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Sunday, December 27, 2020

It’s Not Like Riding a Bicycle

It’s like riding a bicycle, as the saying goes. Once you’ve learned to ride a bike you can pretty much pick one up for the rest of your life and make a decent ride of it… Which is true, I suppose… like… in a park or a quiet cul-de-sac… 

But a friend recently asked if he could borrow or buy a bike from me. He’s a runner and a swimmer and is thinking about getting into Triathlon. We’re the same height and I’ve been wanting to get rid of a bike. All good so far. Glad to help. 

But despite that old saying it’s really not quite so simple as just riding a bike. I’ve been riding for, like, forever now and I know so much—probably too much. And as a wizened old cyclist I’d happily help this fellow get into biking and share all my knowledge and equipment and recommendations, etc. 

But it’s also the pandemic. And how much of that can one really accomplish through text messages without going frustratingly crazy? 

There are questions I need to know the answers to. And I can ask them all. But I don’t want to overwhelm or turn him off to riding. 

It reminds me of a Northern Exposure episode. I believe it was Marilyn Whirlwind that comes to Chris Stevens to ask for help learning to drive a car. Chris gets really into it and guides her through a full education about the automobile and how it functions and its history, etc. I don’t think they ever even get her behind the wheel. His efforts were all too much. She decides she likes walking. Something like that. At the end of the episode, on Chris’s radio show he sums up his experience by comparing it to someone asking him what time it is and him telling them how to build a clock. 

And I worry that I’m overthinking it and doing the same thing with this friend of mine.

I guess at a certain point we just have to point someone in the right direction and let them find their own path. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Even Cyclists Get the Blues

We almost didn't have Le Tour this year. Luckily it was eventually rescheduled... in September! That was weird. And kinda cool. Seeing France at a different time of year was nice. So many of those stages finishing up further into the evening because of the shorter days. So much riding into the sunset... 

But back at home pretty much everything is getting rescheduled, or postponed or cancelled, too. I notice a lot of the regular groups rides are active, although mine is not. I haven't ridden with anyone since the beginning. I've been riding by myself pretty consistently, though. Trouble with that is that I tend to be overly repetitive. So I do the same route every time. At pretty much the same speed and intensity. 

The heat is manageable. It's summer. It's normal. But the smoke from the fires is tough. I suppose that's normal summer, too, but it just seems like a lot of them this year. Sometimes we can ride through if the wind is right but seems best to stay close-ish to home in case the wind shifts. 

And riding solo all the time is just a little too much. I like riding solo. A lot. But I also like riding with people. And 6 months is a long time without someone to ride with. 

And riding solo feels a little more vulnerable. I'm not exactly sure where everyone is driving these days as there's basically nowhere to go but it seems like where ever it is must be of a quite urgent nature as everyone is speeding and impatient. I know. Again, totally normal.

Maybe it's just everyone is feeling everything a little more intensely. The stressors aren't subsiding. 

And so perhaps we're feeling it too. Perhaps we're feeling a little over squeezed. A little bummed. A little unmotivated. Like, what's the point exactly. What's the point of going out on a ride and dealing with all of that risk. 

This is meant to be fun and invigorating and relaxing. But it's not so much.

So we take a break. We probably need it. Fall will develop and bring cooler temperatures at least and the fires will have to stop and we'll find that vaccine and everything will be okay. Maybe not the same. But it will be okay. It will get better than it is right now. This break will give us rest and peace and we will ride again. We will Ride Like the Wind!

Friday, September 25, 2020

Why do cyclists shave their legs?

I had a roommate in school that was a swimmer. That is to say, he was on the swim team. He took his swimming pretty seriously. Maybe he loved the sport. Or maybe it was the scholarship. He shaved his legs to be more streamlined, to swim faster, to place higher. 

This was back in the nineties. But even then everyone knew that swimmers shaved their legs to go faster. It was before my leap into the fanatical following of professional cycling. But even then everyone knew that cyclists shaved their legs, too. 

A few years later, when he-whose-name-cannot-be-mentioned was winning races and hearts across America and the world, cyclists’ legs were all over the screens - clad in neon Lycra advertisements, deeply tan-lined, glistening, and, well… shaved. Well shaved!

But why do cyclists shave their legs? 

Originally, we thought it was, like swimmers, to go faster. Reasonable assumption. But probably only the slightest of aerodynamic effect on the hairiest of gents in the peloton. 

If you’ve watched pro cycling long enough, actually almost any amount of time will do, you’ve likely seen some crashes. Riders are always getting tangled up in each others’ business or coming into a corner too hot. Clearly those Lycra suits are not Kevlar reinforced - providing nary an extra layer of skin’s worth of protection. This is when we learned the term road rash - quickly branded into our minds with graphic images. And then the argument goes that hair and wounds and bandages and infection don’t mix very well if one is planning to finish the stage and then up and ride another several hours on the next stage and the next and next, week after week after tour after tour, all through the season. 

And what about massage? It seems these cyclists live quite the life of luxury, if not leisure. Daily massage after each stage. Not so bad! And there’s that massage oil - keeps things slippery. Wouldn’t want hair to get in the way of the relaxing and restorative advantages from the spa.

Then we add in tight clothes and long days in the saddle and friction and one can guess that there are various remedies, tonics, and lubes that must be applied to certain areas of the body. Does shaving help with that application or the reduction of friction? 

Similarly: sunscreen. Whose legs would you rather rub down with sunscreen? I’m not sure a lot of these riders wear much sunscreen though. Did I mention those tan lines?! 

Maybe it’s cooler in hot weather…

And how often do they shave? It seems a lot of work to shave daily when they’ve already got so much going on in their day… you know, like massage... and dinner and interstage transport… oh, and riding all day! (When do they sleep!)

And what about amateurs? And the regular weekend warriors? We’ve seen them out there, too… 

And what about their arms… hmm…

I think we can all see now why cyclists shave their legs… Because it’s so damn sexy!

Friday, July 31, 2020

keep your toes up

I've been finding myself tripping on things a bit lately. Mostly it's more like scuffing the ground with my shoes. Only once did I come crashing down to the sidewalk. I was running at the time so momentum was harder to halt. Trying to avoid head butting a palm tree I shimmied left and landed heavily on my elbow and grazed my knee. Concrete is not forgiving!

But it finally dawned on me as I was walking to the store a few days ago and I again scuffed my shoe on a slight rise in the pavement while crossing the street. My downward peripheral vision has been blocked.

As annoying as it is to wear a mask (and believe me, it's really annoying to run in one) I didn't realize it was affecting my vision. We tend to look far ahead and as we walk and run. Things underfoot tend to pass magically under us. But it's not magic is it? Some part of our brain is still paying attention to that lower field of view.

Interestingly, I don't trip when I'm walking home from the library and start reading a new book on the way. Maybe that creates such an obvious distraction to my vision that I'm paying closer attention, consciously and subconsciously, both.

So I've been trying to focus on keeping my toes up so as not to trip so much. And my knees up. And my eyes up... And my spirits up!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Vidal Sassoon and the Ruination of My Hips

Sometime in the early Eighties I had a pair of jeans that I really loved. I wore them all the time and since I was still a little kid I even wore holes in the knees the old fashioned way - by doing kid stuff on the floor, ground, in the garden, crashing bikes and roller skates and all that... There was a narrow metal copper-colored label riveted to one of the back pockets. I think it just read: Sassoon. Were they hand-me-downs from my sister? Or was I really so chic?

Sometime toward the end of their useful life - my mom was not a holey jean fan - something shifted in me. Maybe it was the early stages of becoming a man, of noticing that girls walked differently from boys. And maybe it was something about those sexy slim-fitting jeans that prompted me to notice that I was still walking with a pronounced swing in my hips. Like a girl. Well I had to put a stop to that immediately. I remember consciously focusing on not moving my hips while I walked. Social pressures ensured that I kept up my diligent training and before long I was walking straight ahead at all times. No more swing.

But that's not a very natural way to walk. Even for a man. It forces all kinds of straight-legging that shuts free flow down and stiffens up almost every join from head to toe. It turns one into a board. After years and decades that board-body is no longer going to be able to do much of anything but peg-leg up to the bar like a cowboy - something my childhood self would have been delighted to attain.

I wasn't ever a ballerina or anything so it all worked out okay... for a while. But then I started running. And running and running and running and over the years started focusing on form and how to improve stride and pace and efficiency and speed. Across the decades I've come to believe that none of that focus on form was going anywhere until I got to the root of the problem. Cowboys don't run.

I can't and don't blame Vidal for this. If anything, he showed me the way all those years ago and I just chose to ignore him. Actually, now, if anything, I should thank him and those jeans because now I have a point of memory that I can go back to. If I can just imagine myself wearing those jeans again and walking like I used to when I was a kid and being willing to roll around and move freely like a real human animal then maybe I can bring some of that swing and twist and freedom back into my gait - to my hamstrings and glutes and hips and back and neck and mind! Freedom at last to run freely through the world as goddess intended!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

keeping track

As cyclists, as runners, as people, I suppose, we keep track of things. So many miles recorded. Or, distance, anyway, I should say. Some of us keep track of other things, too. Number of rides in a month. Average heart rate trends. Minutes per mile. 

I tend to total up each week, and then each month, and then each year, and then start over. I've never totaled all the years. That would be a lot. I'm not sure it would really be useful information for me. A few decades? A few times around a globe. But not really around the world, around the Earth. Around town... 

I got to the end of last month a totaled it up, as I do, and then went straight on to the next month. I hardly even gave that yearly total a second thought. We kind of have a sense of that as we go along anyway. Each day's schedule becomes fairly predictable as it rolls into the week's which rolls along and along... Some shifting here and there but mostly staying the course. 

I wouldn't say it's pointless, though. Keeping track becomes part of the process. A daily connection, a checking in. Sometimes even a motivator in it's own right.

Of course, these days, there's Apps that will do it all for you. "They'll" even send you a message at the end of the year with all your stats all tallied and graphed. Some stats that you might not even have known were being tracked. Who needs a pencil and a log? What's a log? What's a WebLog... LOL. Wink, wink... Who knows anymore...

I like my App stats, though. And my App friends. And I'll keep them. But I think I'll keep my pencils, too. And the process. The sharpening of the pencil, even. Journaling the day in micro poems of distance or route or people along the way...

Sweeping the path, chopping the wood, carrying the water... moments into moments...