Monthly Archives: February 2011

Feeling like a local

I can’t remember if I have written about this before. I know I’ve thought about it many times.

Whenever I travel somewhere, initially I have this feeling of being an ‘outsider’. Like everyone else can look at me and tell that I’m not from around here.

But when I get on a bike and out on the roads, I instantly feel like a local. It’s amazing how quickly it happens. Right now, I’m in Phoenix. Within a few minutes of riding the sense of foreignness started to change. The roads are still unfamiliar, but there is something different about experiencing unfamiliar roads on a bike versus in a car. You’re in more direct contact on a bike. And suddenly you’re “with” all the other local riders in the effort to avoid becoming road kill. You don’t get when you’re in a car, or when you’re walking.

Now, about Phoenix.

I was here 5 years ago, and did quite a bit of riding. I know that it was 2006, because I recall riding during the day and then watching Apolo Ohno in the Olympic speed skating in the evening. But what I remember most — even more than the nice weather — was how annoying it was riding around here.

The majority of the roads seem to be 6 lanes of cars racing to the next traffic light or strip mall. Then many of the smaller secondary roads don’t go anywhere. Well, do they do go *somewhere* but that somewhere often is a dead-end, or the entrance to a gated community. It’s as if most of the roads were built solely for the purpose of creating housing developments. There are some decent roads to ride on, but they often require a complicated zig-zag to navigate the dead ends.

I don’t know how you can look at this, against the backdrop of desert mountains, and not think that the planners and developers got it all very wrong.

I guess I feel a bit spoiled to be able to roll out my driveway at home and ride for hours, hitting only a handful of traffic lights. The roads actually get you from one place to another: Kirtland-Chardon Road, or Burton-Windsor Road. If we could only combine that with 300+ days of sunshine.

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My Feet are Staging a Revolt

After a bike race ends, racers will often say “wow, that hurt”. We usually mean “hurt” in the sense of extreme fatigue, periods when we were in severe oxygen debt, or legs burning from lactic acid.

But when I say, “wow, that hurt” after a running race — every one of the running races I’ve done — I mean that it literally caused me to be in pain.

The most recent torture was the Run With Your Heart 15km trail race. 15km is the longest I’ve run. Ever. Running that distance on a snow-covered trail made it seem even longer. Going off trail in foot-deep snow to pass people really made it seem longer.

But the worst were the parts of the course that were littered with hoof prints from the horsey-people that use the trails. (I don’t ever want to hear one of them complain about how mountain bikes damage trails). It was like running on a miniature ski-mogul slope. Toward the end of the first loop it seemed every other step I would land on a bump that sent a shock wave up through my right arch.

Other than that the course was very cool. Slow courses seem to be better for us “bike racers pretending to be runners.” At the time my foot started to hurt, two of us pretenders (Rudy and I) were respectably holding down the 3rd and 4th spots, talking about bike racing as we ran. But then I had to slow down and change my gait so that I could finish. I did manage to limp my way to the finish and just barely hold on for the 5th spot (Rudy took 4th).

Now I have a feeling that for the next few days at least I will have to carefully choose which shoes to wear, and watch where I step.

But here’s another illustration of the superiority of the bike: even after a painful run, I can still go out on the bike. Tired, yes, but without pain.

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The Streak is Broken

I don’t mean the Cavaliers losing streak. Although … as a measure of how pathetic the Cavs have been, they went without a win for 2 weeks longer than I went without riding outside.

I hadn’t planned on riding at all, so I could have fresh legs for a 15km trail race the next morning. An inch of snow overnight made the roads wet and slushy, so riding outside didn’t seem to be a possibility anyway. But then the sun came out, and I started doing that anxious pacing, imagining that just maybe the roads would dry out enough to make it possible.

By 2:30 I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to get out. Snow, salt, wet roads … it didn’t matter. I needed to feel the sun on what little skin I dared to expose.

It was glorious. Well, as glorious as a ride on wet roads at 30 degrees F can be. My legs won’t be so fresh for the race in the morning, but it was worth it.

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Exercising Stupidity

Yesterday I had this realization that if I start out on a workout, I need to finish it. No matter how stupid it becomes. I think that’s why I won’t start a ride when it’s raining, but once I’m out in it I’ll keep going for as long as I had planned.

I signed up for a 15km trail race that’s coming up in a week, and hadn’t done any trail runs in a while because of all the snow. So I figured I should go out and get my “trail legs” back again. The plan was to run for 1hr 15 min. I don’t know why I thought this would be feasible, given the snow/rain/snow we got in the past week. I guess I had this idea that enough other people would have packed down the trail enough. But I forgot that “most people” are smart enough not to attempt slogging through 18 inches of crusty snow.

Well, I could see that a few had tried. It didn’t look so bad, so I started down the trail. 18 minutes and only 2km later, I decided that this was an exercise in stupidity. I was either sinking through the icy crust, or falling into holes other people had made. But I just could not make myself stop and turn around. I thought that maybe it would get better when I hit the main trail. It did get better, but was still more about trying not to get hurt than it was about getting a workout.

The smarter thing would have been to turn around at the start, and just run on the road. The amusing thing is that I didn’t even think about that.

What I did was finish the workout, then go home and start looking online for a pair of racing snowshoes.

Which I ordered today.

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From Boom Boxes to Netflix

With the seemingly endless streak of unforgiving weather intact, I once again headed to the basement for an indoor training session.

Per my usual routine, I turned on the computer, navigated to Netflix, and picked out a movie available for instant streaming. I turned up the sound, turned on the fan, and got started sweating.

At one point the movie froze. While waiting for it to restart, a no-longer-used boom box sitting in a corner, covered with a layer of dust, caught my eye.

That little piece of nostalgia was the original trainer distraction.

Before the boom box, there was just the whir of the wind trainer or rollers to keep you company. You had to really want to be training. The only thing that kept me at it was imagining being fit or not fit when season started in a few months. I actually remember mentally going through different races while sitting on the trainer.

At some point CD boom boxes became cheap and available. That was the first step down the slippery slope. I had music to distract me while training.

When we got a Newer, Bigger TV the old one was relegated to the basement. Set up with a VCR, I could watch VHS tapes of races — bought from the World Cycling Production catalog, or bootlegged tapes of Paris-Roubaix from someone on the Internet.

At some point — probably just a couple years ago, but seems like forever — the VHS tapes started collecting dust too. They were replaced by a computer with a big monitor, DVD player, and ability to stream music and video on demand. Now there’s a seemingly endless selection of something to watch or listen to.

Sometimes I think we’ve gotten soft. And addicted to the multimedia stream. I would find it difficult to ride the trainer without any kind of distraction. But hey, if it means you now train more, then it’s good, right?

On the other hand, I picture Eddy Merckx riding the rollers in his garage and can’t help but conclude that we’ve gotten soft.

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