Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Art of Playing the Fool

Yesterday was a banner day for the disaster magnet. It would be my last really long ride before the Ironman, capped with a decent-length run to get the feel of the bike-run transition. My hamstring-knee-whatever injury is starting to handle longer runs and it's crunch time -- two weeks to race day. The taper doldrums are about to kick in and I'm starting to get antsy.

At this point, I need all the help I can get, so with a $100 gift-certificate (from Bert's Bikes in Buffalo, won in a race last year) burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to buy an aero bike helmet at the advice of one of the guys at Spin ("the cheapest, easiest way to shave time on the bike is to get an aero helmet"). Ok. done. The Giro Advantage 2 - the only one available in Bert's Bikes online catalog. It made the decision much easier.

So, will it work? Jim said I should ride with it at least once. Oh no! You mean I have to test this thing? Not only am I going to look like some hardcore fool riding in the valley with my ridiculous aero helmet, but, it's hot, the helmet has very little venting, and I'll have to stay in the aero position the whole ride so I don't look like a complete idiot. And anyone who's ridden in the valley knows about the hills. You can NOT ride up those hills in the aero position. Oh well. Suck it up, Jeanne, it's for a greater cause. Ironman. To quote the great Richard Feynman: "What do YOU care what other people think?" Besides, on race day, everyone will have them.

So, I load up the bike -- water, food -- and put on the helmet. Yikes! You mean these things don't fit out-of-the-box? I call in the pit crew (Jim). We tweaked. We took it off. We adjusted straps. We put it back on. We tweaked again. After about an hour of trying to realign the straps, getting my ears caught in locking mechanisms, and cutting straps, the darn thing finally seemed to fit. I was already worn out. We took a picture.

And I was off on my ride. The goals: to feel strong, relaxed, and fast(er). Within the first 15 minutes, I had to stop three times to readjust the helmet. So much for faster. But, yes, indeed, I have to say that on many downhills and flats, I was at least able to get another 1 mph out of that helmet. I hope it's not just my imagination.

Of course, then came the "disaster." As I was riding down the hill at Sand Run Metropark in Akron, I slowed down to cross the ford where the river flows over the road. I have crossed that water with my bike God knows how many times in the past. Without incident. Not THIS time. THIS time, my bike wheels came out from under me and I went down on my right side. As I was lying there in the river, I thought to myself: "how is it that these stupid things only happen to me?" But then, in a flash, I was up, remembering my iPhone was in my back pocket. In keeping with the fool-on-a-bike theme, it figures that today was the one time I decided not to put my iPhone in a sealed plastic bag first. I took my phone out, shook it off, checked if there was any bike damage, looked down at a gash in my knee, and called Jim. I had been out for 1:48. The phone still worked, the bike was good, but I wanted to pack it in. I GIVE UP! Jim wasn't home, thank God, thus forcing me to finish all 3.5 hours of my ride. The knee gash was painful, bloody, and swollen, but there were no biomechanical issues. Other bruises showed themselves too, but I could still ride. Eventually, my clothes dried. Even the helmet survived, silly as it was.

Another data point. Another live-and-learn lesson (just work through the little bumps in the road). As Julie would say: another mental callous. All I can say is, as the disaster magnet, if I have half the disasters on race day as I have had training, I'll be in pretty good shape.

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