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 ...

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