I’m writing this post from atop a block of ice, my lower extremities slathered in arnica gel and Biofreeze. Needless to say, I did not finish today’s 80-miler. Not even close. Even with the best of intentions, I faced yet another stupid monster. And it got me.
I had high hopes for today’s ride. I had a great trainer ride mid-week, and I finally felt like some power was coming back into my legs. My bike, Shadow Comet, on the other hand, had grown tired of all of the switching back and forth of the front derailleur, and obstinately, as it has been prone to do in the past, refused to switch out of the big chainring toward the end of the ride. Fine, be that way. I’m taking you to the shop again. I told it, yanking it off of the trainer and leaning it against the wall.
I had to hit up the bike shop anyway, as I was finally getting on board with obtaining a cadence sensor, which Coach Holly said would help a whole heck of a lot with my overall pace. I was willing to try anything, so the cadence sensor seemed like a good place to start.
Unfortunately, two of my usual shops didn’t have the sensor in stock. I was going to have to shop around(which OF COURSE I have loads of time for). Meanwhile, my bike mechanic, Jorge, had other disappointing recommendations about the status of my bike and its shifters. He said that the shifters would keep getting stuck, so if I wanted to stop the sticking, I would need to get new shifters, rear cassette, chain and front derailleur.Oh. Dear.
Mind you folks, I purchased this bike for a mere $600 off of Craigslist. I was unemployed, so my options we limited at the time. Let’s just assess what I’ve spent on it so far, shall we?
Bike fitting: $200
Second bottle holder: $10
Service fees for brakes, shifters, etc.: $180
New pedals: $60
New bar tape: $40
New tire: $50
New saddle that felt like a wild animal was biting my crotch: $100
New saddle that was less painful than the others: $200
Saddle cover to deaden the saddle pain slightly: $20
Third and Fourth bottle holders: $40
My bike total: $1600
Basically, if I purchased all of this machinery, I would have been able to buy a much better bike, brand new, for the ridiculous lot of cheddar that I would be dumping on this thing. Of course, all of that money had been spent and was now a whole lot of Velveeta under the bridge anyway (hey, I follow through with my cheesy jokes). Plus, what if it happened again during Vineman? It would be devastating to not finish on a mechanical failure, a race I worked SO hard to finish!
Needless to say, I left my bike (and my grocery money for the next month) at the bike shop, and hunted down a new cadence sensor. When I entered the third shop, and asked the sales guy about whether they carried the sensor, he seemed to know right away where to find one, except there were none where he thought they were. After some hunting, he found one, but he told me that it was on hold for another customer. You have got to be kidding me, I thought. Was there some run on Garmin cadence sensors among the cyclists of Los Angeles that I was unaware of?
The sales clerk disappeared into the mysterious back room for a while, I’m assuming to consult The Great And Powerful Wizard Of Cog, and emerged with good news. I was granted permission to purchase the sensor. To heck with that stupid holding cyclist. You snooze, you lose, Bucko!
I even succeeded in mounting the thing on my bike myself, without much help (thank you, YouTube). Armed with all of the tools for success, my lovely Frankenbike and I were ready to rock the weekend’s 80-mile ride.
Initially, I was a little surprised at how low my comfortable cadence had been. Starting out, my legs really liked 75 rpms. But that was my problem. Previously, I would begin a ride at a high gear, with low rpms, and my legs would tire, mid-ride. Furthermore, once my legs fatigued, they were used to slugging along at low rpms so my pace would fall and I would be unable to pick back up.
Today I was training for high rpms. Instead of mashing a higher gear up the hills, Coach Quinton stayed back with me. I worked on spinning up them, working the whole leg and whole pedal stroke to get up the slopes. It felt weird and cardiovascularly annoying, as I felt like I was running on my bike.
Quinton helped guide me as I acclimated to this new riding style. My legs felt as though they were flailing wildly, with nothing to push solidly against, but without lower gearing and higher cadence, a triathlete can melt down on the run. I had to learn this. It was for my own good,
Spin easily uphill and work the downhills and flats I thought to myself. With no bigger gear momentum to get me up hills, I felt slower and more winded climbing at first. I spun fiercely against those grades, maybe too fiercely.
Around Mile 20, I felt that familiar tight ache in the back of my leg, the kind where a muscle fiber feels as though it has been stretched beyond its limits. Crap. I think I pulled a muscle. I started to worry. Am I going to be able to finish 80 miles on a pulled muscle?
I tried to push the pain out of my mind, but it kept getting worse, stronger and sharper as I climbed up hills. On the last couple of climbs before we hit the SAG stop, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to continue. The crazy part was, I felt like I was just getting warmed up and probably could have gotten into an okay cycling “zone” at that point, if it wasn’t for the pain. I wanted to keep going, to keep practicing my cadence, but, at that point, I knew that it would be stupid to continue, and risk the season. I SAG’d myself out, yet again.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even cry this time. I felt disappointed, but I accepted it. I didn’t flog my own sorry hide about being a slowpoke or for being a baby and not pushing through an injury. I didn’t boohoo over the fact that I’d just spent all of this money and still had a stupid ride. I didn’t lament the fact that I have never had a good bike ride, ever.
Sure I’m nervous about my race, but I think the bigger lesson here is that I
have to be kinder to myself. I still have time to get used to having a higher cadence and to become a stronger cyclist. I want to do it, and I will. Next week we will probably ride most of the Vineman course. The only real monster I have to face is myself.