the last post was two weeks ago. i guess it's been a busy month. no. i know it's been a busy month. there will be plenty of time to share my observations over the next few pages worth of typing, so maybe i'll try to pace myself like the last entry, and leave things hanging until i have a bit of breathing/typing room in the daily schedule.
where was i? ah yes, things i learned over the course of a hundred miles on a windy day in september...
i learned that if i have nothing nice to say, i probably shouldn't say anything at all; i should just save it and blog about it later. honestly: no one wants to be grumbled to or about, unless it's suffused with humor, eloquence, and some form of self-deprecation. my time suffering under marshall lee was not sufficiently humorous or eloquent, and i was too angry to self-deprecate. i was, moreover, pleading my case as a capable cyclist (though many would likely slot me into the 'avid' or similarly demeaning 'enthusiast' category) just out to have fun, not ride in a prescribed paceline to the halting rhythm of gruff commands by marshall lee. sit back. relax. don't take everything so personally. enjoy the view and the fact that i can ride a bike. it's a charity ride for kids with cancer - think about the kids and what they have to suffer through. that's enough to shut anyone up for a long time.
machismo is fun, and will consistently get me into trouble, particularly with the powerful and strong women with whom i've chosen to surround myself in my life. blasting out of the starting gate, blowing through suburban turns, catching up to and sprinting past a much stronger little brother, giggling raucously while doing it, challenging, laughing, challenging again, stretching the legs, sniffing for points on the climb, bombing the descents in full tuck - all of these things are truly and genuinely fun, fun like kids on bikes in the summer time fun, and they are all things that got me into trouble. it's fun to go out and see who's got legs today. but it's not part of the 25km/h pace. it's fun to easily slide past people of lesser body mass on those open country road descents. but passing them involves breaking up the two-by-two imperative paceline. giggling is fun. yeah. marshall lee, the lady i was riding with, and i'm sure some other lady in the group were certainly not impressed with these elements of bike-based fun as enjoyed by myself and my brothers. stick to the rules. challenge later. let's all just keep the pace and we'll have a great day. yeah fuckin right.
i learned that everyone has a different code for different situations, and sometimes codes take hierarchical arrangement, canceling each other out, or dictating less than optimal outcomes. i take a general code of survival of the group - no one left behind. it's an attempt at honor, an attempt at doing what we set out to do: ride bikes together. we could go out and hammer a hundred miles by ourselves, but it wouldn't be the same, it wouldn't be the point. the point of the whole ride was to hang out together, and we could've done that sitting in adirondack chairs and drinking creemore. after buddy's flat and our prompt dropping by the marshall lee group, everything dissolved into random groups and odd mood undercurrents that would shape the rest of the day, for better or for worse. one lady rode up ahead, afraid that if she didn't, she would never be able to keep up a finishing pace (going alone is generally a bad idea if one is worried about 'keeping up'). buddy with the fixed flat set a blistering pace, as a matter of honor, feeling bad about having made all of us get dropped because of our pseudo-sub-group status. he dropped half the group. feeling fine and trying to keep everyone together, i worked to bridge the widening gap in the paceline, but another group member was under-fueled and over-hungover, so we lost that pace group too. then there were three. i could have chased. i could have hammered through the wind, up the hills, through the beautiful scenery, right up on marshall lee's ass, just to prove that i knew how to ride a bike and could hold a pace if i wanted to. i could have set up in a paceline and gotten my breath back, saved my legs, preserved myself until the 60-mile lunch rest stop. no one left behind. i stayed back. i pulled like i've never pulled before. listening for my companions. easing up when someone got dropped. dropping back to give up every caffeinated gel i had. offering water, support, mutual suffering, a slipstream. no one gets left behind. and this was no longer fun.
i learned that riding bikes is not always fun. even riding bikes for fun is not always fun. hills are fun. searing pain ripping through the capillaries in quadriceps is fun. rapha styles epics are fun. pulling a couple of hungover hard-heads through miles of farmland headwind while trying not to drop them on hills and after being called an asshole for joking around at the start..this is not fun. it's like treeplanting: it's all in your head. you could be the fittest fucker out there, just ready to enjoy the day on the nicest bike you've ever ridden, then someone you care about calls you a jackass for being silly at the start of a charity ride and all of a sudden the day becomes gray and windy and smells like cow shit and corn.
i learned that i still like bikes. i still like riding. and i might even do it with people again, but i will be prepared. i learned that knowing the game plan is better than going in and doing improv. i know how i ride. no one gets left behind. and we all have fun. one rule is better than marshall law.