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.