Monday, August 28, 2006

8/28/06 Today's Ride -- Stay, cold hand of Azrael

Route: 25.11 miles, shortened Tour de London course.

Weather: mostly cloudy with sprinkles and rain developing, 77 degrees, 7 mph wind.

Performance: average speed 15.3 mph, time 1:38:13. Average HR 137 bpm. link:

Comment: With less than 2 weeks to go until the Tour de London, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty on this course. 30% chance of afternoon thunderstorms? Not enough to stop me. Besides, today I inaugurate my brand new insulated water bottle and my weapon against bonk: bone fide bike energy gels and drinks!

My optimism gave way to sluggish legs...nothing my HEED energy drink could't fix! I made myself take regular sips of my grownup Gatorade. The absence of simple sugars kept it from tasting syrupy sweet; the complex carbohydrates lent more of a bland, almost mediciney taste to it. Not bad, though. Like an orange creamsicle. So I was still waiting for the adrenaline surge.

Up the first big hill by Dezarn Road. No worries. But my legs still aren't kicking in. Time for my Hammer Gel! Raspberry, not bad. A little hard to get it all out of the pack, so I end up squeezing it bottom-up like a tube of toothpaste. I follow this dutifully with a good gulp of plain water from bottle #2. I'm not sure if it was the gel or the drink, but my stomach started to feel very hunger whatsoever.

Ok, legs, you can surge any time. Fire, fast-twitch fibers.

It's then that I start to notice most of the sky turning gray. The wind, which had been blowing steadily (it's always in your face, it seems) was starting to dissipate. This isn't looking too good. Still unable to shake the dull grip of lethargy, I did something I rarely do...I turned around.

As I'm riding back out to 638, I feel the dread sensation of tiny raindrops beginning to pelt me. Thankfully they let up a bit as I reach the turn back. I'm about 30 minutes out and don't want to ride it on slick roads with wet brakes.

Up ahead of me, a black tractor-trailer (sans trailer) is making its way down to the highway from a side road. I ride on past and it pulls out behind me, beginning its labored acceleration in my direction. Now in virtually all situations, I steadfastly maintain my position on the right-hand margin of the road. It's legal and it's as safe a position as a cyclist can be. But this situation is a little different: I'm on a relatively straight section of road, no one else is around, and this massive vehicle is coming up behind me. Maybe the polite thing to do would be for me, as the much more nimble party, to move over to the far left to let him pass me without having to change lanes. I take a look back -- he's still there.

Judging from the loudness of his engine, I make a mental fix on his position behind me and veer toward the left. Just as I make my move, I notice that the pitch of the engine is increasing rapidly and at the same time drawing closer. I cast a quick glance over my shoulder.

He's in the left lane too. Going a lot faster than I am. And he's maybe 15 feet back.

All I can do is cut back to the right. The scary thing is that at this point all I can do is look straight ahead, my back to him, and hope I can get out of his way fast enough.

He rumbles past. All of this probably doesn't take more than 5 seconds but seems to occur in slow motion. My life intact, I soldier on.

Lessons learned? Stay in your lane. Act like trucks do on the's other people's job to get out of your way, not the other way around. And if you do change lanes, use hand signals.

Oh yeah, I got drenched on the way back.

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