23 is the new 25

(Yeah – this one takes some explaining. First, though: Dianna – five is the new three, not the new six, because I did feel that the last mile on Thursday was a little bit of a stretch. Five would have been a completely effortless effort. Six required a little bit of endurance pushing)

Ok. All Right. Now that we’ve got that out of the way – Two workouts to sum up. Saturday was yard day. Broke up some of the potholes in the driveway, slung around 60 lb bags of asphalt patch, blah, blah blah. Got a good nap in the hammock. Scratch that – got a decent nap in the hammock while Jacob played pirate in same.

Sunday morning, the boys were up, the wife was well rested, and there were two hours before we had to be out of the house for church. My soulmate and partner says “Hey, why don’t you go run?” Why not indeed?

Saturday – nice, but still a little chilly. Sunday was quite literally perfect. High 40’s/Low 50’s, sunny, little to no wind. So I decide to do the 5 mile loop from the house around to River Road. Headed uphill first – as I headed up the trail to the old school, Louis Armstrong and Ella were crooning, the sun was shining, and it hit me exactly how good life was. Cleared the top of the hill, made a little bit of a wrong turn and about a quarter mile detour, and headed down the hill towards the river. The sun was clear of the hills on the other side, and, no lie, there were robins singing.

No other real implications – more than 5 miles, about 40 minutes, give or take.

Other than the iPod, I’m taking a decidedly low-tech approach to running for a little while. Or at least until I recharge the batteries for the Forerunner. Seriously, though – I’ve been enjoying running without the continual feedback from my little GPS guided nursemaid. Maybe it’s spring, maybe it’s a complete rejection of the treadmill mentality, maybe it’s just yet another random flight.. whatever, it’s working. Last week was 21.4 miles total, which is the biggest in a while.

OK, on to the 23 being the new 25 – I’d picked up a new cassette (a SRAM PG 970 12-23) for the Cannondale (part of upgrading the old Trek to nine-speed).

It’s beautiful.

(which reminds me that I need to take and post more pictures)

Quite literally beautiful – all chrome and shiny plastic, all kind of bits cut away – even the teeth that attach to the spline are only square on the edge that transmits force to the axle – the backside is nicked off to save grams. Will grams help me out? Heck no – I’m still dealing in pounds off of my backside. In any case, I’ve been avoiding switching to the new cassette out of caution – my old cassette is a 12-25, meaning that the “granny gear”, i.e. the biggest cog in the back, has 25 teeth, and the new cassette only goes to 23 teeth – I’m losing two inches of chain leverage to make the rear wheel spin one revolution.

(this is the part where everyone but Warren, Christian, and Fixedgear say “Uh… yeah…” and start reaching for the button back to Bloglines)

Anyhoo, the last time I rode Newport, I ended up bailing out into the 25 tooth cog on a couple of the hills. This time – not so much. Not at all, in fact, and I managed to avoid the 23 tooth cog most of the ride.

All the way into the office today WGBH, the NPR station out of Boston, was pimping the Marathon and Patriot’s Day. Yep, folks in the Bay State get an extra holiday, and miss no opportunity to rub it in. I’d feel bad about it, but I spent eight years as a Federal Employee, and got more than my share of cheesy holidays. Plus, the folks up in MA do it right – a Marathon, an 11 AM Red Sox game that gets out just in time to cheer on the runners, and commemorations of revolution, democracy, and all of that stuff that the rest of us take for granted.

Me, I was into the office early to make sure I finished up some stuff for a client and to make an 8 AM meeting. Round lunchtime, I really thought about heading out for a short ride (wanted to get a day’s rest – my shins were twinging a little bit Sunday evening, likely from swinging an 8 lb sledge on Saturday), and thought “It’s just going to get windier…”

It did. Finished up in time to easily finish the 14 mile loop I’d done on the east side of the island a couple weeks back, so I headed out. And I felt good. When I got to the turn at the Middletown line, right before you get to First Beach, I checked the clock on my cell phone (no Forerunner, no computer – just legs, lungs, and 18 or so pounds of aluminum, steel, rubber, and leather) – Wow. I’d only been out for 30 minutes, and had only about 10 minutes back to the office. Hmmm. What to do?

Hey, I thought – why not loop the other side of the island and finish the day with about 26.2? It’s appropriate, right?

A brief gripe – The biggest threat to cyclists is not, as many would propose, automobiles. Nor is it, as others would counter, crappy road conditions. Automobiles are, for the most part, easily seen, observable, and even more closely tied to good pavement than cyclists. Crappy road conditions – Well, bikes were invented in the 1800s when roads were by definition, crappy, and were (on average) faster than cars until the 19-teens and ’20s. Crappy road conditions are a figment of riders’ imaginations. Or an indication that you’re riding in Northern France/Southern Belgium.

No, dear hearts, the biggest threat to riders is pedestrians. Not joggers/runners/other folks exercising. Like cars, folks out for their health are predictable, and usually worried about playing in traffic. Random pedestrians, however, are interested in shopping, snacking, talking on their cells, chatting with their companions, and only marginally aware of anything outside of a 3′ sphere. If it’s making engine noises, maybe they’ll pay attention; definitely if it’s making honking noises.

Bikes, as any dog will tell you, are completely unholy – they move silently, without any discernible means of locomotion. So pedestrians ignore them, much like people ignore anything that does not fit into their world view, such as UFOs, etc. And pedestrians are quite happy to stroll out into the middle of a street as soon as the last car in a cycle has passed, and remain there until the next batch of cars patches.

Downtown was near suicide – it’s school spring break for most schools in New England, and Newport is spectacular as the annual flowers begin to come out and temperatures moderate. It’s all right, though – commuting in Houston lead me to perfect the bike bail-out; the key is to lunge at the pole or ped you’re about to hit, grab on, and try to get your body beneath theirs to cushion their fall… Didn’t hit anyone this time, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. I did nicely use that stretch of road to recover from really pushing on the first part of the loop.

So I did the western side of the island. There was a pretty stiff breeze out of the southwest, but I used a little topography to my advantage. I cut through downtown and headed west on the north side of the island, past the old fort, using the island itself to create a lee. As I made the turn at the State Park at the western tip of the island to head east on Ocean Avenue, I battled the breeze up the hill, then swung left.

The Atlantic was brilliant blue on my right, and the sun and the wind caressed my back. Honest to god, I have never been so right with the cycling gods. My legs were turning circles, not mashing and pulling, breathing was regular, not panicked and painful, and there was only the slightest sound of chain clicking on teeth over rubber crunching sand. Over the rough patches of road somehow I was able to unweight not only my butt from the saddle, but also my wrists from the tape and my feet from the pedals – I swear, I was flying.

As I came back into Newport proper and rounded the corner onto Bellair/are? amongst the mansions of the Gilded Age, there was a car of Mass. tourists down for Spring Break (middleschoolers and their parents, not college) poking along, seeing the sites. I rode up behind, and was considering doing the jerk thing and whipping around them. The driver caught me in his rear-view, and started to accelerate away. I jumped, and drafted him most of the way up the road, loving every minute of maintaining what must have been better than 20 MPH, uphill.

Pulled back into the office parking lot after about 90 minutes in the saddle. Haven’t figured out mileage, but I’m pretty confident that 26 ish is a good number. There was a detour all the way out to Third Beach along roads that give the cobbles of Flanders a run for their money. The biggest difference this time was no fooling around with maps.

But WOW. What a ride. I finished strong – the last four corners featured voices screaming in my head “The American’s approaching the finish line after a long day in the saddle. The Sprinter’s teams have really put on the pressure, but Jankowski ought to be able to hold them off…” Yep, I rode it like I stole it. So nice.

The silly thing is that I’m really looking forward to getting another 20 running miles in this week, though.

7 thoughts on “23 is the new 25”

  1. ” (this is the part where everyone but Warren, Christian, and Fixedgear AND LEE say “Uh… yeah…” and start reaching for the button back to Bloglines) ”

    For the record, I personally love all the tech talk when it comes to bikes. Eventually, I’ll understand it all. So just keep talking it and help me along, ok? :)

    I couldn’t agree more with you about the pedestrians. I had my first experience with just how dangerous they are on Saturday. You are absolutely right … they do NOT pay one bit of attention to cyclists. At all. And because of that, I almost plowed right into one. Frustrating, to say the least.

    Sounds like you had an awesome ride. Good luck on those running miles this week, as well.

    Rock on! :)

  2. Sounds like a good ride, uh, ofcourse you lost me on the tech talk. And do you wear all the funky riding outfits and stuff like Lance and those guys? There’s guys riding here that look like they are on teams and stuff. One guy last year had the US Postal outfit and everything.

  3. Great story! I love reading posts like this – it really adds to my own appreciation of getting out there myself. Thanks!

  4. I like your idea of a low-tech approach to running. This morning I was heading out to the gym and thought, “why not run?” So off I went, spur of the moment. It’s just under a mile, and it was such fun to just go.

  5. I like your low tech approach. Sometimes I wonder how much the feedback psyches me out a little bit and I end up percieving the run as harder than it is.

  6. You DO have a bell or something on your bike to make noise, right? My old running group used to get pretty annoyed at all the silent cyclist who expected us to KNOW they were behind us….

  7. First off, I was at my damned desk in Massachusetts while all the Bostonians did their little hooray about Patriot’s Day and the Marathon. I was sitting here picking ass. So there.

    Second, um… wow Lance and Tyler all in one day. Bummed?

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