Sunday, February 22, 2009

They Call the Wind Mariah

I usually have a shorter word for it.

Even the most gravity-challenged cyclist prefers hills over wind. Hills end, and then you get to enjoy the view from the top for a minute, and go zooming downhill. Wind never seems to end and - although a tailwind is better than a headwind - you don't so much "zoom" downwind as you "sail."

Many of my pet names for the wind were going thru my head Saturday morning, riding from Almaville down towards Eagleville. For about five miles, the wind was dead on my nose, blowing at a steady 10 mph with gusts up to 25. Finally, I turned east, so that I could stop fighting that headwind.

And got my bike blown out from underneath me.

If you've never had that happen, it's impossible to describe. It's kind of like hitting a rock wrong and having it jolt your wheel over. Or maybe it's like having both your wheels slipping the same way on an icy patch of road. The difference with getting blown over, however, is that the bike isn't so much as coming out from beneath you, but more like you and the bike are being picked up and tossed to the side.

I was going so slow that I was able to fall well, and ended up more dirty than bruised. However, once bitten twice shy (Ian Hunter version - not that wimpy remake), and I spent the next few cross-windy miles hunched down over the bars, keeping the center of gravity low, sliding under the breeze as best I could to keep the bike verticle.

One thing that occurred to me during this stretch was that I needed to append my blog about snot rockets. Just like the song says, "You don't spit into the wind." Well, with a cross-wind, you don't fire a snot rocket that way either. You have to somehow blast both nostrils under your downwind armpit. It takes some reaching, depending upon how big your nose is and/or how short your arms are, but you can do it.

At College Grove, my route finally turned more northward. While the wind was not quite behind me, it was at least no longer pushing me over. Heading up Eudaily Covington Road, I could hear it shaking the tops of the trees and rattling the corrugated metal roofs on some old barns. But the sun was out, the temperature was a relatively balmy 50 degrees, and I was on a bike. Life was looking better.

It made me think of the Greatest Fleche Ever.

The Greatest Fleche Ever

In April 2006, my first year of randonneuring, I rode a fleche with Bill Glass, Alan Gosart, and Jeff Sammons. We went from Watertown, TN, to Johnny Bertrand's house in Georgetown, KY.

If you've never ridden one before, a fleche is a 24-hour ride of at least 360 kilometers, done Easter weekend. Unlike a brevet, 24 hours is not the maximum time - it is the time. You cannot finish the fleche less than 23 hours after you begin, and you cannot spend more than two hours at any one spot.

It's also a team event of up to five bikes (a tandem is a bike - not two riders), and at least three of the bikes must finish at roughly the same time. Thus, you stick together and help one another out, which is easier if your team is composed of riders of similar capabilities, speed, and temperament.

In 2006, for The Greatest Fleche Ever, we had temperatures dip into the mid-60s at night, and get up to the lower 80s the next day. The day was sunny and the night clear, with a full moon.

And we had a tailwind. Oh, what a tailwind. It never veered to the side or onto our nose, and was just strong and steady enough to hasten our speed and cool us ever so slightly. It nudged us along like a patient grandfather, allowing us to ride at 20 mph without really working at it.

We left Watertown at 7 pm, and cruised into Kentucky four hours later. We then rolled effortlessly through the quiet night, stopping at controls for a snack and a nap along the way. We ate a leisurely lunch in a lovely little town, and then napped on benches in the private dining room for an hour. When we got to Johnny's house - right on time, of course - we all felt like we could have ridden another 100 miles.

I thought about that wind as I turned east onto Spanntown Road for the last five miles yesterday, and the crosswind again tried to knock me down. "That was then, this is now," it said. Maybe Mariah is a good name for the wind. Like the song "Bitch" by Alanis Morissette, says:

I'm a bitch
I'm a lover
I'm a child
I'm a mother
I'm a sinner
I'm a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I'm your hell
I'm your dream
I'm nothing in between
You know you wouldn't want it any other way

Maybe, though, the wind represents the never-ending battle - the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Sometimes, it will be there to help you get home. Other days, it will be there to help you get stronger. And sometimes it is there to keep you humble, reminding you of your place in life - sitting on your butt on the side of Swamp Road outside of Eagleville, TN.

1 comment:

  1. That must've been some wind. I've never actually been knocked over, though it's been close a few times.