Monday, August 24, 2009

The Tyranny of the Cyclocomputer and the Power of Two

The sweat of self doubt piled upon the perspiration of excessive physical effort. All was not going as expected. Everything hit rock bottom when that stupid little machine beeped and shut off on the hill coming out of the river valley. The little handlebar mounted tormentor, with its single digit curling like a snide smile, stopped recording because we were going so slow it thought we had stopped.

To think I was excited at its arrival. I opened the package like a Red Rider BB gun on Christmas morning. It was the spoils of my victory, the reward for my effort, in the big Tour internet challenge. Well, actually, it wasn’t really due to any top placement in the virtual race. It was more of a random award, you know-name out of a hat kinda thing. But, isn’t that really apropos…a random award for a random rider. Anyway, it was only the second time I had won anything. The first was after winning a running race at some kind of family picnic. I was one amped up 8 year old. What did I get as a reward for my first, and only, big win- a handbag made of old milk jug pieces crocheted together with orange yarn. I bawled inconsolably.

You’d think I would have learned, but when my major award came I quickly forgot the lessons of the past. I stayed up late into the night setting up the cadence meter, calibrating the wheel size, strapping gizmo’s to tubes and testing the heart rate monitor. It had been a year or so since my last cyclocomputer conked out and I never got around to replacing it. How great was it going to be to see the blistering speeds and Herculean efforts that propelled my little blue and white Cervelo?

I took the Tuesday Grimp over to Carmichaels to accommodate Lord MonkeyButt. The prospect of a fully monitored Grimp was apparently so exciting that I had been unable to sleep the previous night. With great fanfare (a barking dog and mewing kittens) we mounted up and took off across the freshly tarred and chipped roads of fabulous Greene County Pa.

The expectation was a moderate ride registering a respectable 15 mph avs or more. It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to be so easy. There is some sort of evil magic associated with The Grimp. Though there be easy flat to rolling courses all around, the legs are inexorably drawn to the steepest climbs and the deepest drops even in the sweltering heat. After a mere eight miles, and this is no exaggeration, I was really ready to stop.I needed to stop. Had this been a race I would have abandoned to the comfort of the broom wagon. I struggled mightily to keep the average reading from dropping below a measly 12 mph. There was an irrational, yet palpable, fear at the prospect of seeing 11.9 mph register on the little screen. The rest of the thirty miles was spent huffing, puffing, sweating profusely, complaining internally (and occasionally out loud). My eyes were glued to my little screen as though it were the electronic manifestation of Mesmer himself. It was a desperate time trial of the unwittingly unfit. Apparently, without something to watch over me, I had taken to old man pacing spiked with delusions of speed. Now, I was consumed with the piteous task of pushing liquid crystal a few tenths above my lowered expectations, 12.0, just to see it slip back to the bottom and dimly suggest .9 for an instant. I had become a Sisyphus in spandex with a cylocomputer starring as Lord Hades.

And so, beaten, I plodded on through to Saturday. I didn’t want to, but I had to ride if I was to serve my lord of the average speed and climb the fitness slope, yet again. Feeling like a lumbering tortoise, I relented when my nine year old asked to come along. We took the tandem and instead of the bike path, took the roads I would normally tackle. I set a time goal but didn’t expect to make it, tied to the boy on his first real road ride and all. But, by God, he was a force back there. He never complained and always pedaled harder when I asked. In, fact, I had to teach him moderation, lest he flame out before the hills between Masontown WV and home. Not only did we make it back in time we made it back 15 minutes ahead of time. It was two and a quarter hours of good old family fun.

So Sunday I came back and taught that cyclocomputer a lesson. Fourteen of us did 50 miles of terrain similar to that hellish Grimp. It was fast, it was a whooping good-time, and the cyclocomputer choked on its own electrons, having to show an average speed of 16mph. I guess you’ll just have days like this and that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An outsider's view

We did Have a great grimp Tuesday. The gods pushed aside the rain clouds so that The Fat Cat, Phallose and Legs could have fantastic weather for a quick little romp through the Appalachians. Phallose toyed with the other riders, dodjing ahead and turning around, sometimes getting them to take a playful swat at him. Since Sandbag was in the mountains but not on the ride, the Grimpeurs invaded his hideout, tucked in beside a mountain lake, and demanded refreshment. The performance enhancing pills Phallose was pushing did not seem to help those who chose to serve as lab rats. The post ride recovery drink provided by Legs was much more effective.

Here is an article from PezCycling about West Virginia riding. It claims we're better than Europe. Check it out. News

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Something Old, Something New

My rainbow-it was overdue. (Look closely, it's there.)

So, what has happened in the wide world of Grimping over the past few weeks you ask? Truth be told, I can barely remember what I did yesterday. Still, I’ll try and render a semi-lucid account.

I used the Tour De France to try and kick start my cycling level back into something other than bike trail tourist. I did manage to ride every day the tour did and tried to emulate the stages. In the end about 700 miles were logged and nearly 40000 feet were climbed. I came in at 130something in the world out of 17,000+ in’s Tour Challenge and- drumroll please- number one in West Virginia. A “major award” is even on its way as we speak. No, it is not a lady-of-the-evening fishnet stocking leg lamp. I’m not THAT lucky. (If you get that reference, well then, merry Christmas and don’t shoot your eye out.) Now please, don’t go getting any ideas about the old Fat Cat because of those results. They were more points for persistence and stubbornness rather than having anything to do with strength and speed. Hey, you take what you can get.

For the first time in a while an invite to the Grimp was sent out via the net a week or two ago. No one showed. However, I did run across a misinformed straggler from another ride and initiated him into the Grimpeurs with a trip over Wymps Gap and around Bruceton Mills. I put in 78 mountain miles (it was a climbing stage that day in the Tour) and Glen made for good company mid ride. He even gets an official Grimpeur handle even though his attendance was accidental. I call him Rocket Man (because associating him with John Glenn was the only way I could remember his name). The best part of that Grimp was the torrential downpour that turned the road into a canal for the last 10 miles. It was rejuvenating. The harder it came down, the more I smiled. Apparently, whoever is in charge of scary weather took offense to my insolence. Rain so heavy that cars were stopped on the side of the road was followed by high winds on top of thunderbolts and lightning. Still I rode on. That was the last straw. From on high hailstones pelted the landscape. Imagine bags of white marbles dumped from a 747 on your head while you are blindly time trialing through a deluge. Doesn’t that sound great! Glad I had a helmet on.

Last week a Grimp was called and some of the old faithful took heed. Goldfish, Killer Bee and Boyscout teamed up to beat the snot out of The Fat Cat. Killer bee had a new Madone, Goldfish had a new Ridley (I think) and both were eager to give them a workout. By the time I was ¾ of the way up the mountain, all three of the others had taken their mid-day tea at the top, discussed my whereabouts, and decided that they had better come back down and see if I had a flat tire or maybe a heart attack. And there you have the theme for the ride. Hurry up and then wait for the Fat Cat. If nothing else it was a helluva workout for me. The tough guys were shown who was the boss on the way down, though. I had my own private tea-party at the bottom.