facebook where wonders never cease, I received a friend request that hurtled me back into the volatile hormone land of my adolescence. Back when I was 15, I worked in Kenora for a summer and was very enamoured with a "boy" who loved bikes. He also raced bikes and I didn't know what that really meant at the time except that people told me he was really really good. But he was my first introduction to boys who wore Lycra and shaved their legs and there was nothing weird about this because he was damn cute and had the nicest "eyes" I'd ever seen and the best body a guy can have at 16 and he made me laugh.
And since I know you are reading this, Dean, stop blushing and get back on your bike.
Dean inspired me once to attempt to hop on my 30 pound ten speed and try and ride from my parents cottage North of the Kenora Airport all the way to the Husky station near the harbour front of Kenora (I'll estimate this to be 20 km) just to pick up my pay cheque, and, truth be told, to see him. Problem was that back in 1986, the road to the airport (which was the start of the pavement to the town) was made of lose gravel and I didn't have a clue about changing gears so I probably rode single speed my entire teenage life regardless of the impressive number of gears a 10 speed had (for the 1980s). I made it as far as what would now be the Kenora bypass (or about 2 km) before giving up and turning back. Not a small feat on a bike of that nature. There is a 14% gradient on that section of road.
I was pretty good on that 10 speed. I used to ride it to school with my trumpet case on top of the handle bars and my school bag on one shoulder and steer with one hand. When I didn't have to bring the trumpet, I rode no hands the whole way to school. I used to go out biking with my friends and ride up and down the bike paths behind the swimming pool and the big Superstore near my house. I had my first and (hopefully only) bike crash on that bike. I came hurtling down the bike path and somehow took a curve too wide coming off a bridge and went flying into the brush down a path to the edge of the Seine River. So it wasn't really a road crash, it was a pseudo mountain bike crash -- slash -- cyclocross crash -- except it was neither because I was on a skinny-tired ten speed and I was 12 and mountain bikes were barely invented in 1983 if they even existed at all (its cousin, the BMX did, though), and no one wore helmets so I wasn't wearing one in that crash which might explain some of my recent moments of utter stupidity.
Tonight I went to watch my friend Andrea race in a Criterium bike race at the park. I had thought that maybe one day I might consider trying that type of bike racing but all I can say to that now, to save you the suspense, is NO BLOODY WAY. It is fast, and there is tight cornering and I was misled to believe that the first 20 minutes of the race before the final two laps was "slow" and it is, if you consider 36 km/hr slow. I would get killed. But Andrea did awesome and she inspires me. She came in 4th out of a field of 12 riders in her Cat 5 race and she stayed with the lead pack the whole way while I empathized with the two riders who got dropped early and were lapped a couple times because I knew that would have been me.
On the advice of another cycling friend, Jason, who was there because his son was also racing the Category 5 race with Andrea, I stuck around and watched the Cat 4 and Cat 3 races and got to see one of my triathlon teammates Marc, take the Cat 3 race and win both the mid race "Primes" which are kinda like mid race sprints and there are prizes involved. I don't know if I can even begin to describe a Crit race except that it is fast pack riding with lots of sprinting and is full of head games. I wormed my way over to where the timers stood during the Cat 4 and Cat 3 races and started asking questions of the timers (between laps). I felt like the bat boy for the big team getting my only shot to hang out with the pros. I had a gazillion questions and I only got out about one tenth of what I wanted to ask. But the timers and the lap counters had to read every racer's number at each lap and write them down and record a lap time and I didn't want to be a pest.
Except I really really wanted to be a pest. Just not as pesty as the idiot people who kept wandering onto the race road without any regard for the fact that there were 10 riders doing 50 km per hour or higher.
And I know, without question, that I am not ready for a crit race. I'm training for a half ironman which means I've done nothing involving speed for the last 3 months or so. And while I'm posting faster bike split times than ever in the duathlons and the triathlon I did recently, I have no extra speed above and beyond. I feel like I get killed on road sprints. But then again, I am probably more built to wear the polka dot jersey for climbing than the green jersey for sprinting. I had a conversation with one of my fellow early morning riders just today. He told me that when he dies on the sprint it is because his legs give out. For me it is the opposite. My legs are happy and fine, it is my entire cardiovascular system that is failing me.
Not to mention the fact that I have only emerging bike handling skills. I spent last evening practicing cornering and mounting and dismounting. While I used to be able to ride hands free for blocks, now I can barely take one hand (my right) off the handle bars. I blame this on my 16 pound bike (shucks!). No stability. I rode home with the coach of the evening from my triathlon club last night and he was teaching me bump and touch drills (brush hands, elbows, one hand on another rider's shoulder) the whole way back. As he inched closer to me with the intention that I was supposed to let him brush up against me while I was riding, I instead squirmed further away not allowing him to get close. I felt like a teenage girl out on my first date and the guy's hand was creeping further and further up my shirt. My instinct was to move away from this strange new experience.
Except.... wellll.... you know....
And I don't want to play head games on a bike. I want to get on my bike to forget about head games because I appear to be losing all the real life ones that are being thrown at me. Life is kicking me enough in the ass right now. I want to ride fast and long and strong and I want to climb. I don't have the self-confidence at this moment to risk the possible humiliation of a crit. Maybe next year. I'm not bad for a girl on a bike who only came back to the game after a 20-odd year hiatus (with the occasional relapse) just 2 years ago. And, yes, I now at least know how to switch gears. But I have a lot to learn still.