Thursday, August 18, 2011

Butter Hollow Road

I love early Sunday morning rides, particularly during the summer. The weather is usually more pleasant, the roads are empty, and the world is full of grand potentials.

After 10 days off the bike, I had been able to manage a few short rides during the week. Lack of time and the lingering effects of my malady limited me to evening group rides and one commute to and from work. Saturday, RandoGirl and I wanted to spend most of the day with the RandoDaughter, since she heads back to college this week. We had to make do with an early 35 miles down in College Grove.

So, Sunday I wanted to squeeze in 50 miles and be home by 9 am. This meant rolling out at 6 am and sticking to the flatter roads, keeping to a brisk tempo pace. It was a Max Watzz kind of effort, but at a RandoBoy time of day.

I cut through some neighborhoods to Waller, then down to Split Log Road. Just before turning on to Pleasant Hill Road, I saw that the City of Brentwood has finished the multi-use path to that point. You can now get on this path and ride all the way down Split Log Road to Wilson Pike, where you pick up a network of paths that go to Ravenwood High School, Crockett Park, or even the library on Concord Road near I-65. If you like getting around on multi-use paths, this is a great addition.

Unfortunately, I couldn't limit myself to the 15 mph speed limit mandated on the paths, so I went to Clovercroft and turned east towards Nolensville. Just before town, I decided on a whim to turn right on Burke Hollow Road.

Now, I've been riding Burke Hollow Road since we moved here six years ago. It runs all the way to Wilson Pike, about a mile from Arrington, but doesn't get much traffic. It always had the potential to be a good biking road because of this, and could even be a great biking road due to the way that it rolls.

Some roads roll gently, so that you can get into a nice rhythm and big-ring your way down them. Wilson Pike is actually like this. Clovercroft is kind of like this, but the rollers are longer so that you have to be willing to work hard if you aren't going to go to the small ring.

Burke Hollow, on the other hand, has hills that change, and kind of curve around, and are steeper than they look. Heading from Wilson Pike towards Clovercroft, there's one really nasty climb, after which you can almost get a fun two-mile descent -- except there are a couple more hills in there that you have to punch hard or you'll lose all of your momentum. Heading from Clovercroft to Wilson Pike, it's those rollers I was telling you about.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, okay, maybe it's a masochistic kind of great, but it always had the potential to be that kind of fun ride. The only thing holding it back was a lack of pavement.

Not that it's a dirt road -- technically, it is paved. But it was not paved very well, The surface was almost Alabama chip and seal kind of rough, with pot-holes custom made to test the warranty on bicycle wheels.

It used to almost be fun to take somebody who was new to the area out on Burke Hollow -- particularly when you'd be riding it a lot and you knew where the latest landmines were -- and let them try to follow your line. Almost. Because everyone knows that it's all good fun until somebody breaks their collarbone.

But, back to Sunday. I had not been on Burke Hollow for a while, so you can only imagine my jubilation when I saw this:

Yeah, that's new pavement. Really, really good and smooth new pavement. And it went all the way -- from Clovercroft to Wilson Pike.

Like butter.

Next time you get held up on your morning commute by a crew of guys out working on a road, don't get mad. Instead, roll down your window and thank them for Burke Hollow Road.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Seven Stages of Cycling Grief -- Part Two

When ultra-cycling is what the French would call your "raisinet," what can you do when circumstances take it away, much as the pimply faced usher "appropriated" that box of chocolate-coated desiccated grapes that you bought at Walgreen's and tried to sneak into Star Wars the 14th time that you saw it. Ah, mon raisinets ... mon sweet, sweet rainsets. It was not to be, cheri ...

Anyway, when you remove cycling from ultra-cycling all that you are left with is "ultra." Well, okay, yes, there's also a hyphen, which frankly has no place in this discussion, other than to highlight the void that cycling has left. The hyphen is but a grim reminder of love's labor's lost ... a ghost of what could have been, mocking you much as the pimply faced usher did when you walked out of the theater and he smiled, a bit of chocolate in the corner of his mouth and a dark bit of raisin rind caught between his upper left incisors. May God smite him with a pox of acne that never clears up!

Wow. Some wounds never heal.

Speaking of which, while the golfball-sized lump above my right sit-bone that I mentioned in my last post was shrinking at a glacial pace, I was off the bike. During this period, as I suffered the temporary termination of my favorite pastime, I went through the Seven Stages of Cycling Grief.

Stage One: Scheming

This is where you find some weird way to get around the thing that's keeping you from riding. With a saddle sore, you put some ointment with a pain-killer like benzocaine on it, or you turn your saddle nose so it's a little off-camber, or you put a gel seat cover on, or you try a different saddle entirely or a different bike or a different position. Or maybe you just go out and ride, but remain standing for the whole thing.

If it's the weather that is keeping you away from your bike, you try to cheat that. Three layers of wool and electric socks. Studded tires. Rain suits. Doing double-centuries overnight so you don't have to ride when the apparent temperature is above 98.6 degrees fahrenheit. Five hours on the rollers, followed by a three-week observation period at your nearest loony bin.

Never underestimate man's ability to find some way to cheat the system ... or at least delude himself into thinking that he is.

Stage Two: Ignorance

Ignorance in this case is not bliss. It is, instead, an almost polar opposite, since this is when you ignore the problem in hopes that it will go away. In the case of a physical ailment, it means riding in pain as you follow the old ultra-cycling maxim, "If it will heal in less than a week, ignore it."

We've all done this before. The knee hurts a bit, but we keep going in hopes that it will work itself out. Usually, it does, and we get our seat adjusted next week and it goes away. Sometimes, however, we have to ignore something for that last 20 or 100 or 1,000 miles (RAAM only), and then pay the price next week, or for the next few weeks or months.

Stage Three: Ride-Planning

We all do this one during the coldest days of winter, when the roads are so treacherous that only a fool would venture forth on them. This is when we begin to work on schedules for the coming year. Which 400Ks will we do in April so that we've built up enough for those two 600Ks in May? Will we race this weekend in Alabama or East Tennessee, or maybe go to North Carolina? Can we take a week off for RAGBRAI and still have enough vacation for two weeks at the beach?

I tend to go to Google maps and design routes. Then, when we get another crummy weekend later that month, I get in the car and drive parts of my new routes. If not for lousy weather this past winter, I would never have put Yates Mountain Road on the 400K this past April. As anyone that went up that road in the middle of the night can attest, that would have been a tragedy.

This past week I spent a lot of time figuring out details for RandoGirl's and my Canadian cycling trip. More on that in the next couple of weeks.

Stage Four: Self-Improvement

Sure, you'd rather ride, but weight-lifting and spin classes are almost as much fun, and they build even more strength than mere time on the bike could. That's what Bicycling magazine says, and they couldn't be wrong. Could they?

Another way to inflate that power-to-weight ratio during your off-time is to deflate yourself. You tell yourself a couple of days of dieting with put you back in form. "Self," you say, "since you don't have to eat bunches of carbohydrates to fuel those big efforts, you can just eat celery sticks this week." And self does that for a day or two ... and then it tells you where to stick that celery.

Stage Five: Vicarious Riding

For some reason, I had not yet deleted four stages of this year's Tour from the DVR. They were flat stages, so the first time I watched them I had fast-forwarded through most of the early stuff. The second time, I thrilled to the intermediate sprint lines, Phil and Paul's witticisms, and those great commercials for light beer. The third time, I told myself it was better than nothing. The fourth time, I told myself it was less painful than trying to get back on my bike.

Had there been a fifth time, I would have made myself prove it.

Stage Six: Bike Maintenance

I had one day last week with decent weather, so I cleaned the Lynskey. It was still dirty from the 130-mile ride in the rain that brought on my current predicament, so it took almost two hours to get it nice and clean and well-lubricated again. Then I cleaned the Bianchi. And the Salsa, And RandoGirl's Bianchi. And the tandem.

Did you know that you can actually scrub the side plates off of a bicycle chain?

Stage Seven: Cheating

Yeah, okay, the swelling is not quite gone, but maybe a little bike ride will help enervate the healing process. I think I read that once in Bicycling magazine ...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Seven Stages of Cycling Grief -- Part One

Last Saturday, Jeff Bauer and I had a really nice long ride together. This week, I paid for it.

We rode from my house, heading down to Franklin to pick up some friends. The rain started early, but it kept things cool as we headed over to the Natchez Trace and down towards Fly. The sun even came out when we stopped at Garrison Creek, and Jeff tried to catch a wayward kitten.

I'm not sure what he would have done with it, however, unless he'd been able to stuff it in his saddlebag.

Leaving Fly, after enjoying the world's best $1 sandwich, it started raining on us again. We took the Fly Gran Fondo route over the unpaved sections of Leatherwood, then down Hoover's Road to Greenfield Bend. The rain came in hard here, and Jeff and I ended up starting our way east towards my house. We had 130 miles in, most of them in rain or spray, when we finished. On the plus side, it kept the temperatures fairly comfortable.

My band, The Kickstands, played a party that night, and then Sunday I flew down to Naples, FL. I started to notice some discomfort in my lower regions Sunday evening, and the flight back early Monday morning was downright painful. Tuesday was agony at work, and I went to the doctor's Wednesday.

Apparently, doing 130 miles in the rain when you haven't done over 100 miles in the past two months can be bad. I now had a golf-ball sized hematoma above my right ischial tuberosity.

If that whole "tuberosity" thing isn't gross-sounding enough, should you go to Wikipedia and look all of that up like I did, you'll see that it really just means that I had a ridiculously swollen bruise on the right portion of my tush that gets compressed when I sit down. And when I say "ridiculously swollen," I am not kidding. When the doctor saw it, he literally said "Oh, my goodness."

You do not want a doctor looking at your tush saying "Oh, my goodness."

Now, Alan Gosart -- one of the sage heads of ultra-cycling (and I don't just say that because said sage head is covered with gray hair, so he almost looks like Dumbledore) -- once gave me a bit of advice regarding swollen things "down there." He said to just go ahead and bite the bullet and stab it with a safety pin.

"If you want to ride your broom, Harry, you'll have to do something about that saddle sore."

"Unless you have magic, Robert, pour rubbing alcohol on everything first."

Sorry. Gotta stop laughing here, first.

Anyway, I should have taken Alan's advice. Instead, I let the doctor torture my taint and go "Oh, my goodness" over it, and then decide to do the medically sound thing: Nothing.

Well, okay, not nothing. He gave me an antibiotic, in case it either is or becomes infected, and he gave me some anti-inflammatories. Then he told me to take hot baths, use a heating pad, and put a warm compress of epsom salts on it.

Great. I've got a thing that makes it really painful to sit at all, and you want me to try to sit in a hot bathtub, or sit on some heating pad? And, let me tell you, it's not much more fun lying around naked on your belly with a salty washcloth drapped over your posterior.

"And I guess that I don't have to tell you," the doctor added, removing his glove with a snap. "Stay off the bike for at least a week."

Well, okay, he probably didn't need to tell me that. There was no way that I can sit on a bike with this thing, anyhow ... probably. Unless I kind of shifted waaaaay over to the right.

And that, my friends, is a perfect example of the First Stage of Cycling Grief: Scheming.