Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Feet of clay...

My son apparently hasn’t grown up enough to see that his father definitely has feet of clay. I say that because after riding with me one afternoon, he said that I should consider trying for the Olympics! Maybe it was out-and-out flattery. Maybe the kid is shrewd enough to realize what a kick that is for a father, to hear something that seems like hero-worship. Regardless, it produced a glowing feeling.

There’s no way I could ever be Olympic material, particularly since the professionals compete now rather than mere amateurs. Even when it was an amateur endeavor, I wouldn’t have been competitive. My best time trial, ever, was 26:40 for ten miles, and that was nearly 30 years ago! I was happy to break 30 minutes in the last one. The fast guys around here are 4-5 minutes faster then me, and the pros are about 4-5 minutes faster than them!

I had those Walter Mitty dreams once, long ago. But I realized quickly that I had (and still have) an annoying habit that makes racing and training on a serious level a very difficult task. Every day, I get this gnawing, empty feeling right above my belt buckle. The only way to overcome the feeling is to eat, and the only way I’ve found to eat regularly is to have a regular job. Imagine that. I knew a few people who had family or girlfriends to support them. They rode every day, usually for hours. They were strong and fast, dropping me at will on the road or in a criterium.

But those words – “You should be in the Olympics, Dad!” – may be the only award I receive. And they’re enough.


No Ride of Silence for me tonight. I have the cold that’s been going through the rest of the family. It’s my turn. I’ve been coughing and sniffling, and my voice has a nice, raspy quality that sounds like I’ve had a steady diet of whiskey and cigarettes. Sometimes it’s even gone to a rumbling ‘Barry White’ mode. I’d be tickled if it stayed that way! Mary wouldn’t.

I’m drinking lots of fluids and taking some pills. I used Nyquil on Monday night so I could sleep, but that stuff made me groggy on Tuesday. It’s great to be able to sleep through a cold, but I hate feeling like a zombie the next day.


I’m considering changing the gearing on my Centurion. The 42x20 was great for the winter. It’s low enough that I can carry a lot of baggage and still get into a headwind. But with summer coming, I’d like something larger. I don’t need to carry as much when it’s hot.

I weighed the Bianchi once with full pannier, fenders, and lights, and it was nearly 45 pounds. The Centurion with its fixed gear is only a little less. And I weigh about 210 (as of this morning) so the combined vehicle weight is around 250 or so. Obviously, I don’t want to get on some huge gear. My middle-aged knees wouldn’t take it for long.

I set up the old Pennine for the Racing on the River time trial, planning to use a 47x18 for training, and then either a 49T or 52T chainring for the race. But we had to leave town for a few days, and I missed the TT. The bike is still set up with the 47, so I rode it to work yesterday, maybe not the smartest thing to do with a cold.

There was a light headwind in the morning. I could feel the extra effort pushing that gear into the wind. It wasn’t strenuous, but it was definitely more work that the Centurion. I had a tailwind on the way home, though, and like most days, the wind was stronger in the afternoon. I flew! Granted, I had only a Camelback Hawg and a seat bag instead of a big, heavy pannier. It felt wonderful!

But the Pennine isn’t to be a regular commuter. It’s enjoying an honorable semi-retirement. I use it only for TTs. The bike isn’t valuable, but it was my first racing bike, and it earned a special place. So chances are, the Centurion with it’s fenders and rack will undergo a gear change soon.


I hate it when things break. It seems like multiple things break at the same time. The car broke down last week, for instance, and my floor pump’s gauge broke too. The washer is on its last legs. The air conditioner is the original unit that the builder installed twenty years ago. It’s getting creaky. The carpet’s worn out and the roof needs to be replaced too. (Please don’t let it leak! Please! Please! Please!) Getting the car fixed cost as much as a new Bianchi Pista, and I’d surely be happier with a shiny new bike than a ratty old car. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed has other ideas, a solid, non-leaking roof and a new carpet among them.

Why is it that after taking the family out for pizza one evening, and emptying my wallet in the process, I can almost count on needing that money for something else the next day? Now I don’t carry a lot of cash around, but that pizza money would have paid for the tire with the slashed sidewall that I got on the way home. Or the money spent on ice cream for everyone would have paid for a new tube. Instead, I’d be standing on the roadside somewhere, praying that a suspect patch would hold long enough to get me home.

Robert Heinlein wrote in “Glory Road” (IIRC) that government consists of 3 parts, the Dirty Tricks Department, the Nasty Surprises Department, and the Fairy Godmother Department. The Fairy Godmother Department consists of an elderly female clerk with lots of vacation time. She occasionally sets her knitting aside and does something nice for someone, but the rest of the time Dirty Tricks and Nasty Surprises are the norm.

Anyone who’s had a flat tire, only to find there’s no spare tube in the seat bag has been victimized by the Nasty Surprises Department. Anyone who’d ridden a nice, paved road, only to discover a ‘Road Closed’ sign and a mile of impassable mud ahead has been had by the Dirty Tricks Department.


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