It’s not a matter of IF…

They say that when it comes to having an accident on the bike, it isn’t not a matter of if it is a matter of when. This weekend was my first “when”. 

The day started out full of omen (slipping on my buddy’s stairs and falling down in my cleats) and then he did the same. Wet leaves can be very treacherous! In the process of my slip and slide down a flight of stairs, I lost my glasses. When I fell they flew off my head and went in to a black hole nearby. I still don’t know where they went.

Not wanting to be late for the ride, we rolled out, me without eye protection. It was our first ride with this group, so we were both apprehensive. We rolled out at a moderate pace of 18mph or so, each taking turns at the front of the paceline. It was only a few miles in that the pace increased to 20+ and the hills started. After a brief but steep hill, I was off the back by about 50′ trying to get my heart rate down below 180. I knew I could easily catch back up, and that a downhill was coming up. The pack went out of sight over the ride and I laid down the hammer to catch up. Down the hill and around a curve, now pushing 30mph I saw a very cagey turn approaching. It was a shady, damp two lane road, with a down hill left turn, but the lane was almost covered in wet leaves. I hit the brakes a little to slow down before the turn and I immediately felt the back wheel slide about a foot left and right. Knowing that I needed to slow down, I eased up on the back brakes, applied evenly to the front as well, but now the bike was wobbling like a drunken sailor and I knew I had lost control of the bike. I fixed my eyes on the far bank of dirt of the turn hoping to ditch there. 

I didn’t make it. About five feet from the edge of the road the bike laid down beneath me. I remember hitting the ground. I slid for a while and then I think a tumble, and then I was off the road facing the other way. I saw a car coming around the corner and pulled myself off the road, quickly dragging my bike with me as the car passed within inches of running over my fallen steed. 

I slowly did an inventory of everything that hurt. Nothing seemed broken, but my shoulder hurt, my hip felt like it had been hit with an anesthetic, and my neck started to stiffen up almost immediately. I picked up my water bottles that went in two different directions and then my bike and realized that the front wheel was bent badly enough that it wouldn’t turn, even with the brakes all the way open. 

I walked down the hill a few feet to get off of the blind curve and sat on a rock wall to consider my next action. My buddy called my cell to see why I hadn’t caught up yet (sometimes I drop back but am back in the pack pretty quickly). I told him I went down in a bad turn and that I wasn’t riding. He came racing back. He called his wife and insisted that I go to the hospital. 

The hospital dressed my wounds (mostly road rash, some cuts and blood, etc) and X-Rayed my shoulder. Nothing broken. Phew! After the hospital I took the bike straight to the shop. The bike is the important part of this story, right? On the surface, aside from the front wheel, and some cosmetic scratches (and a sizable chip in the carbon near the steerer tube) the bike “seemed” ok. The shop is going to pull apart the head tube and ensure that nothing is bent or out of whack.

In the mean time, today is the dreaded “day after”. My shoulder hurts badly enough that I was glad to know that it isn’t broken. Without the X-Rays, I would think that something was. Bandages and Neosporin for the cuts and road rash, a sling for the shoulder and meds for the rest of the pain. The hip, shoulder and arms are all road rashed, and the amount of bruising and swelling is enough to keep my movement limited.

The good news is that it could have been worse. Much worse. It is an accident I can walk away from (or limp at least). Here’s to a speedy recovery for both me and my bike!

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The best feeling in the world… ambition

With the main summer season drawing to a close, I am already mentally gearing up for the winter training. Working in the Information Technology industry means that I am well-learned from my school days regarding the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). The basic principle is that you identify a need, you design a solution, you develop the solution, test the solution and then implement it. By the time you implement a solution, you are back to the point at which you need to start identifying for the next generation of software and needs. I find this directly relates to cycling. *Bear with me here, I know it is a stretch*

We all have heard the story of the two cyclists in the fall. Cyclist A hangs up his bike and settles in for a long winter hibernation, while cyclist B spends the frigid winter either riding or on his indoor trainer. Come spring, cyclist A is starting all over, seeing none of his gains from the summer, where cyclist B is stronger and faster than he ever was.  I will never again be cyclist A. I have a tendency to schedule my most challenging events early in the spring (Gran Fondo NY, Harpoon B2B, etc) and in order to succeed at them, I have to train hard in the winter. I might even go as far as to say that my winter training is more intense than my summer riding. Last year I started training around February or so, with the serious training in March and April. It is now hardly November and I am already plotting my course for the training schedule. 

Last year I was determined to finish these events. This year, I am already setting my eye on strong finish time. I want to increase my overall speed, complete the events in faster time and not suffer through them. Suffering is for training rides, where as big events should be enjoyed. 

So this weekend I am putting away my short sleeve jerseys and taking out the winter gear. It is time to get to work!

A new love affair

When we start to get involved in a new  relationship (boyfriend/girlfriend, etc) we think about them a lot. We might even go so far as to call out sick and play hookey to spend time with them, or maybe take a day off of work during the week and have a nice picnic with them in the park. It is how we impress them, subconsciously stating that “I am available and you are important to me”.

I have decided to take a few days off to make this a long weekend to spend time with Suzy. The weather here is damn-near perfect. The temperature is in the mid 60’s during the day, crisp cool air, the leaves on the  trees are exploding with color and there are 10,000 places begging to be explored. Roads are getting a fresh tarmac in preparation for a snowy winter, and anyone who has had the pleasure will agree that a freshly paved road is pure gold when riding a bike.

I am excited to be out there on the bike instead of in the office on a Friday or a Monday. Instead of conference calls, I  will be yelling “car back” up the line. Instead of meeting reminders I will be signaling turns. Instead of stress causing my blood pressure to go up, I will be climbing hills, causing my heart to race.  Instead of deadlines, I will be holding the line.  I won’t spend time looking at network diagrams and Microsoft Outlook, I will be looking out over a landscape of autumn color from the top of local climbs.

Here’s to this weekend!

Meet Suzy

The new girl

The new girl

There is always something to cheer me up. In this case, it is Suzy, my new S5. Today was her inaugural ride. It was, well, FANTASTIC!!!!!! With all that has been going on lately, a day like today is exactly what I needed. We rolled out around 8AM, the 4 of us going over a route we haven’t done in over a year. Riding Suzy was effortless. Over the course of the next 45 miles, we rolled over some great roads in Westchester County, through towns, over hills and down long descents. I really wanted to put her through the paces so I would know what needs to be adjusted. Other than some slight numbness in my hands around mile 20, it was pure joy. The climbs were faster than I have ever climbed them before and the descents were faster and more stable. I didn’t want the ride to end.

Unless next weekend… when I will give her more road to eat!

Enthusiasm versus obsession

There is only a slight difference between enthusiasm and obsession. An obsession is defined by need where enthusiasm is fueled by desire. When it comes to cycling, it is difficult for me to draw the line.

I have been plagued by a lot of work for my job this week, and have been working long hours. That being the case, as well as a lot of work this weekend meant calling off any riding this weekend. The last thing I need is to get a phone call for work while I am riding and be several hours from being able to get back to a computer. That being said, I feel the pressure of not riding this week.

As I walk by the room I store my bike in, I hear this angel and the devil on my shoulders having the following argument:

Devil: You know you really should be out there on your bike today. 

Angel: But it is just one week off. You deserve some rest.

Devil: The weather is great outside. How often do you think about not being to ride when the weather is just right?

Angel: You would jeopardize your job just because we have some sun?

Devil: Not every ride has to be 100 miles. Just go out for a little while.

Angel: You have so many other things to do right now, including working.

 

This argument goes on and on. While I am sure I captured the argument correctly, I don’t know that I have the right roles. I will let them duke it out for now, but in the end, this is my week off. My time to just relax a little while I focus on work and obsess about the arrival of my new bike. 

Sweet success

Finish Line Photo!

Finish Line Photo!

Sometimes, things go according to the plan. That being said, usually the plan is the “best case scenario” where nothing goes wrong. In cycling this means that the sun is shining all day, the wind is at your back, the roads were freshly tarred only a few weeks back, and everything else that could go wrong doesn’t. With a few minor exceptions, that is the perfect description for what happened during the Niagara Falls Gran Fondo.

Unlike the other Gran Fondos I have done, this one had favorable weather. It was cool in the morning, about 45 degrees, but warmed up significantly to a balmy 65 during the day. The skies were blue all day, and the wind was fairly mild. I was able to demo the Cervelo S5 for the ride, and now I have a new love affair. The woman running the demos from the Cervelo tent had to almost wrestle it from me. More on that later.

The start line was fairly chilly, but not too bad, and we self-seeded in the 5+ hour completion pen and we set off around 7AM. The  views were fantastic. The roads were completely closed to car traffic, and many of them were freshly paved. At one point we were riding on the QEW (highway) which was as smooth as glass, and then riding through the Thorold Tunnel. In the tunnel as we whizzed past as 25 mph, there was a guy on the sidewalk playing the accordion. The effect was fantastic and surreal.

After several more miles of  scenic views, we reached the KOM climb. At first it seemed like it wasn’t going to be too bad. Honestly, we had already climbed worse earlier in the day. Then we crested a rise and saw why it is called “The Wall”. A section of road at close to 18% grade rose in the distance at an angle that seemed to be an illusion. Like many hills that seem larger from a distance, I expected this one to become “more realistic” once we found its base. At the base, I threw away realism and just dropped to the lowest gear I had. It wasn’t long before my heart rate was maxed at 177bpm and I was struggling to stay moving forward, standing on the pedals at a whopping 3mph. I knew I could reach the top, but my efforts of determination were being thwarted by the masses of people who were dismounting and walking up the hill. In my brain I was wrestling with the idea that the hill was going to beat me because look at what it did to all of these other people! I wrestled my super light and twitchy S5 up the hill and rode over the top with beaming pride. I wasn’t the fastest. In fact my buddy beat me my almost 40 seconds out of my 8.5  minute KOM result, but I made it.

The remainder of the ride was almost done at Time Trial pace to keep our time under 4:30:00, but we did stop to have a sip of champagne at one of the more popular rest stops. (honestly, who gets to ride on the highway, closed to traffic, through tunnels that go under water, drink champagne and ride a flagship bike?) The whole event is like a dream come true.

I guess hard work DOES pay off!

I’m back, baby!

Apparently I wasn’t as far off the proverbial trail as I thought I was. After my renewed resolve from my last post, I did exactly as I said I would. I cut out all junk, from my diet, no more processed sugars, no soda at all (only water or tea), and removed gluten. I rode in to work (about 8 miles each way) several days last week. The result? Not (too) bad.

This past weekend in prep for the Gran Fondo Niagara, my friend Byron and I, along with Mike and Shawn rode a route we named the Bear Mountain Express. It rolls about 80 miles total with the turn around point at the top of Bear Mountain. With 8,000 of climbing over the 80 miles, we were all sufficiently wrung out. We had great weather the entire day, and no incidents (aside from a few turn arounds). Our speed was slower overall that I would have liked to have seen, but after taking so much time off, I was happy with the ride. I felt strong all day long. 

Tonight I rode a brief (30 minute) recovery ride, and tomorrow and Wednesday I will commute in on the bike. This weekend is the big event. I am as prepared as I am going to be at this point.