Sunday, December 22, 2013

New Things, Good Things, And One Sad Goodbye.

I've been a bit quiet lately.  Sometimes that means that the wheels fell off the bus, rolled down the road and I'm off chasing them.  Right now it means that everything is going really well and I'm frankly a little afraid to jinx it.

First off, I took a big risk and sold the P5.  Why? Because I had a motivated buyer, I felt that the bike was worth as much right then as it would ever be, and that there were some minor fit and handling issues that could possibly be improved upon should I find a used P4.  I looked.. I found.. I bought.. I sold.  I came out way ahead on the deal as I got a great price on the P4 and a great price for the P5.
Big C.. King of the Jungle.
I'm really going to miss you.

Big C and Little C... Quite a pair.

There were several weeks of angst on my part as a second guessed my decision which was based solely in logic and did not consult my formidable emotional side.  I agonized over everything from the names of my bikes (Little C doesn't make that much sense without Big C in the stable) to a very real concern that I might be over-facing (horse term: scare by presenting more of a challenge than the horse or rider is ready for) myself because my initial rides reminded me a little too much of the hyper-responsive, herky-jerky handling of the Felt that (with the help of eating pavement 3 times) ultimately scared me so badly I could barely ride at all.  Part of the appeal of the big bike was that it was so smooth and solid, partially due to the fact that it was so big.  I knew I had improved confidence and handling skills but the first time I almost wiped out because I couldn't get the water bottle out of the BTA mount (the moment of truth in my worst crash), I had some serious misgivings.  When the buyer put the money for the P5 through a week earlier than I expected, I almost lost it.  Then the day we met at the shop and he loaded my beloved in the car and drove off... yeah well, I'm amazed I wasn't bawling.

Sol's philosphy: "You can't be sad if you're tired.  KEEP PEDALING!"

But that day, Sol (shop owner and fit magician... truly the best in Austin and an patient mentor to the Duck) spent all afternoon with me, dialing the new bike and helping me make some decisions about which way to set it up (there is a lot to consider when someone walks in and buys your entire set up, including the wheels).  In the end, we decided to favor crank length and table decisions about wheels and power for later.  We got the new crankset on the bike and tinkered... and tinkered... and tinkered with the fit.  In the end, we dialed in everything but the front end because I know I am going to a clinic where we will be measuring aero data against power to decide how low the front can go before there is a power loss.  That is when the front end will be set to it's optimal position.

Sol: "I didn't say stop! KEEP PEDALING!!"

After a few days of bad weather, I finally got out on the road with the new beastie.  It still didn't have a name... mostly being called the new bike, or the black bike.... or a few times... Evil C.  With the new cranks- very short 155s- and the resulting stability through my hips, the squirrel-y-ness was gone and suddenly it was like riding a ribbon of black silk.  It was smooth, precise, responsive in an almost telepathic way.  The ride quality... unbelievable.  I was able to appreciate the beauty of the (obviously made of butter) hubs in the Campy wheels that came on the bike.  Honestly, I've never ridden anything like it.  The Campy components shift like silk... yeah, keep using that word... there's a reason.

155 cranks.. if they were much shorter my pedal wouldn't clear the chainrings!

I took it to a giant parking lot behind the horse show where I had been doing handling/cornering drills at the end of most of my rides on Little C (the road bike).  I have never been able to corner in aero at all.  Withing a few minutes, I was able to get confident in the new bike which handled like.... well, a lot like Little C.  In other words, like an extension of myself.  I did the drills a few times on the pursuits and then started trying them in aero.  By the end of that session, I knew the black bike (by this point I was calling it Evil C, the ninja bike.. SUPERVILLIAN) and I were going to be just fine.  I knew I had made the right call.

The Ninja Bike lounging after a day's work.
On another front, I have been feeling progressively stronger.  I am back working with a dietitian and am really seeing the results.  I have tightened up quite a bit and I am handling a full training load again.  It's not to say the road is without bumps.. got a cold, had some respiratory trouble from bad air quality at the horse show, missed a day when my neck spasmed up and the massage to fix it made me too sick/sore to train.  But what is missing is the general malaise, fatigue, and frequent crashes in energy.  I seem to be recovering, healing, and generally bouncing back from workouts.  It was like the last piece of this puzzle, my health, that I have been trying to solve for a few years now, has clicked into place.

One the road bike front, the handling skills are coming right along.  I get braver each day, I'm climbing well (for me), and descending in a much more relaxed and aggressive style.  I don't always nail the line through the corners but I am getting it much more often and the fear is getting left off the guest list more and more.

I also have been training a lot with a teammate.  Austin Bikes/Revenant team has a really, REALLY tough female state cyclocross champ on it's roster and she has been a very welcome addition to my training program.  For the most part, I do most of the pulling and except for hard sprints where I exceed 26-27 mph, she stays right on my wheel.  What is remarkable is that she does this on her CX bike with its KNOBBY TIRES!! She is soft spoken and humble, never quite acknowledging the fact that I would be a quivering pile of goo should I ever need to keep up with her on a ROAD bike.  Needless to say, her presence has been great for me.  It is inspiring, infuriating, and humbling all at the same time but the social component of a team sport has been the antidote for my (at times painfully) solitary lifestyle.

Snapped this while heading out with my Teammate.
We've had some beautiful days lately!!

So that is what is going on in the Duck Pond as 2013 comes to a close.  2014 will be my first year as a full time bike racer/roadie and I'm not sure what to expect.  The newness of it is exciting and I am not sure what to expect from a very different style of racing and tactics.  All I know is that it is forcing me out of my comfort zone and what I am finding there is that much of it suits me.  Let's see what I say about it on race day.  Right now, all the new experiences have me feeling like a kid in a candy BIKE shop!

Google's Christmas present to the Duck!!!
"Coach Brain" has been immortalized by their search engine!

And finally, I can't thank one person enough...  Coach Brain.  He has guided me through some tough times this year and never once let me down.  He has helped me to be a stronger, faster, healthier athlete.  He put up with 9 billion emails about purchasing that P5 only to have me sell it 9 months later and calmly responded to 9 billion emails about that, too.  He was right there for me when my body was letting me down, helping me put myself back together, and keeping me focused all the way through.  I don't think I would be anywhere near this happy point in training (and by association, life) without all of his hard work.  Thanks DUDE!! You ROCK!  Let's kick some ASS in 2014!!