Monday, April 03, 2006

Monday nights at Gasworks

Michelle Maislen of the NWWC contacted me earlier in the year asking if I would be available for any volunteer work. A ride leader position was available leaving from Gasworks - a mere 2 blocks from my house - so I was more than happy to give back to the community, could it get more convenient? Tonight was the first night and three women showed up. We managed to avoid the thundershowers and only have a little splash from the wet/muddy trail up to Matthews beach. I talked to each one about their interests - why they are on the ride, what they are hoping to get out of it, etc etc. Two out of the three women are completely new to the scene - ready to jump in with both feet. The third- Eden Marie - is in her first year of racing and will be an invaluable resource to help guide these women into the racing scene.

Both had the same questions - how do you train? What do you do? Hopefully I answered in a way to give them some direction - and I really hope they show up next week so I can talk to them more. I told one woman that cycling is a collection of experiences. Each training ride, race, conversation with coaches, fellow cyclists, reading information on the web - all adds to the ever increasing puzzle. Hopefully at the end of it you can make sense out of it all - and teach someone else what you learned.

Thank you for the continuous guidance. It is really refreshing and helpful to hear another perspective on my collection of experiences. I fully agree - racing is something that cannot be rushed. I am eager to learn more - but know that wisdom comes all in good time.


majikmojo said...

You are more than welcome. It has been my pleasure reading your blog. And yes, it is nice to give back.

Maybe I am offering a little advice because I always have to female cyclists. I have seen them dropped on training rides too many times. And too many times, no one even looked back.

Want to know about the ride of which I am still the proudest, even with a few race wins? My girlfriend several years ago was a racer. I met her when I began my doctoral program and started showing up at the local training rides.

To make certain I stayed on the bike, I began a "women's" Wednesday ride. Guys were welcome, but I made it very clear that no testosterone was allowed. And I promised no one would ever be left behind. It became a very popular ride. The guys typically used it as a recovery day.

My girlfriend then (well, actually a couple of years later), Cary, was one of the women who would show up. She always got dropped on one particular hill. I finally figured out what she was doing wrong and offered some advice. But I would also always wait up, let her catch my wheel, and then pull her up to the group. It was only on climbs that she had problems. I rode with Cary on Wednesdays and other rides for almost three years before one day she was the only other person to show up for my Wednesday ride.

We headed out for a 30-miler. Toward the end, I asked (as nothing more than one cyclist to another at that point in time) if she would like to grab something to eat. She jumped at the offer. During dinner, I told her I had always really liked her -- and I had. She said she had always felt the same about me. Neither of us knew that about the other during all those rides over a period of almost three years. I still look back and think about all that time we wasted because neither of us had ever said anything.
However, she then called to my attention that she had *NEVER* missed one of my Wednesday rides. And thinking back, I realized she was right. She was always there. In fact, over that dinner she admitted telling her roommate that very same day she was one day going to come back some day from one of our rides with a date with me. So when I asked only as a cyclist and friend, she took advantage to turn it into a date. Life was very nice after that.
A year later she commented that she had never done a full century, but she had been racing for three years by that time. So I said we would find a good century and I would make certain she finished. At the start of the century, I sternly told her that I had not ever see her taking a pull. And, she never did.

But whenever things hotted up and a break would form off the front, with each one thinning out the ranks, I would look around for her, tell her to get on my wheel and pull her up to the break. I did that the entire century, or at least for the first 95 miles into it.

There was one final break of two guys. Once again I had Cary hold my wheel as I pulled her up to them. That pull cost the last of anything I had remaining. After pulling her up to them, I told her I was fried. She stayed on their wheel as I fell back. BTW, by that time she was the only woman remaining. She even commented that everyone who had ever beat her in a race was now nowhere to be seen.
Cary finished the century with those two guys in a time of 4:29.

I came in two minutes later at 4:31. And to this day, that ride is the one of which I am the proudest across 25+ years of riding -- because Cary finished so well. But knowing the right thing to say, she always told others that she could never have done it without me sheltering her at all times.

And where is she now? I do not know, but I loved her then and still do to this day. We spoke about getting married, but I did not want children. She had grown up in one of those perfectly functional families and I knew, although she said we did not have to have kids, that I could never deny her children. So, without giving good reason, I went my own way. However...

...all turned out well in the end, at least for Cary. We remained in touch and occasionally saw each other at races. I got to know her new boyfriend and eventual husband. And, we would still chat on the phone every few months.

The very last time I called, her husband picked up. No big deal. We all knew each other and our respective places. However, while he went to get Cary, I heard a baby crying. I asked Cary if it was theirs and she said yes.

Only then, six years after we went our separate ways, did I ask if ever I told her why I had moved on without her. She said I never really gave her a good explanation. I then told her what you just read -- that I left her *ONLY* because I could never deny her children. I have not spoken to her since, and that has now been over 7 years. But, I still love her very, very much. And, I still miss her. She also remains my favorite training partner of all time.

In fact, at the end of rides we would sprint to see who got the couch. I always spotted her a fair advantage and it probably did end up about 50-50. (And now I am actually crying, but that's okay. These are some of my most pleasant memories. Thanks for bringing them back today.)

Oh, one other thing about the century. A woman had a flat at one point. Cary later said that was the first time she had ever seen me not turn around whenever a woman got dropped or had a mechanical. I told her it was because that day was all hers. And even to this day, it remains so.

Epilogue: I did see Cary at one last race. However, it was a sad occasion. A racer was killed after being hit by a car during the road race. The organizers canceled the remaining races that weekend. So instead, almost everyone went for a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cary had spent that summer racing in Wyoming and Colorado and was in superb form. And on one nice long climb, and given I had not continued my usual training with the pressures of a new job, she dropped me. It was the first time she had ever dropped me. I simply smiled as she pulled away. The tables had finally turned. All was right in the world.

Juicey said...

Wow - that's quite a story. Thanks for sharing. It's funny how life takes those unexpected twists - and wonderful how someone can leave that much of an impression on your life. And really - cycling is more about the collective experience than winning races. Sure that's rewarding too - but there's so much more to it.