Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On the Backside of the Hill

Let me make something clear from the beginning. I've been licensed bike racer for over 25 years. That's over half my life, but not by much. I was never a great rider but trained and raced with some of the best the Pacific Northwest has produced. This includes Scooter, one of our new Team Two Wheel riders. I have felt the depths of pain, suffering, and desperation that cycling can give you in all kinds of conditions both mentally and physically. All that being said, I broke into another plain of pain last Wednesday afternoon. Here is how it came about.

On Sunday I told my teammates that my friend Dismount Dave (explanation for the nickname to come to you at a later blog) had a KTM Superduke and was willing to motor pace us sometime. I also mention to them that Wednesday looked like a good day after work to take him up on the offer if all goes well. On Wednesday I got off work at 2:30, and the sun was shining through the windshield of my work van as I was doing my last bit of paper work. I could feel a bead of sweat running down my side-burn. It was truly a welcoming feeling. I knew what I needed for my afternoon. No sooner had I reached for my phone to call Dismount when it began to ring. I look at the caller ID and it reads Scott McSpadden (Scooter).

"Hey Rider 2, ummm, I was wonder about what you said on Sunday, about Dismount motor pacing maybe on Wednesday. Is that still a possibility?"

"F-N-A cotton, I was just about to call him and see if he is still up to putting us through the spin cycle of anaerobic pain." The long awaited warmth of the sun may have accelerated my enthusiasm.

"Cool..umm.. let me know what he says. I don't want to inconvenience him or anything...but if he could, that would be great."

"Great? That would be better that dark chocolate poured all over our wives ................" Once again I blame the sun for my exuberance.

"Well.. and let me know what he says"

"Will do." I said after realizing I just stepped or maybe triple jumped over the line with him.

As it was, Dismount assured me that he would be happier than an Austrian drinking a Red Bull to motor pace us and he could meet us for an espresso at 4:15 to talk over how we wanted him to play the task master for the afternoon. Just like that, we were set. We meet for coffee but our conversation never touched on a game plan. It covered motorcycles, pro cycling, women, carbon fiber wheels and all things laced with testosterone. Once satisfied we had exhausted the topics at hand, we looked at each other with a smile and tossed the last drops of our espressos and maybe some back wash and slammed our cups on the table. We simultaneously wiped our lips on our arms. Scooter and I with our old racing team long sleeve jerseys and Dismount on his letter jacket. "Crap!" he says as transfers the smudge on his sleeve to his jeans. Scooter and I stand up and click with our cleated cycling shoes towards the exit. When we got outside I caught myself in a nerves stretch and said, "What's the plan?"

Silence. Then some facial jesters between the three of us followed by all of us trying to speak at once. At this very moment I had a rush of memories of motor pacing in my past. None of them pleasant. There will be no time or oxygen for the next hour and a half to share stories to help distract me from the great discomfort I was about to endure. What was I getting myself into? I hadn't motor paced in a decade at least. I knew the benefits were great but what's it going to do for a nearly half a century old man like me? I was about to find out the answers to those questions soon enough.

We agreed to ride down to the Hangman Valley and ride on the valley floor back and forth until we were completely drained. When we got to the starting point, I hopped on to the Superduke's wheel. This was not a delightful position to be in. You see, the back tire of that motorcycle was designed for track riding, meaning a very soft compound. Anything loose on the tarmac it ran over, it flung right in the person's face who is directly behind it and that was me at 28-32 mph for the next 5 miles. Wisely I figured out that a slight move to the right or left of the bike would prevent me from receiving a piece of gravel shot into my eye or shattering a tooth that was exposed from my gaping mouth trying to scoop in as much air as super charger on an old 440 Mopar.

At the end of the first run we stop to evaluate how we could improve on the flow of things. Scooter suggested we rotate so one person doesn't get all the work. I didn't put up a fight on that one. In fact, I wonder why I didn't give him an arm flip to have him pull threw earlier. I have no heart rate monitor but I can tell you that after 26 years of riding I know the metallic taste of going into an anaerobic state and it felt like I was sucking on a penny a majority of that first 5 miles.

Scooter and I shared the rest of the session by rotating behind or off to the side of the rear wheel of Dismount's Austrian gas powered steed. Scooter was finding himself up front more often then me as time went on. I was blown. Every 5 mile stretch we would stop and turn around to go the other direction and every time I got weaker and weaker. I run a 11-23 cluster because I prefer as tight as possible gearing I can get. Majority of that cassette is a 1 tooth difference. Well, by the end of an hour and a half it felt like 10 teeth difference between shifts. I got dropped twice and every muscle, connective tissue, and fiber in my legs were aching. I couldn't get enough oxygen. I was noxious from going to my limit to many times. I could not recover both long term and short term. I am officially old. Never in my life, not in a race or training have I ever felt so wasted and with no rebound. I'm on the back side of the hill. Will I do it again? Of course. Cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world and I will continue to do it until I get to the bottom of the back side of the hill and ride on the flats until I'm 6 feet under.
Rider 2

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