August 1, 2009

Misty Marin

My real cycling education commenced in the summer of 2003, on the back seat of a recumbent tandem. One of the most important lessons I learned was:
If the bicycle starts making an unusual noise, stop immediately and identify the cause.
This likely saved us from an unfortunate crash on the Tour of Napa in 2004, when a thump thump thump from the rear wheel signaled the imminent failure of the rim, which was separating at the weld.

A natural corollary to the above maxim might be:
If something feels unusual, stop immediately and identify the cause.
In retrospect, it is obvious that the slippery feeling on my right pedal meant that my cleat was no longer in a fixed position on the sole of my shoe. I was enjoying the scenery and my cycling companions; rather than inspect my shoe, I chose to ignore the unusual sensation.

Around mile 48, the vivid blue reflection of a pond compelled me to stop for a photo. I frowned as I yanked my foot out of that right pedal. Remounting the bike and continuing uphill, I could not clip in. I pulled into a farm driveway and, finally, looked at my shoe. The cleat was dangling by one bolt.

I backtracked to look for the wayward bolt, but it was likely lost on the road long before I stopped to snap that photo. With more than 50 (hilly) miles ahead, it seemed that my ride was over. Now, where was that red Porsche convertible SAG vehicle I had seen earlier in the day?

Luckily, I was within a mile of rest stop #2, and it wasn't that challenging to get there under my own power. There, the Wheel Peddler saved my ride. He was busy lacing spokes into a wheel for another rider, but promptly provided a suitable replacement bolt (and refused payment). Should you have the opportunity, give this guy some business.

The weather was perfect (thanks to the cool fog), the route was beautiful, and the ride was well-supported by the Marin Cyclists. I am always tense about riding on Highway 1, but perhaps the fog kept the tourists away. On that seven-mile stretch, we encountered only a handful of cars.

Our group of five hung together pretty well - largely because the two guys were willing to ride at a more relaxed pace, or wait for us. I was surprised to run into several people I know, including one colleague from work who was riding her first century. Congratulations, Maire!

I averaged 13.2 mph over 106 miles with 6,400 feet of climbing - not bad. A few people were surprised that I was riding a century just three weeks after the Death Ride, but honestly, I felt fine. In the end, I even tackled the steepest climb of the day: a nasty-but-short wall back to the hotel, where I had left my car. [Initial segment: 21% grade, average 16.6%. Ow.]

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