Sunday, December 5, 2010
It's Not About The Bike...
Every summer I would watch the Tour de France, and miss the bike. I would start to save to buy one, hoping to get back out on the road again. A couple of weeks after the Tour was over I would forget about it and spend the money. Running was cheaper, I was good at it, and that was enough for me.
I eventually graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree and then with my master’s. I found my first job as an athletic trainer and moved to Texas. I quickly found that I didn’t have the time to even run anymore, much less ride. Besides, I was barely able to pay the bills, I didn’t have money to waste on a bike that I couldn’t even ride safely on the roads where I lived. But, three years later, during the summer of 2000, I moved to New York.
The following school year I signed up to do a 60 mile ride for MS and knew that I didn’t really want to ride a mountain bike that far. Again I felt I had justification to buy a bike and scraped together enough to buy a Trek 1000 road bike. My first ride on it was in the MS ride, but soon after I was taking it out fairly regularly for rides. I was still putting in my miles running, but I was supplementing with my bike and loving it. That winter when the weather prohibited running outside I put road bike on my trainer and got my workouts in that way.
The next summer I started riding a couple of times a week. Never big miles, but decent rides of anywhere from 20 to 45 miles. I felt great and I was loving the bike again. But, as the summer wore on the rides grew fewer and shorter and by the start of the school year disappeared totally. I would still pull out the bike and stick on the trainer on the winter days when I couldn’t run, but that only lasted a couple of winters and then both bikes just got left in storage.
The triathlon bug had actually first bitten me back in the 80’s when I watched The Wide World of Sports coverage of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. I already knew that I was an endurance athlete and after watching the race coverage I decided someday I would do Ironman. As with many other things, that plan was soon pushed to the back of my mind and virtually forgotten, but the hooks had been sunk in me. As I drove on it came back to me and the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was something I still wanted to do. A sprint triathlon was much, much shorter, but I had to start somewhere. So by the time I pulled into my parent’s driveway I was determined to become a triathlete.
The next morning I pulled out my bike, cleaned and lubed the chain, inflated the tires and took off on my first ride in a couple of years. I was already in pretty good shape because I had been running regularly, so I was able to hold a pretty good pace. I didn’t go very far that first ride, only about 15 miles, but it was a start and it was the distance that I would be riding in the upcoming triathlon. My butt was a bit tender, but it felt great to be back out on the bike again.
Despite a horrible swim I went on to have a good first triathlon that weekend. I managed to make the podium, finishing 3rd in my age group, just nipping my friend at the end. The hooks were now fully set and I continued to ride and train for triathlons the rest of the summer. I would do one more sprint a couple of weeks later and started to dream of Ironman.
After completing my 3rd triathlon I knew my distant dream was doable. Ironman! I soon told my new girlfriend of it and my plans to register for Ironman Lake Placid the next summer. After she stopped laughing and explained the race was already closed out, as were all the rest, and how hard it was to get into them I was crushed. I continued to train and ride my bike on a regular basis, but my motivation was slipping and the bike was in danger of being put back into storage, but fortune struck.
About a month later my girlfriend told me she had just heard that they were going to have a new Ironman race the following summer in Louisville, KY and that registration would soon open for it. I made plans and shortly after registration opened I was on the computer hitting keys with desperation, I was going to get in! I was successful but it was many months before the race closed. Which on hindsight wasn’t too surprising. Louisville in August was not going to be pleasant. It is normally very hot and very humid and swimming in the Ohio River is never a real pleasure. But, it was an Ironman, and I was going to do it.
I continued to ride all fall and winter with my girlfriend. She started suggesting that if I was going to stay with triathlons and especially since I was doing an Ironman, that I might want to upgrade my bike. There was nothing wrong with the bike, but it was heavy and not really meant for speed. She was certain I’d be much happier with a better bike. She wasn’t suggesting I needed to jump up to a high end, but that I should at least consider a midlevel bike. She made sense, but I loved my 1000 and I pretty much ignored her for a while. The thought did roll around in my brain occasionally, and I would even look around online at different bikes, but I wasn’t ready to give this one up, yet.
When my new bike arrived I was excited and couldn’t wait to take her out for a ride. She was so light and felt very fast and I was ear to ear smile the entire first ride. I came home and my 1000 was put back into storage. I decided to keep her as a backup bike for use in bad weather or in case something happened to the Madone. I still had a soft spot for the 1000, but she had been replaced.
I kept putting on the miles all spring. My longest ride though had only been about 65 miles. I needed to get in some longer ones if I really wanted to succeed at Ironman. Shortly after the school year ended I did an 80 mile ride followed a couple of weeks later by my first century. We stopped for lunch about 60 miles into the century, but I still completed it in one day, so I was getting closer to ready.
Around the 2nd week of July, 2007, I found out from my girl friend, via a friend of hers, that there was a group of triathletes that were planning to ride from Westchester, NY up to Lake Placid the week before Ironman and then stay up there and watch the race. I had ridden once early in the summer with a couple of them at one of their regular tri club rides and they seemed like a good bunch, so I asked for contact info to see if they would allow me to tag along. The ride they were planning was going to be about 300 miles over a two day period. It would be a huge step up for me, but I felt I could handle the challenge. I was riding well and feeling very strong and confident on the bike.
When I got a hold of the guy that was leading the ride he told me that due to a lot of people dropping out of the ride that he had decided to make it a one day ride. It was going to only be him and couple of other riders. He asked me how much experience I had and I lied telling him that I had done up to 160 miles in one day. I felt if he knew the truth that I would surely be left behind. He reluctantly agreed to allow me to join in.
I showed up at his place around 1am the morning of the ride. By this time the group was done to me and him and one other person who would only be riding about halfway with us. We set out through the dark and started our journey. It was a long ride and it turned out to be quite an adventure (which hopefully I’ll write up some day). The last half of the ride was in a cold, pouring rain with high winds. There were several times where I felt like I was done and could go no further, but somehow I’d get another wind and claw my way back into the ride. It took us 19 ½ hours to complete the 300 mile ride, which included our stops for food, drink, mechanical issues, etc. Our actual riding time was 18 hours and we averaged 16.5 mph for the ride. I was exhausted, cold and hungry by the time we reached Lake Placid, but I now finally felt I could call myself a cyclist.
We stayed and watched the race and I cheered my girlfriend on as she completed her 7th Ironman. The next morning after the race we headed to the fairgrounds to register for next year’s race. I was soon signed up to do my 2nd Ironman and had yet to do my 1st.
This last summer as I was in final preparation for my 4th Ironman (3rd at Lake Placid) I took my Madone in for a tune up and new tires and tubes to make sure everything was perfect for the race. While I was at the bike shop I started admiring a Cervelo that they had on sale. As I was talking to the guys that worked there they couldn’t help but notice were my attention was focused and one of them eventually told me that if I really liked that bike they should see the one they had in the show room. He took me over and showed me a 2009 Cervelo P2 tri bike with Dura Ace components. Since this was 2010 and the bike was still there, it was marked down pretty low. We talked, and talked and finally I said that I couldn’t afford it at the time and I finally left.
It was the weekend before Ironman when I bought the Cervelo. I knew it was crazy, but my intent was to ride her in the race. I’d done no training on her and it would break one of the big rules of racing, don’t change anything race day. I managed to get in about 150 miles on her over the course of the week and felt confident that I could do Ironman on her. I took along the Madone, just in case, but the day before the race it was the Cervelo I put in transition.
This fall as the tri season came to an end and winter started approaching I decided it was time to put the Cervelo away for the season. I continued to ride the Madone, but after having spent more money than I really could afford on the Cervelo, I was all the more concerned about damaging the Madone. I had been riding her the last few winters, but in the back of my mind I knew that if something happened I could scratch together enough money to buy a new bike. Maybe not as high a level of bike, but a decent one. This was no longer an option.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was time to break out the 1000 again. She hadn’t been pulled out of storage in a couple of years, but I figured with simple adjustments and cleaning I could have her ready to ride. So out she came, but unfortunately I soon realized that it was going to take a lot more work than I expected. The chain was rusted solid, the brakes weren’t working, the cables frayed and the tires were rotten. She looked so bad, I almost just took her straight out to the dumpster. But, I still had a bit of a soft spot for her and I really didn’t want to continue to risk the Madone, so I got to work.