Thursday, May 15, 2008

Drugs in a small town

It saddens me when I find out that the problem of Drugs In America is so pervasive that it’s infiltrated even the smallest of burgs, those that typify what America is all about: tchochkes and ice cream shoppes. I’m speaking of course of Galena here, a town that has 1 ice cream shoppe for every 200 residents, and more tchochke emporiums than a person can count. I guess it works for them, since I don’t think the vast majority of elderly tourists who go there to sight-see are going to get on a bike and ride up and down those damn hills and call it “fun.” We leave that to people like me.

So, the drug problem there became apparent to me when on May 1st, as is tradition, the Galena triathlon webpage started posting the theoretical water temperature of Apple Canyon Lake – the lake where the triathlon this weekend is supposed to begin. Now, we all now that Race Directors MSU big time when it comes to the water temp (see: Firecracker Tri last year), because they understandably don’t want the hassle of rerouting and reconfiguring everything by making it a duathlon instead. However, they rarely put their MSUing in writing, for all to see. Case in point: the water temperature of Apple Canyon Lake started out on May 1st at 51 degrees, and within the span of a week – mind you, a week in which the air temperature hovered at about 40 and Lake Michigan went from 58 degrees to 46 – that temperature went to the magical 59 number, and has stayed there ever since, logic be damned. These are the scenarios I’ve envisioned, as enacted by the lackeys assigned the task of taking the Galena water temp:

Scenario 1

(Stan and Mike hanging out at the Galena Parks Authority hut)

Stan: Yo, Mike, we gotta go take the temp of the water in the lake.
Mike: Msdfhfphiap.
Stan: Huh?
Mike, choking down donut: Yeah, man, whatever. It's too damn cold and windy outside. Just say it's the same. 59 or whatever.
Stan: Okay. Hey, pass me another beer to go with this cruller, wouldja?

Scenario 2

Stan, looking at baby harp seals frolicking in Apple Canyon Lake: Well shit, I ain't gettin' in the water to take the temperature. It's too damn cold. What else does anyone need to know?
Mike: Msdpfhdfdhfs.
Stan: Okay, if you think that, then YOU get in there to take the temperature!
Mike: Okey dokey. (Mike tiptoes gingerly to a small, inch-deep pool of stagnant water trapped between several rocks in the blazing sun. Quickly dunks thermometer in.) Uhh.....I can't read it too good. Looks like a 5.....something. Let's say 59 - that's the number of my favorite NASCAR driver.
Stan: Good. Let's go get some breakfast!

Scenario 3*

Stan: Yo Mike. It's your turn to take the water sample today.
Mike: That it is. [Grabs cup and walks down to the water. Fills cup with water sample. Returns to the hut.]
Mike: Here ya go Stan.
Stan: Hey Mike. What time you got?
Mike: 9:45
Stan: Great, break time!
Mike: Yup. Wouldn't want to break union rules! [Sets up next to coffee pot.] We'll just measure the temp later.

Scenario 4

(3 hours later, Stan and Mike's coffee break has ended)

Stan: Yo, Mike, where's that cuppa water we gotta measure the temp of? Wasn't it by the coffee pot?
Mike: Masdfhjasp.
Stan: You moron! Whatdja go putting the water sample in the coffee pot for? Shee-it. Let's check the temperature anyway. 148 degrees.
Mike: So we just take half of that and that should be about right. So half of 148 is......
Stan: .....59. Yeah, that sounds right.
Mike: Mom always did say you were the mathy one in the family.
Stan: Ayup. Say, did you pack the cookins? I think it's time for lunch.

Needless to say, I’m not overly excited about doing this race this weekend. Especially since I have vivid memories of last year’s race, whereupon I started the swim and about 100m into it, could no longer breathe. That’s the only time I’ve been in water and actually thought I might drown - or at least have to get the lifeboat to rescue me. And the whole coughing up blood thing afterwards, that was no picnic either. So while I like open-water swimming in general, a hell of a lot more than swimming in a pool (booooooring), I’m a bit apprehensive about this one, especially since my lungs and breathing didn’t work quite right for a couple of months last year after Galena. Minor, pesky details, I know, but we all know how I fret about the little things.

*Credit to Joe for coming up with this scenario, which I had to include for continuity’s sake. Thanks joe!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A group ride of one

Yesterday I decided I would head out to Buffalo Grove for the weekly Tri Club group ride – basically to show “the little people” how it’s done. You know, by cycling with an ease that makes it all seem effortless, with grace, élan, aplomb. All that. I get to the meeting spot and see the usual suspects – Colleen, Bridget, Deanna – as well as a host of newcomers. “Perfect,” I think to myself. “I can shake off my reputation as the slow lumpen cyclist, like brushing dust off my cycling shoes. Surely there’ll be wide-eyed newbies who’re far slower and clumsier than I ever was. Am. Was.”

Of course, my obvious athletic prowess doesn’t stop my detractors from trying to bring me down, their comments clearly speaking to their jealousy.

Me, looking at all the schmutz and brack on Bridget’s bike: “Bridget! What’s with all the schmutz and brack on your bike? How could you ride her in such a state?”
Colleen, my arch-nemesis: “Hey, that’s because Bridget actually RIDES her bike.”

Ouch. Can I help it if I like to wait for the ideal weather before daring to expose Sálome to the elements? To wit: sunny but not too hot, slight if any wind, no rain, above 40 degrees.

Unfortunately, this is why so far this spring Sálome has only been ridden outside a grand total of 3 times.

In any case, we set off in several groups – the speedy people who zoom on ahead, and the rest of us, who’ll eventually splinter off into the 40-mile group and the 55-mile group. I plan to be in the former, as I need to head back home in order to make it to the annual tomato plant swap later with my gardening friends. Still, 40 miles should be plenty of time to ride circles around everyone else, so to speak, though it’s barely a workout for me. 40 miles, puh-leeze. I’m an athlete. After all, I haven’t been putting in those hours on the trainer and miles on the pavement for nothing. As for swimming, well, umm, there’s plenty of time for that.

All starts off well and good, as our groups toodle along without mishap. Some of the newer people were concerned about being dropped, so when one girl keeps having mechanical problems, a couple of us stop to make sure she doesn’t get left behind. Then, after traversing one particularly busy road, we all stop at the other side to make sure everyone is clear where the split is for the 40 vs. 55 milers. And here’s where my shining moment comes in: as I’ve peddled up and unclipped, I’ve managed to stop on a slope AND have set my wheel into a groove on the road.....such that now I’m not only unbalanced (my bike, that is), but also stuck in a rut (the wheel, that is). The result? Yes, dear readers, I go tumbling over with a loud “eeeeeeeeeeeeeh!” and a crash, though Bridget did later commend me on instinctively turning my body in order to shield Sálome from any untoward contact with the harsh pavement. Harsh pavement that gashed my knee open and left me with a hematoma the size of a softball on my right hip. However, I felt this was a small price to pay, in that this deliberate action on my part undoubtedly had the desired effect – namely, by taking one for the team, I was enabling the newbies to feel better about themselves, because THEY weren’t the ones crashing over like an oak tree in front of a large group of people. No, that was me. And since falling while clipped into one’s pedals seems to be the #1 fear of most new triathletes, why, I helped them get over that right quick, no? Because now they can sleep easy at night, telling themselves “hey, at least I wasn’t THAT idiot on that ride!” This is the kind of thing I live for.

Of course, while I was lying there with my Infinit mixture rapidly flowing out of my water bottle (forgot to close it before I deliberately fell over, dammit), and my knee bleeding copiously, my first and only question was “how’s the bike? How’s Precious, I mean Sálome, I mean, HOW’S THE BIKE?!” Thankfully, she remained unblemished, with only a small ding on the basebar. Whew! But from now on, the newbies will have to get their self-esteem boosts elsewhere as I can’t take these kinds of risks for them anymore.

We set off again, and since the other 40-milers missed the right turn and kept on going, I soon found myself with that “déjà vu all over again” feeling, i.e. riding along on my own. Which was fine. A bit ironic, but okay nonetheless. As I’m stopped to look at my map, to make sure I know where I’m going and am thus not sucked into the vortex of McMansion Hell that is Barrington, the other 40-milers go zipping by me, having realized their error and turned back onto this road. I recognize them by their clothing, as they don’t stop or slow down. But hey, I’m glad to see those bike problems have worked themselves out.

By the time I finish up my ride, I’ve had more than a few bouts with existential dilemma-ism - aka “Why do I suck at everything? How did this come to be?” – as I realize that I certainly haven’t impressed anybody with my élan and grace on this particular ride. Maybe someday. Maybe until then, I’ll just go back to riding on my own and being in my own happy little cycling place, where I’m not constantly reminded of how much this all feels like a never-ending embrace of sheer futility, or just how much I still just suck. And wondering if there’s a point to doing something if you’re just not very good at it, and probably never will be. (Cue song “Po’ Po’ Pitiful Meeee......”)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Don’t Cry For Me, D-POD

This past week, I made the not-so-difficult decision to try to sell D-POD on craigslist. I was a bit torn as to whether my ad should describe D-POD as a “possessed, evil incarnate bike, spawn of demons”, or a “great first ride!” Tough call. I realized of course that should I manage to foist D-POD on some unsuspecting soul, that means my sole bike will be Sálome....but that’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially since D-POD has been brooding in a corner of my garage for lo some many months now, tucked far enough away that I don’t accidentally brush up against him. And I’d worry about D-POD in the hands of others (not my problem), except for the fact that it’s just ME that that damn bike is always trying to kill. By selling him, I’m liberating both of us (not my problem). At least that’s what I’m telling myself (not my problem).

So in the way of the internet, I took a few pictures, made up a reasonable sounding description, posted the picture, and waited. I think my first inquiry came within about 5 minutes, tops. Huh? You mean someone actually WANTS this demonic bike that even as I was trying to clean him, the teeth on the big chainring lunged at me and cut my hand? More and more emails pop up, and while they ask seemingly relevant questions about the components and the year of the bike, not one person asks the most important thing: “is this bike possessed?” And for that I’m grateful, because of COURSE that’s not something I could lie about.

And 3 days later, D-POD has gone to a new home, to someone who had apparently never been on a road bike and didn’t know how to work the shifters – which is great, because I’m thinking that any shifting problems, he’ll attribute to user error. As they will in fact be, naturally. Bridget refers to my newly gotten cash as “blood money,” and to that I say yes, MY blood, which kept getting spilled when that bike tried to murder me, repeatedly. Besides, having a bike like that builds character – as only after being forged in darkness does the desert poppy know the sun.

I don’t know what the hell that means, since I just made it up, but it sounds good, no?

Addendum: I received an email today from D-POD’s new owner – apparently he went to buy cleats and the 2 stores he went to didn’t carry the type used for those particular pedals, so he wanted to know how old the pedals were and where he could buy cleats. Since I was in a charitable mood (it was early in the day yet), I took the 2 seconds to find a link to the pedals and to the accompanying cleats, and wished him well. Had his email had the misfortune to land across my desk this evening, as I was nursing a hematoma on my right hip from falling ignominiously on my bike today, my response might have looked more like this:

“Dude. WTF? There are approximately 200 bike shops of varying levels of service and merchandise selection in Chicago, and you apparently chose to go to Stan’s House of Two-Wheeling Fun. Or perhaps the sporting good section at Target, which is a fine store if you’re looking for, say, a windbreaker or a basketball, but probably not the place to find cleats for cycling shoes. Most self-respecting cycling shops, if you walk in there with the bike or even just the pedals, should be able to direct you towards the right cleats. Stan’s – maybe not.

And you do realize that you need special shoes for this, right? Please, say yes. Because if you’re going to be emailing me every day with another simple question (remember, with those shifters, “righty slighty, lefty hefty”, as far as the whole rear cogs/big chainring thing is concerned), then I’ll just go ahead and start poking my eye with a dull spoon now, m’kay?”

Reality. Still biting.

Somehow, it's taken me this long to realize that essentially my life is just the embodiment of one anti-successory after another:

Friday, May 9, 2008

My stupidity knows no bounds

Generally, when people talk about some incredibly stupid thing they’ve done, they’re really just sandbagging – telling their tale of woe but expecting their friends to say “oh, that’s not so bad.”

This is not what my friends tell me. Ever.

So last weekend I found myself heading to Indianapolis with Deanna, who talked me into doing the Indy half-marathon. For some reason, while I think it’s perfectly reasonable to drive to far southwestern Wisconsin to torture myself on rides like the Horribly Hilly or the Dairyland Dare, traveling to run around doesn’t make as much sense to me. Nevertheless, we went. The ride down there was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that now every time highway traffic slows down somewhat suddenly, I start braking early, sending nervous glances at the rearview mirror and stammering “Uh oh, uh oh, an Assclown Situation!” I’m sure this will continue to make me a popular designated driver for these types of things.

We get to Indy and immediately I start feeling like a munchkin, due to the signs around the city that say “Welcome Mini Marathoners!” The wind is horrendous as we head off to the Expo, where Deanna meets her soulmate: a guy in line before her at the really long “duh, I forgot my registration card they sent me in the mail so I need to wait here” line, who keeps asking her all sorts of pertinent questions, i.e. “Are you racing? Are you running or walking? How fast are you running? Isn’t that pace more like a jog? What’s your cadence? How many gels do you use per hour? You do triathlons, really? Are you sure?” and so on. I had already gone to all the tables at the Expo and signed Deanna up for every footrace in the Western Hemisphere and STILL had to go find her, as she flirted with this guy. So much for her undying love for Drew Peterson! Sheesh.

Anyway, after dinner, we go back to the hotel to get ready for the big race. As Deanna is in the lobby making googly eyes at the 17-year-old doorman, I start unpacking and laying out my stuff. Technical shirt, compression shorts, socks, race belt, shoes........I take out the plastic bag with my shoes, and pull cycling shoes. No, really, I do.

How could I possibly do something so stupid, you/I ask? Well, after my last run/ride, I put my running shoes in a plastic bag, as always, and then for some unknown reason, also put my cycling shoes in a plastic bag, which is something I don’t usually do. Both pairs of shoes are white with blue accents. So naturally, as is my way, I grabbed the wrong shoes. At this point, here were my thoughts:

Thought 1: Shit, I can’t do the race!
Thought 2: Screw that, I didn’t come all the way to Indy to not race. Sunk costs be damned!
Thought 3: Hmm, my sandals have potential.......

Right here is Phase Two of my stupidity, when I put on a pair of socks and then my sandals, jump up and down, run a bit in place, and decide hey, I can run in these!

Luckily, there are people around to save me from myself, somewhat, and in this case, Deanna’s friends wander in at that point and offer up their spare shoes. I have my choice of white tennies, the smushy kind that little old ladies wear as they walk briskly through local shopping malls with elbows akimbo, or the 10-year old pair of too-large shoes with special inserts in them. So with my odd-feeling 10-year old shoes, I’m all set. 13.1 miles in not only “new” shoes, but ill-fitting ones at that. No problem!

Race Day

Deanna has of course signed up for preferred start corral AA, so we leave her and schlub off to our own eye chart corrals, Q, V, Z, etc. There’s a good contingent of crazy people here, as I’m wearing my shirt from the Goofy challenge, and several people bound up to me to tell me that they did it too, so that we can marvel at our mutual insanity. Finally, the race starts, and as always, it takes 20 minutes to get to the start line. Immediately, I have to go to the bathroom, meaning my first 3 miles are at a speedy-for-me 9-minute pace as I look for one. Then, soon enough, we’re nearing the Indy-500 track, but right before the turn-in, I spy some spectators with a little miniature pinscher with them, so of course I have to go over to say hi. Even though min-pins are just the Shrinky Dink version of a real dog, the Doberman, they still warrant a hello. As I’m petting the little guy, scratching his chest, getting a little doggy kiss on my occurs to me that this might be one reason why my race times are always so slow.

The Indy track is pretty cool, but who knew that it was more than a mile around? Surely, not me. I thought there’d be some kind of symmetry, i.e. Indy 500 = 500 laps = 500 miles, but noooooooo. Apparently it’s 2.5 miles around or so, and who thought THAT one up??

At this point, two things are occurring to me: 1) that the whole “forget your shoes for a race” is probably not a great idea, and 2) that the whole “having to pee every 5 minutes” thing that always happens to me is really fricking annoying. Because it sounds so lame to have to explain that yeah, I was doing okay except for those 8 minute bathroom breaks every ten minutes, what with waiting in line and all. But then my time starts to matter less, because my feet really really hurt. I stop to see if I can take the inserts out, and no, they’re kind of welded into the shoe. Damn. I try to distract myself by memorizing Bible verses, but there are too many sayings on too many shirts, and I go into platitude overload when I see the shirt that says “The road to success is always under construction.” ARGheeekk! I put my brain back together after it explodes, and finally finish the damn race and go off to find Deanna at our pre-determined meeting spot, after getting loaded down with fruit, water, and cookins by the helpful volunteers. I don’t want to hurt their feelings by telling them that December was Cookins Month. I soon find Deanna.

Me: "Hey, how’s your race go?"
Deanna: "Well, I was supposed to aim for a 2:10 and I ran a 2:06, so I got my PR and my speedy self ran faster than ever but Nancy is going to kill me."
Me: "Congrats, that’s awesome! But why would your coach kill you? Isn’t it good that you ran well?"
Deanna: "I’m supposed to stick to my plan, no variations, so I was supposed to time it so that I finished in exactly 2:10, not one second faster, but I just felt so great, running fast, so I kept running fast. I couldn’t hold myself back! It’s probably because I’m so light and tiny, that I could run so fast! Spry little me! Whee, look at me gmphadfa,........hey, how does this compression sock keep winding up in my mouth?"
Me: "I have noooo idea."
(silence as we start walking after Deanna leaves a message for Nancy)
Me: "So you’re supposed to now ask me how MY race went; otherwise, I’ll have to post my lament on message boards everywhere about how selfish you are, thinking only of yourself."
Deanna: "Well, I figured you’d do about as well as one would expect, running 13.1 miles in someone else’s ill-fitting shoes. How did you do?"
Me, limping: "About as well as one would expect, running 13.1 miles in someone else’s ill-fitting shoes."

On the way back to Chicago, I had agreed to transport three Dobermans back to Chicago from Indianapolis shelters, so Deanna and I head over to the rescue guy’s place, since he had pulled the dogs from the shelters earlier in the day. We get there, meet the pups, and then are told that Roxy has to pee every 5 minutes, Lillian doesn’t seem to like being in a crate, they’ve all had raging diarrhea, and oh, there are no extra leashes so that we can take them for walks on the way back. I’m now envisioning the usual disaster of Tasha-esque proportions, replete with dog crap, whining and barking, etc.

Somehow, someway.............the dogs all behave. Nothing untoward happens. Lillian is so quiet in the crate that I worry whether she’s still alive (she is). Roxy sleeps much of the way, and when she wakes up does nothing more rambunctious than put her paws on Deanna’s shoulder to be petted. And little Derby sleeps half in my purse and half in Deanna’s lap the whole way. I’m not sure how this happened. Do you believe in miracles?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Happiness is a fast bicycle

Enough. Tired of waiting for perfect (or at least decent) weather that’s warmer than 30 degrees and doesn’t have 44 mph winds, I head out to Huntley for a long ride. My old, familiar stomping grounds. Sálome and I. It’s a bright, clear, semi-breezy morning when we get out there, and we set off.

Harmony Road

About 5 miles into my usual route is when I hit Harmony Road, the endless country road that goes to Union, Marengo, etc. – cow country, in other words. This is my first real ride on Sálome outside, and all I can say is.......holy crap. Oh sure, I know there are people who scoff at calling a particular bike “fast,” it’s all about the engine blah blah blah, but I can easily say, this bike is fast. I’m not putting in any effort and I’m zipping along at 19 mph. We’re just flying along.

Of course, I also discover that my new Garmin Edge 705 – a lovely early b-day gift to me from my mother (thanks mom!) – takes the concept of “add-ons” to the extreme. You see, they note that in order to get “detailed, street-level maps” one has to shell out an additional $120 or so for a special card. Which I did not do – after all, do I really need to know that there are cobblestone roads in downtown Delavan? I think not.

However. Garmin apparently has a more liberal definition of the concept of “street level.” According to them and my 705, there’s I-90 and then there’s Everything Else, and I am just a small blip moving about in a vast swath of uncharted territory. I guess that’s not too far from the truth. So the mapping feature is basically useless, but at least I can see my uberfast speed, and know that I’m exerting even more energy than usual as I’m biking at elevation (843 feet). That’s an extra cupcake right there, for my post-workout refueling.


It occurs to me, as I zip along on my sweet carbon fiber bike in the hinterlands, in a sense I’m recreating the Laura Ingalls experience, as she so eloquently described in Little House on the Windy Prairie, as they sojourned across the Great Plains in a covered wagon – pretty much the same thing I’m doing. I feel a special kinship with her, and vow that on all future rides, I will stick to the same nutrition that those early pioneers did: beef jerky in the form of Slim Jims, and dairy in the form of ice cream shoppe stops.

Soon I come upon one of my many hated new subdivisions – “Whiskey Creek Estates.” Just a twinkle and an ugly churned up patch of mud in a developer’s eye the last time I biked through here, this time there’s a gate, a fancy new blacktopped road, and......where are the ugly houses? I can’t actually see them from the road, so I figure on my way back I’ll bike down the turnoff and see what’s happening.

In the meantime, I continue, enjoying the beautiful countryside and fresh air. It makes me want to shake all those people with all their pretty bikes languishing in garages, in basements, on walls across America. Set your bikes free! Go ride! In my irrational exuberance, I get all full of myself and my bike handling skills, and attempt the tricky “pull the water bottle out of its holder” maneuver, which I manage with aplomb. Putting it back, however, almost sends me flying to the pavement. Note to self: practice that.

After I get to my usual turnaround point, suddenly from the nearby home a little dog comes running out at me, barking madly, running alongside my bike. This might be a bit perturbing, except for the fact that it’s a.......Welsh corgi? Come now. I want to laugh at his stubby little self – and the people feebly attempting to call him back with a “hey Rufus! Ruuufus!” – but he seems so earnest and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Unfortunately, I’ve also learned that attempting to pull out a water bottle to squirt him a little will probably lead to disaster, but as I’m contemplating my next move, he decides he’s taught me a lesson and turns around to go home. Whew! THAT was a close one.

About 20 minutes later, I stop by a burbling creek to take in the scenery and safely drink some water, and decide I have to call someone to share my cycling happiness and excitement. But who? Who’ll understand?

(phone ringing)
Colleen: Yes?
Me, rambling: Okay, I just have to tell you that Sálome is the most perfect wonderful bike in the entire world after Precious and it’s the most perfect glorious day out here and we’re having so much fun and oh my god she’s purrrrrrrrrrfect.
Colleen: I’m so glad – that’s really great. And it’s such a great day for riding, too.
Me: It is, just a little wind, nothing like last week, couldn’t ask for a better day, and my SNB is wonderful and we’re just flying along, it’s awesome.
Colleen: I’m glad she’s working out so well!

Colleen understands these things, as I knew she would. Bridget would get it too, but she now has some kind of “real world” job where I think a random call in the middle of the morning to gush about one’s bike miiiight just take a back seat to other matters. At least at that moment. I did later ask Deanna if she just loved riding on her new Cervelo, and got kind of an “it’s a bike” response, so I think it’s just me, this need I have for biking endless hours on endless country roads, basking in the sheer joy and happiness of riding.

Further on, after I pass the guys patching holes in the crappy roads, I spy what looks like a beaver making his way down a grassy bank, and naturally, I feel the need to stop to get a closer look. As I get off my bike and clomp over to get a better look at Mr. Crafty, it occurs to me why my cleats wear down so quickly.

Then, as I’m about the make the turnoff to go check out the esteemed Whiskey Creek estates, I notice that there’s no actual road beyond the gates – there’s just the newly paved main road that goes past the turnoff. Hmm. Could it be........another developer in bankruptcy? This brightens my day even more. Though, the Sun City folks have still been hard at work putting up more and more houses, all of which look exactly the same. I think they’re running out of subdivision names, however, as I pass one that’s simply called “Copperwynd.” Huh? “Wynd”? Apparently I’m not the only one who MSUs.

When I turn into my mom’s driveway, I tally up the day’s totals: 1 turkey vulture sighting, 1 truck blowing past me at 6 inches away, 1 dog chasing, 1 rabid squirrel that made a beeline for my front wheel on an otherwise empty country road. All in all, not bad for a day’s work.


Never let it be said that I don’t know how to pick the perfect weekend, oh no! It’s been nice for the last couple of weeks, and it’s the end of APRIL, for chrissake, so one would have a reasonable assumption that the weather would be decent enough to do a training weekend in Galena, right? Umm, no. That would be a big fat no.

Friday the 25th

The fun starts right away, as I leave my place after feeding the turkey vultures that flock to my backyard and meet up with Deanna for the drive out there, talking her into driving so that my mom can use my car. As I’m about to put Sálome carefully on Deanna’s behind-the-car bike rack, she races over to stop me, saying that her bike has to go on the inside, due to some kind of “flux capacitator issues that would destroy the integrity” of her bike because it has 650 wheels. Hmm. As we’re driving, the bikes are swaying every which way because of the crazy winds, so we’re driving slowly and at one point we get a lot of honking, waving, and an enthusiastic thumbs up from a guy who passes us – and as he does we see that he has a USAT sticker on his car. Ah, one of our people. We manage to make it in one piece - just in time for it to start monsooning. Sigh. We all put our bikes on the back porch, and I’m getting very agitated with the clumsy folks stumbling around back there adjusting this or that on their bikes. Finally, words of wisdom from Colleen: “Perhaps you should put Sálome in the house?” There is a reason that woman is a professor. I put Sálome safely away inside the house, and I can rest easy. Or maybe that was due to the margaritas.

Saturday morning

The day dawns sunny....and cold. And even from inside the house, we can tell it’s windy. Nevertheless, most of us set out in various groups. Robyn stays behind due to some odd aversion to being cold-as-shit, and Joe stays behind because we force him to so that he can bake cookins for us. Hey, someone has to make sacrifices, and it’s not going to be us.

I set out with Deanna, Kristin and Susan, and by the time we get down the first big hill, I’m so cold that my feet and hands are numb. Oh, and my ears are frozen, but who needs those? Luckily, when Bridget had asked me if she should bring Precious for me “just in case” (knowing that I’ve only been on one lone outdoor ride with Sálome and Galena isn’t the best place to practice riding on a new bike), I had a moment of temporary lucidity and said “sure, why not!” So at least as I’m almost being blown off the road, it’s not on my Shiny New Bike. Whew!

A few miles later

My feet fall off.

One mile later

At the top of one particularly nasty hill, I tell the girls that I’ve lost my feet, and so I’m not going to do the entire loop as planned, but will do the mini-loop, going along the current road to Stagecoach and so on. Still a decent ride with enough hills – there’s no escaping them out here. Then I’ll take the shortcut road (ha!) back to the house. Off we go on our separate ways.

Stagecoach Road

Okay, so the other road was bad enough because of the crosswinds, which were so strong that I actually had to deliberately lean into the wind so that I wouldn’t get blown over. But now on Stagecoach the problem is that not only are there the same wicked winds, but there are also more cars, so now I have to worry about getting blown in front of one of them, especially since there’s no shoulder, just gravel. I wind up walking up one rather wimpy hill, just because the road is twisty and narrow and has blind curves from both directions. Finally (!) I get to a road leading back into the territories. I think I remember how to get back to the house.......

Some road in the Territories

The woman I’m attempting to flag down as she’s going the other way in her minivan seems oddly reluctant to roll down her window – what, does she think a frozen, footless person with a bike is somehow going to carjack her? I find out that N. Clark, the street our house is on, is waaaaay far away, after I go up this hill, up another one, make a left, keep going forever, and then I’ll eventually get to it. Fantastic. What was it I had told myself about these damn shortcuts? Soon, I see a golfing foursome on the eagle Ridge golf course, and think, what kind of idiot do you have to be to be playing GOLF in this weather? Sheesh.

As I’m riding back, suddenly there’s a car behind me honking its horn repeatedly – I’m about to give them “a salute in the Chicago way,” as we say, when I see that it’s a couple of our cyclists being shuttled back to the house. I finally get to N. Clark, and am so giddy with excitement at almost being back that I cycle on furiously.....until I remember that we’re not actually on N. clark, but on the first small street that turns off of it. Oops. As I pull into the driveway, Robyn has dropped off her wayward cyclist passengers and is on her way to pick up two more, Deanna and Susan. Apparently they can’t deal with the wind anymore and called the house to have someone pick them up. I ask Joe to go look for my feet where I left them, somewhere on Elizabeth Scales Mound Road or thereabouts, and go to take a hot shower to thaw out, where I watch the chunks of ice that are substituting for my feet go from bone white to purple to red to tingly pain. Kind of like the ROYGBIV of foot problems.

Soon, Deanna walks into the house practically in tears.

Deanna: “That wasn’t fun.” (sniffle) “That really wasn’t fun (sniffle).....I almost got blown into a ditch about six times (sniffle)......but I made it up the hill, did you make it up the hill, you know, that hill? Huh huh, did you?”
Me: “No, I didn’t make it up that f&*(ing hill. My feet had fallen off at that point.”
Deanna: “Well, I made it up the hill. It’s too bad you didn’t make it up the hill. Though I did. On my super-light Cervelo P2C, which is so light it helped me just SPIN up all the hills. I love hills! And they love me! I just spun right up all of them! But then I lost speed on the downhills, because I’m so tiny and my bike is so light. Yes, I weigh so little and I’m so tiny that...hey, why are you taking my measurements with that little tape measure? And who are you calling? Are you mfphsfphf.....”
Me, on the phone: “Hello, Acme Blue Barrel Company? I’ve figured out what size barrel I need – in fact, I have the exact dimensions.”

As I was making my call, for some odd reason Deanna suddenly found herself unable to speak. It might have been due to the compression sock stuffed into her mouth, but I’m not sure.

That evening, as we're discussing our rides, I find out that I'm the only one who went riding on Stagecoach, as everyone else decided it was too dangerous. Oh. Need I remind you of my motto here? Funny how it seems more and more apt with every passing day.

Sunday, day of sloth

Since it’s still about 25 degrees outside and I need to pack up to get to my mom’s for Easter lunch, I decide to stay in and try to put the X-lab behind-the-seat bottle holder onto Sálome, though I’m not sure I have either the education level or even just the tools to get the job done. Deanna says she’ll help me, and we manage to get the X-lab on, though it doesn’t look quite right as the water bottle cages are basically parallel to the ground. This seems odd, though Deanna insists that it’s on right even as she’s complaining how heavy it is as we’re screwing it on. “I can’t hold onto it, it’s so heaaaavy!”

As I distract Deanna by throwing a random carbon fiber shiny object into the kitchen, I pick up my bike and then hers to make sure mine is lighter, even though she keeps trying to foil me by buying lighter and lighter CF doodads. Damn, I think she has in fact trumped me, with her CF hydrotail, compared to my “old school” clunky metal x-lab. It’s tough to tell though. This is her plan – if she gets her bike light enough, she doesn’t even have to train. Or maybe even do any races – they can just calculate her time based on bike weight. As I put Salome down and dash to her bike to lift it and thus compare again, I hear Joe-Joe’s shout of horror, the one that speaks to horrible things happening to my beautiful bike, and turn around just in time to see a small teeter from Salome. I decide to stop with this foolishness. Deanna’s just jealous because my bike, the beautiful Felt B12, won in the “Most Pretty” category in Bikesport Michigan’s poll of all triathletes between the ages of 34 and 37 who walked into their store on a random Tuesday in March. If that’s not the final arbiter of all that is holy in triathlon stuff, then you tell me what is.

Besides, my super-secret training plan is to make sure that for all training, my bike is as HEAVY as possible. Lead weights in the bento box, etc. That way when I get rid of that stuff for races, I’ll fly like the wind. Clearly, Deanna is still in the neophyte stage of her triathlon career and doesn’t think to use such sophisticated tactics as myself. Maybe someday.