August 30, 2017

Don’t Fear the Gear

Well, my training has not been going as well as I had hoped.  I know. I know.  But, to tell you the truth, I am a little worried about the distance and what it will do to my body. I am old.

I cycled the 30-mile loop around Scott on the weekend, which is beautiful and very, very flat. The countryside reminds me a bit of Holland with the water and flat fields–the end of which can only be seen because of the trees.  There was plenty of water because of the recent rain, but my view of the land was curtailed by the height of the corn, which was no longer green but brown and dried out.

The issue for me was the temperature, which had gone up to 97 degrees.  I have no idea how hot it truly felt had the humidity been taken into account, but it was pretty freakin’ hot.  Early mornings have never really been my forte, so by the time I woke up, said hello to my family, downed my coffee, and finally surfaced to sufficiently get the bike onto the car, it was eleven o’clock. Yes, I know. With another thirty or so minute drive to Scott, it was around 11:30 before I even got on my bike.

So, I have been in the south  now for over three years, and arguably I am a pretty smart guy, so it’s crucial to ask the question– especially as I am well aware of the old adage “mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun”–  Why does this keep happening to me?

It was a 30-mile loop, and the first 20 were absolutely beautiful.  It was warm, but the slight breeze made it bearable.  Then with each mile, it got hotter and hotter.

“Yeah, I’m really enjoying this 110-degree weather!” said no one ever. I was becoming dehydrated and more and more tired. There was a total lack of shade, and with a total lack of hair to protect my head from the blaring rays, my bald head was becoming burned.  I began to feel worse and worse.  Basically, it sucked.

So, there are a few valuable lessons to learn here.

Number one:  Get up early, get on the road early, finish riding before your head turns into a baked potato, and keep well- hydrated. The ride is 100 miles, so get used to it!

Lesson number two:  The clothes you wear are important.  Don’t try something new on the day of the race.  Definitely wear a kit you have worn before and are comfortable in.  For me, the most important items are of the spandex/Lycra variety.   These come in a range of subtypes and have become increasingly popular, driven largely by the interesting social phenomenon known as “MAMILs” (pronounced mammals).  For those of you not familiar, a MAMIL is a middle-aged man in Lycra, who has decided that cycling is the new golf.  It has become a standard on weekends at the Big Dam Bridge to see a series of portly aging men of all shapes and sizes looking resplendent in the tightest garments you can imagine.  These brightly colored species whiz everywhere on their shiny new carbon bicycles screaming “on your left” at the top of their voices without any respect for the pedestrians they pass. They probably aren’t aware that the regulars are mildly ridiculing them as hapless wannabes.

CartoonWhat they also don’t know is that their so-called dapper duds were designed by a woman with a wicked sense of humor.  Tight-fitting bibs on pendulous beer bellies should never be seen. We can only be grateful that most do have the decency to wear a top of some sort, which covers up most of the offensiveness.

Despite them being jocular, the bibs do serve a real purpose – ask anyone who has ridden a bike without the padding in the tail end. Wearing well-designed bib shorts can go long way in terms preventing a number of difficulties, including saddle sores and other woes.    Another choice might be to add a little glide to your ride to reduce the friction and prevent chafing.

The thing is, the proper-fitting attire and accompanying gear can really make a difference, especially during a long ride.  So, while faintly ridiculous, go ahead and channel your inner Lycra-clad road warrior self and be proud. Stand tall, suck your gut in, and own your MAMILhood.