Monday, December 27, 2010

One Last 2010 200K

There's a new word that I've been hearing at work lately: Rebaselining.

Basically, it is what it sounds like. We set a new baseline for a project, so that we're either changing the date on which we deliver or cutting back on some features. It's all part of "managing the customer's expectations."

We never seem to manage those expectations up, however. "Hey, guess what? We promised you something by May, but we're going to have it ready in February! And it will be even better that what we sold you!" Instead, it's usually, "We're sorry. We're going to be a couple of months late. And that thing that you need to get your job done? Well, it's moving to phase two."

Rebaselining isn't managing the expectation. It's lowering the expectation.

I bring this up because this winter has already rebaselined biking weather.

Last Saturday, middle Tennessee Regional Brevet Administrator Jeff Sammons did his George Dickel 200K permanent, and a number of local randonneurs joined him. Actually, a number of "not so local" randonneurs joined him, too, coming up from Birmingham, AL, and down from Ohio. We came because this promised to be the most decent bit of weather that we were going to get for a few weeks.

It was in the mid-20's when we rolled out from the starting control in Brentwood, TN. The forecast was for a high near 40, with mild winds out of the north and no rain. The forecast was pretty accurate.

However, it did not mention that we had some snow the night before.

OK, so there's not that much snow. But it was enough to make things slippery and gum up the brakes.

It had been a few years since I'd ridden a bike over a snowy road, but the tactic is simple: Stay level, keep the gearing light, and expect ice. We had about five miles to practice these procedures before we got on a busier road, and then moved far enough south that the roads were more or less clear.

Eight of us stayed fairly close together through the first control, and then a few of us took the speed up. The wind was at our backs, and I felt pretty good. The night before I had hit my 10,000-mile mark for the year, so I had nothing left to prove. This ride was just to keep some distance in my legs through the coming frosty days.

We made good time to Bell Buckle, where we stopped briefly at the store before riding the last few miles to the turnaround control: The George Dickel Distillery in Normandy, TN.

As the other riders came in, I couldn't help but recall the last time that I had done this route, about two years earlier. It had been terribly cold that day, as well, and Peter Lee had been with us. That thought really made me miss my old friend.

When we started back, the wind was in our face. Steve Phillips, Peter Cacchioli, and I worked hard together, and then stopped for lunch in Bell Buckle. As everyone else rolled in, we set off again. I took the "secret" county-line sprint back into Rutherford County, but that was it for me for the day. "You guys go on," I said to Steve and Peter, "I'm tired." They continued on their fierce pace, followed soon by Jeff, while I settled in to an easy rhythm and cranked out the next 40 miles.

As I rode, I realized that I wasn't really all that tired. My legs felt fine. I ate another candy bar, and drank some, but still didn't feel like cranking the speed back up. The problem was that I wasn't so much tired as I was weary. Weary of cranking out miles for miles' sake to get over that 10,000-mile hump, because not doing so would be to admit that I'm getting older. Weary of a winter that hadn't even officially begun, but was prematurely dumping snow on the ground and closing some of the local school districts.

It's at this point that you can become weary of riding a bike, and I don't want that.

I caught up with everyone again at the College Grove control, where I quickly bought another couple of candy bars, topped off my bottles, and headed back out. I still wanted to finish by dark, since the last few miles of this route are on busy roads.

Steve was at the final control when I got there, and said that he had only been there about 10 minutes. The long, solo ride had done me good, though, and I felt as if my head was clearer. As I rode the sidewalk along super-busy Concord Road back to my car at the YMCA, night settled in and the temperatures continued to plummet. The weariness was still there, and I resolved to take a break for the next few weeks, not riding anything longer than 100K.

The trick to keeping any machine running is knowing when to turn it off.

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