[For the next several months, I will be posting dispatches from my weekly training rides with Team In Training, as I prepare for the 100-mile "America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride" 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.]
Our first training ride (after the previous week’s had been rained out) was yesterday morning. As is my habit before most training days, I woke up intermittently during the night before, shot up in bed, noted that I still had more hours to sleep, gratefully collapsed back into my pillow; repeat, etc. Until one time, when I shot up and — hoping that I’d still have more hours till the alarm — realized that it was only a minute away from ringing! This felt like a betrayal: how dare the universe wake me just about when I was supposed to get up. … I got a measure of passive-aggressive revenge by moving from the bedroom to the living room and lying down on the couch for another 15 minutes. Didn’t actually go back to sleep, but felt groggily smug that I hadn’t totally gotten up yet.
My plan had been to make “No-Bake Granola Bars” (from a recipe that my wife, Sara, had forwarded to me) to bring along on this ride. But the prospect of cooking tends to panic me, and I kind of froze. Also, I’d been scarred by an earlier attempt to cook on-the-bike food, when during the week I tried to make a recipe from the much-recommended The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes, by Biju Thomas & Allen Lim. Pretty much randomly, I’d picked “Rice & Banana Muffins.” Sound comforting, right? Well, maybe when someone else makes it: mine came out like soggy, slimy lumps of Elmer’s Glue, only less flavorful. … I probably did something (or many things) wrong — though it’s a pretty simple dish, in theory. Last night I mentioned this calamity to an actual chef (who also happens to be a rabid bike-racing enthusiast), and she remarked that rice flour (one of the key ingredients) can be very tricky to work with. In any event, I plan — in the fullness of time — to attempt another recipe from The Feed Zone Cookbook, but first I need to try meditation and hypnosis so I can perhaps un-taste those horrible banana-rice globs I made. (As for the granola bars, I’m feeling strangely optimistic about them, and will try to make them this week.)
Happily for this non-driver, yesterday’s training ride began and ended at the Orinda BART, just a few stops from our place in Berkeley. K.Sue, our head coach, told us to self-select which of three groups (based on how fast we planned to go) we would ride with. I was kind of torn, between the middle group and the slow group. (The fast group was made up mostly of hyper-fit, tall, skinny gazelle-people.) Opting for caution, I went with the slow group. As I moved to join them, a voice called out, “Josh, you’re going to the wrong group!” This was presumably a reference to my spiffy new road bike, on which I might be expected to improve on my usual snail’s pace. I smiled, and kept moving towards the Slowies. Later, during the ride, someone told me that it had been K.Sue herself who’d called me out — so for much of the ride, I felt as if I was kind of going against God’s will. … But later, when I saw K.Sue herself, I asked whether she’d been the one who’d called out to me, and she said she hadn’t. Which got me to reflecting on how the narratives that so affect our lives can be based on inaccurate (or at least shifting) details — and on how jarring it can be to learn that a crucial, life- or even world-changing incident didn’t really happen as we’d previously thought. … By the end of the ride, I was working on a theory that the key to solving all the world’s problems is not to believe everything we hear about K.Sue (though, in my experience, all the good things are true).
The ride itself was quite easy — very short (by TNT standards) and mostly pretty flat, with just a few climbs that gave my legs twinges of that familiar burning that (with much greater intensity) will be my pal for these next few months. It was kind of a training-ride version of an amuse-bouche: a little morsel to get us started on an extended cycling buffet. Sometimes I thought about wanting to go faster, but I also worried that if I joined a faster group and couldn’t keep up with them, they’d be pissed at having to wait for me. (The look that you get from teammates who have been getting cold at the top of some windy incline as they’ve waited for you to struggle and catch up with them — well, it’s not pleasant.) I guess sometimes you have to just take a chance and go for the greatness. Maybe next Saturday, fortified by successful no-bake granola bars, I will find the strength within myself to do so; then again, maybe these thoughts will end up like those misbegotten rice-and-banana muffins: a nice vision that ultimately collapses into gloppy suckitude. Only time — that trickster and flirt — will tell.
Below is a map of my training ride. You can click on it to get all sorts of details, graphs, and whatnot.