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......”)

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