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16yrs ÷ (factor f12 x factor b2 + factor t3) = 11mins51secs
posted: 05/09/07

This last weekend I defied all logic, even my own, and did a bike race.

Yeah. You heard me. It was a time trial, which, due to my lack of riding in the peleton for, oh, forever, was a reasonably safe thing for me to do - or so I thought.

I had two goals, in descending order:
  1. Finish.
  2. Do not vomit in the process.

I'm [somewhat] happy to report that I succeeded on both counts.

Before I get to the results, let me quantify a few things. In the mock formula in the title above, here's what I'm getting at:
  • 16yrs = How long I've been off the bike.
  • f12 = My level of fitness at the time of the race. I squared this because I'm really, really unfit.
  • b2 = The bike I was riding. A factor because it was not, I repeat not, the best choice for a time trial. More on this in a moment.
  • t3 - My level of talent on the bike at the moment. All of the old lessons are coming back, but I'd only been on the bike for two weeks by the time I did the race. And it had, again, been 16 years since, you know, back in the day, as the kids say.

I had originally planned on doing the time trial on my rehabbed '86 Raleigh, which is currently set up as a single speed (48x17). Unfortunately I had some issues with the prehistoric (as in 1990, which is like an epoch in terms of bike technology these days, I'm finding) pedals, so I couldn't make that ride work. So I rode my other bike, a LeMond Poprad, which is a cyclocross bike, set up with disc brakes, road tires at the moment, and a severely under-geared (for the road, anyway) 46x12 top gear. When you consider that most of the other racers in the time trial were running more sensible 53-54x13-11 bikes, this starts to give you a bit of an idea what I was getting myself in to. I basically did the race in the automobile manual transmission equivalent of third gear, while everyone else was mashing in fifth gear. I was the little old lady doing 30mph in the passing lane on the freeway. But hey, it is what it is.

I should also mention, while we're on the subject, that I had sincerely hoped that there would be a handful of other jokers at the race like me. You know, frightfully out of shape, riding totally inappropriate bikes, just there to have a bit of fun. I was crushingly disappointed on this score. The folks who showed up came to play. Tons of carbon, mostly funny bikes with disc wheels. You know, serious-like. There was one guy with dreadlocks, cutoff cords and a '70s Reynolds-frame fixed gear track bike who donned cleats, but he either didn't start, or didn't finish. We briefly bonded before the race started. We were the lone lunatics. Everyone else meant business.

I was a little bit short of horrified.

Still, I had my goals, both of them doable, I thought. I did my best to get the legs feeling decent before the start (didn't work), but I recall pulling up to the start line (riders went off at one minute intervals) and wondering aloud, "Am I warm?" It had been so long since I'd competed that I'd forgotten what warmed up actually felt like.

I plodded up to the start and clipped in to the pedals while a helpful volunteer held the bike. I sat in jittery silence while the clock counted out 60 seconds until I heard the guy ask, from behind me:
"Is this a 'cross bike?"
"Yes. Yes it is."
[Barely audible, watching these huge guys go off in front of me on $10K bikes, all 5-10lbs. lighter than mine]
"Yeah. Not. Really."

You must understand (even if you don't), I was essentially riding a mountain bike in this thing. This, generally speaking, does not augur well. In a time trial. And also, the guy who went off in front of me is named Breeze. I'm not kidding. Only a whole freakin' lot intimidating.

Still, I rode decently. I had a rough time settling in. (Am I warm? No. No I am not.) A time trial is usually, depending on length (this one was 12.8 miles) a near-all-out to all-out effort. If you've never gone all-out for 12-15 miles, suffice to say it kinda hurts. I was caught and passed by two guys within the first 10 minutes or so, which normally would have been seriously demoralizing, but I knew that with my level of fitness and with the gears I'd be pushing that it was all pretty normal and [sadly] on pace. At one point coming down the last 2 miles or so of the course, spinning my top gear, I said out loud, "Well, that's all I got." And it was. I was pushing as hard as I could. I rode at ~85% of max on the course, not hard enough, but as hard as I wanted to (or could).

Do. Not. Vomit.

The winner (Fred Thomas of Cape Elizabeth, ME) finished in a fairly astonishing 27:52, blowing the doors off the majority of the nearly 70 starting racers. I finished 11:51 back, at 39:01. And that's what the fake math above is about.

It was a ton of fun. Hurt a bit? Yep. But mostly fun. And I'll do it again. Maybe on some fancy car-bone. Maybe not.

I may have finished way (way3) down the list overall, but I'm good with all of it. Why so comfortable in the face of defeat, you ask? Ah. I'll tell you.



the bumby foameth.

Actually I look pale (yes, those shins are in fact bare; thank you Lady Schick Quattro). And a bit fat. And entirely uncomfortable.

Dig the knickers. The ATB shoes. My lucky shamrock socks (obscured). And my retro Team Brooklyn jersey. In da house!

I'll be back.

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