Monday, February 11, 2008

Have Bike, Will Travel

Friday -

With the Watch of Doom ticking away, I figure I should become one with my bike, and that being in Missouri for an Heirloom Tomato Festival would offer an excellent opportunity to get in some hill training. I find on the internets the website for a bike shop in Branson, exchange a few emails with the owner, Craig, and stop in to chat after we get to town, and after I discover that the Tasha jinx/curse is alive and well, as the restaurant that I was really looking forward to going to again, the one that had amazing bbq ribs – well, it burned down to the ground in the fall. Damn.

Anyway, Craig is indeed a wonderful guy, and he gives me several detailed routes to try out, on roads that aren’t too busily traveled and/or have reasonable shoulders. The first one he mentions, the Ozark Mountain Highroad, sounds appealing. 8 miles each way, so I figure I can bike it a few times to get in my 40-50 miles. I picture a quaint, tree-lined country road, just me and the birds, communing with nature.

“So how hilly is it?” I ask innocently, almost as an afterthought.
“Oh, not much, not much at all. A pleasant little ride,” he says, grinning reassuringly.

I grin back, basking in a warm and fuzzy glow from being part of this wonderful cycling brotherhood, so to speak, where no matter where you go, there’s someone willing to help you out. And boy, Craig sure is a nice guy – people from Missouri are the greatest.

Saturday -

Welcome to the Suckfest

(warning: “salty” language is used)

Damn you, EvilCyclistCraig, you bastard, I hate you and all your brethren from Missouri who I’m sure are all equally as evil and sadistic. Though I suppose this is a bit my fault – once again, I should have figured that something called the “Ozark Mountain Highroad” would probably not be flat as a pancake. But still….this? Sure, this could be considered “non-hilly” – if you’re a fricking MOUNTAIN GOAT. For the rest of us mere mortals, does the fact that there’s a cloudy mist up here signify anything? Holy mother of god.

I managed to get up at 5AM this morning to pack up and head out for a ride. Oddly, I felt like a fraud, going through the motions, putting my cycling gear on and getting my supplies ready, but somehow, feeling like a poseur. Weird. As I pass a Dunkin Donuts, I do my usual Pavlovian thing of thinking hmm, maybe I’ll get a bagel on the way back, if I have a good ride. Yum, bagels.

And then, I get to the road. And rather than a quaint country road, this is a massive highway carved into the hills. Yes, it’s not busy, and yes, there is a shoulder, so there are positives to this. However, the shoulder is mostly ridged, I’m guessing to jostle people awake before their car careens over a cliff – because there are also looming cement bridges that arc into the sky, several thousand feet above the rocky underbrush. So I’m allocated about 4 inches of shoulder, on which there are pebbles and rocks. But this is better than the road, down which the few cars and trucks zoom at about 85 mph. Okay, fine. I can handle all of that.

The real problem comes when I discover that, contrary to my belief, the bike shop did not in fact fix my bike. Yes, I know I need new shifters, but when they said my bike would be “functional,” me, I would define functional as at least being able to shift the big chainring, and that to do so wouldn’t require a Herculean effort that would literally leave blisters on my left hand – and wouldn’t work anyway. But clearly that’s just me.

I’d take this opportunity to apologize to the good people of Missouri for my non-ladylike language at that point, but no people actually live in those hills. It was just me, the trucks, the sheer dropoffs, and a bike which I suddenly in a fit of whimsy rechristened “You Fucking Piece of Shit!” instead of Ginger. My bike and I, we are no longer friends, not when I’m trying to go up a 12% or whatever grade on a bike that leaves me stuck in a big gear. Over and over.

So basically we had a lot of “Fuck!” and the aforementioned “You FPOS bike!” going on, though I did give my regards to the bike shop, with a “you did NOT fucking fix my fucking bike!”

At this point I was practically in tears, but lo, the fun was just beginning! Because that’s when I suddenly found myself in the dense fog, where I could literally not see anything a foot in front of me. So to recap: I’m careening down a mountain in the Ozarks, on a narrow shoulder that’s covered with pebbles (though dodging them did make me feel like I was in a video game, like Asteroids), the fog has rolled in, I'm going over cement bridges with a sheer dropoff, on an unpredictable bike that doesn’t shift properly or randomly shifts when it feels like it. Oh, and my sunglasses have fogged over. Sweet. While the term “FuckingA” is not one I use very often, that’s what I found myself repeating at this point. Over and over.

I was also ready to cry. If I couldn’t handle these hills, insane though they are, what makes me think I can do IMMOO? For the first time since signing up for Ironman, I felt….defeated. In fact, this was the most grim I’ve felt so far. Maybe….. I just don’t actually have “what it takes.”

I did, however, have the good sense after I got safely back to my car to think hey, let’s do a brick! Does it still count as a brick if one has a 10-minute transition? I run for an hour, up and down more hills, feeling shitty because my ride was only an hour and a half long, meaning I suck, and when I think about my overall suckiness, I get upset and start hyperventilating. In other words, it’s another banner day for Miss Tasha! Watch and learn, kids, watch and learn. Reaching ever-new levels of suckitude is a skill, and one that I seem to have mastered.

While I allow myself an icy cold coke after my run, because it’s about 100 degrees and rather humid and I’m a big lump of sweat, I bypass the donut emporium on my way back, as my soul neither wants nor deserves a bagel. How is it that I can keep training and still just...suck?

(to be continued….)

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