from Strava.com (click on the map) that my highest speed that day was only 31.3 mph — so apparently between that speed and 34.4 my bike and I enter a new state of being — one that involves floating in the air and swerving and some helmet mishegas.
This coming Saturday I will try to test my theory (based on hearsay) that, if I can get myself to descend with my hands down in the drops, instead of on top of the bars (as I currently do), my lowered center of gravity will give me more stickiness on the road. Also, I will try to avoid swirly-topped manhole covers — which, dear reader, I recommend you do as well.