Sunday, May 9, 2010

200 Jitters: A Psychoanalysis of Why We Ride

Survivors of the May 8th, 200 -- Andre, Ben, Charles, Susan, Andrea, Moi, Chris

I couldn't have gotten a better Mother's Day gift than to have my Ex and my parents be willing to watch my children while I went out and rode my bike a ridiculous amount of kilometers starting at a ridiculous hour of the morning just a week after I did a half marathon at blistering effort from which, by all assertions, I was not yet recovered. Just the day before I climbed three flights of stairs at work at a normal pace and arrived at the top gasping like I weighed 300 lbs. 

I knew ahead that I would likely write something about this ride but the whole 200 km I kept waiting for something eventful to happen to spur my creativity because I knew I didn't want to write a straight-up ride report. Unlike the last time, Ben kept his ass in his shorts and on his bike seat. No one got dropped. And other than the precarious 6.6 km right before Beausejour where after doing a pull and I worked at race pace and beyond to hang on the back desperately waiting for recovery to happen, and THANK GOD we were stopping because I was ready, I felt pretty damn good through the whole ride. There was some minor calf cramping in the last 8km after we stopped to wait for Andre to fix a flat, a bit of a stiff neck and back, all to be expected. but my quads are in perfect shape, even today, a day later. Check out the Garmin Data.

Our stunning scenic view for approximately 192km of 208

By about 170km I was pretty bored to be honest.  Pedal pedal pedal, farmers field on the right, farmers field on the left. Wind everywhere coming from every direction except behind us.

So I started thinking, because over 200 km you have lots of time to think, about why I do these things, because frankly, everyone (except for the other equally crazy individuals who do these things with me) thinks I'm nuts. I think I said it out loud at various points along the ride that only people with a certain degree of psychosis actually think this kind of thing is fun. I couldn't seem to stimulate any deep introspective discussion on that topic from anyone on this ride, because we are all likely in denial about that. So I'll do it here, where I may or may not have an audience.


A U-tube video crossed my path the other day via another blog I follow. It was the trailer for the movie Bicycle Dreams which chronicles the adventures of participants in The Race Across America -- the race where the true psychotic endurance crazies come out and play. The best endurance cyclists ride 3000km across America in the shortest time possible sacrificing sleep, a regular meal, and a comfortable place to sit. Half drop out before finishing, the trailer states. And a few other quotes caught my ear:

"We have more people in society now that describe a feeling of missing something. 'There is just something missing in my life'."

"Lance Armstrong said that endurance athletes are running away from something inside of themselves and that is one of the reasons they do what they do."

So could it be that crazy rides like yesterday's is a replacement for something? Masking a dissatisfaction with ones self? It might be a replacement for lack of sex (Not for the people on THIS ride, OF COURSE). Or an escape from an unsatisfying relationship or marriage. A lot of the separated, divorced, or single people I know have told me they started into their athletic pursuits because they were dissatisfied with their home life. I would say for the majority, it was running that came first and then it branched from there as the addiction took hold. Their spouses or S.O.'s stayed home and vegged out on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of chips. I would say that I fell into this category too. And then the whole thing just escalates out of control until it becomes this huge uncontrolled monster, equally as real as addiction to cocaine or heroine. But hopefully less harmful. Maybe.


There is nothing better than outdoing yourself and if you can outdo others in the process this is a bonus. The 200 km ride I did last year was purely a spur of the moment thing. Ah what the hell, I'm free, I'll show up. This year it was planned and manipulated. Last year I was shocked I could do 100 km in May. This year it was 200.  And it was frankly at bit anticlimactic -- been there done that... NEXT. The Randonneurs group, who I did this ride with, also have 300, 400, 600, 1000 options. There are time limits on all the rides. They are generous times, but they are done continuously over a weekend, which I've heard means on the longer options you ride overnight and catch cat naps in ditches and on park benches. If you ride the 200, 300, 400, and 600 in one season you become a Super Randonneur and if you do it two years in a row it will give you a good chance of getting into the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200 km in 2011 which is limited to 5000 riders and, I believe only happens every 2 years.

Has it crossed my mind to do this? Yes. Do I think it is realistic? Well I can't do everything. And I have a half ironman to do in August so I have to keep running. And I have children to consider. And a relationship I'd like to keep and, while he rides too, he is training for Ironman so he can't do this with me. Not this year. And given that Ironman training is time consuming enough, I would like to spend SOME time with him over the next few months.

Are the people who do these things Crazy? Absolutely. But the adrenaline rush is addictive and to get the same rush you often have to up the anti a little bit. There are pathological comparisons that can be made: Maintaining two (or more) relationships simultaneously might be one (think Tiger Woods). Embezzling money from your company  might be another. You dip your toe over the line into naughtiness and it is exciting and you're getting away with it so it takes a little bit higher risk to get the same rush (you are more and more affectionate in public; you steal bigger and bigger sums of money per transaction going beyond those small unnoticeable sums). How far can you go before you get caught?

Or maybe getting caught is the point? Maybe this is a cry for help?

So you've done 200 km, how about 3, 4, 600? How far can one  push ones body before it gives out? Like these nutty dudes attempting to complete 5 ironman distance triathlons over 5 days on 5 different islands of Hawaii. Heroic or Stupid?


I'm still learning a lot of new things. Like this:

I love the fact that there are girl riders in this diagram. Look closely for the pony tails.

These are riding formations. The first is the single pace line where when the lead rider, who is taking the brunt of the wind, drops to the back of the pace line and into the draft of the other riders and takes a rest while the the rider behind takes over. The second is the same principle but in a double pace line formation for larger groups or lower traffic zones. Great in headwinds and tail winds, but what if there are cross winds or worse yet, diagonal winds, like the NW winds we faced yesterday?

For those we use formations 3 or 4 or a mixture of the two. The third is the rotating eschelon which we did for 25 km yesterday and it was my favorite part of the whole ride. And if you check out the Garmin data, you will notice a section where my heart rate stayed pretty stable and that was during the eschelon, as opposed to jumping high when I pulled and dropping down when I was in draft.  A rotating eschelon is a combo of the single and double pace lines but each lead rider only pulls for about 30 seconds, just long enough to get in front of the previous lead rider and into the "slow lane" where they drop back until they reach the last rider of the fast lane whereby they move back into the fast lane and then rider by rider get back into pull position. The slow lane is on the windward side. More riders is better because there is more wind blocking. The fourth is for cross wind and is a combo of the double pace line and the eschelon. It is hard to do when you only have one lane of traffic to contend with but works on the same principle as the V formation of birds flying south.

Criterium: short tactical bike races with crazy-ass cornering sure to get me killed.
Or cause me to kill others.

Learning new things is fun. I have last year's Randonneurs 200 medal sitting on the frame that houses my University Gold Medal. I dare say, at this stage of my life,  I am more proud of that first 200 medal than of my Gold Medal. But the connection with learning is obvious. I like to learn. Maybe I'll learn how to bike race next but I dare say that my need to do endurance rides might kill my skills in a short race like a criterium. I might need to go out and ride 50 km before my body is prepped to show up at the starting line of a fast short race such as that. I might also have to gain some bike handling skills.


I actually like when people say to me: "You actually rode your bike for 200 km? In one day?! Your nuts!" 

Thank you very much. Yes, I did, and yes, I am.

I complain out loud about how big my quads have gotten and how I have difficulty finding pants to fit my legs. But I actually like my legs. They are solid muscle. I can out leg press half the guys at the gym. And I'm the only woman in the world... oh yes, I don't believe this is an exaggeration.... who actually likes her own butt.

My Ass on a bike seat. A view I will never see in person. 

I like being solely responsible for several cases of bike envy. I like when people walk into my office and fondle the bike. I like when I ride up the universal access ramp to my building and hear several people mutter...Nice bike. I like when people talk to me about bikes. I like when non riding people want to know what crazy thing I did this past weekend. Like, like, like. I like it even more when someone tells me I've inspired them to make a life change to exercise.


I like riding with other people. I like the talk that happens. I admit that yesterday after about 150 km I didn't feel  particularly chatty. But I've had some of the most interesting conversations in the middle of a cycling pack with the wind gusting around my ears. You can talk about just about anything and it is like a private secret conversation that no one else can hear. And I'll tell you a secret.... get my exercise addrenaline flowing and it is practically a truth serum. You never know what I might say. Just don't talk with your hands, as that could be deadly.

I like meeting up with other cyclists in non cycling environments and you look at each other with a nod and with complete unspoken understanding that you would rather be riding.

And the last thing I'll say about my riding peeps is that I stole a few of these photos from Andrea who was also on the ride. I must give credit where credit is due. She is more talented than I when it comes to taking riding photos because I have this difficulty with taking my hands off the handle bars and it is incompatible with taking photos, especially given it seems that only my left hand comes off comfortably and I can only operate a camera with my right. We won't question, however, why Andrea was taking a picture of my ass on a bike when there were clearly options more to her taste.... (wink).

The other thing I must say about Andrea is that she has recently started up her own blog that you really should check out. The link that I've directed you to is her version of the same ride. She posted first but any overlap in discussion points is purely coincidental as mine was written already and I was waiting on some of those pictures I stole. We were in the same place at the same time and given that we have the same obsession we likely think alike too. Well, I'm pretty sure I know so, actually.

I must thank her for this photo most of all:

I'm still eating, by the way.

And this one of course:

And I'm still smiling too.


Lisa said...

You are not the only woman in the world who likes her own butt...I love mine too!!!...(although I used to hate it pre-running days!)

ps. You do have a nice butt! ;)

Kim said...

So I have been told. Once or twice....
There are 3 pictures of myself from the rear I just realized, on this blog,

gregory said...

Awsome Kim! Keep up the writing!