Sunday, November 25, 2012

The MoPac Comeback.

I had a really, really good ride today.  Actually, my twitter post was much less delicate about it than that.

When I went to bed last night, I knew with certainty that I was going to back out of the group ride this morning.  I did.  Then I had to really struggle to get myself on the bike.  The winds were rocking the camper and coming in from all directions.  It was going to be a tough day on any bike, much less an ultra twitchy, super-aero, non-kamm tail TT bike that I am already afraid of.  I knew that it was going to be another white-knuckle, exercise in terror that would shave yet another few years off of my natural life.  How did I know this?  That is what all of my rides have been lately.

I have been dreading my rides, procrastinating until it was nearly too late each time, forcing myself onto the bike, then hating every last second of it.  I have been totally terrified since coming back from this latest crash. The only reason that I didn't give up is that I have been through this before.... with horses.  And I did give up.  I let fear rule me and ruin me as a rider.  It is why I "retired" from the saddle.  I loved riding horses and I love riding my bike.  I cannot, will not lose another passion to fear.
Yup.  This is about how it goes.

In recovering myself as a cyclist, there is one distinct advantage.  As long as I don't respond to the fear, my bike could care less.  (Horses, however, figure if you are afraid, they should be twice and afraid and the situation gets worse.)  The last few rides have had their fair share of scary moments.  Moments when something would trigger a memory... looking at the edge of the road, seeing a bug or bit of debris, cornering and descending, anytime the wind blows, and pretty much any other situation... and I would FEEL the bike going down and make corrections in response to imaginary sensory input.  More than once, I swerved dangerously into the road to avoid... um, nothing.  I was too afraid to drink without pulling over and putting a foot down.  At those times, I would be shaking so badly, it was difficult to continue or control the bike at slow speeds.  And compounding the problem was the fact that the new cockpit was causing a lot of pain and impairing the bikes handling.  The data from the last ride showed me climbing at 19-20 mph and descending and cornering at around 10.

So when I woke up this morning and felt those winds, I almost didn't ride.  Instead, I went to the veloway.  This is the epitome of a comfort zone.  It is short and winding with rapid little hills and offers no chance to think about anything but what you are doing.  It is two wide lanes for bike and rollerblade traffic only.  It is one way and very simple, though challenging to cornering skills.  Most of all, it is as safe as a person can get on a bike.  I went there.  Just being on the bike was enough of an exercise outside my comfort zone, especially with all that wind.

Good place to work on cornering.

I went round and round (and round and round and round...) until I could shift, get in and out of aero like normal, drink and put my bottle away on the fly, and released my death grip on the bars.  Then I took the show out to MoPac which is also something of a comfort zone for me.  There I did a 10 mile loop several times.  

Also, after the last terrible ride, I also took Seabiscuit in to Austin Bikes where Sol and I had a meeting of the minds.  Or more specifically, I whined and he listened, wrenched, and sent me on my way.  Thank you Sol for taking the pain out of the equation and returning my bike to normal (actually, slightly better than normal) handling.  It made all the difference in the world today.  I owe you all the chocolate in Switzerland, dude.

The result?  

By the end of 45 miles, the old duck was back in charge.  I felt great.  I hunted down roadies, hammered into the wind, stayed in aero (even when a wind gust moved me several feet to the left), and was really sinking my teeth into the effort.  I ended covered in salt and full of attitude.  I even made snarky comments on twitter about the guy posing at the veloway in an orange aero helmet.  I got on facebook and told everyone that we needed to ride soon.

In short?  I fell back in love.

I needed that.


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