Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For...

This year, my sister-in-law expressed an interest in riding in the Seattle-to-Portland (STP), a one- or two-day, 206 mile bicycle ride between (obviously) Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. I've done the ride twice now, and last year my wife and my in-laws met me in Portland and we spent the next week vacationing on the Oregon coast.

I didn't want to push her into it, because I know how hard this ride can be, especially as one gets older. The first year I rode it, back in 2004, I hadn't trained at all and decided a couple of days before Why not? Let me tell you; 'why not' is one of those phrases that you pay for later, in spades. It was very tough, physically and especially mentally. There's nothing worse than being totally exhausted with 30 more miles to go, up hills and into headwinds. Last year I did train moderately and had several 50+ mile rides under my belt, and it was still hard. My Polar heart rate monitor showed that I burned over 14,000 calories in the two days; I believe it, because I was down over 2 lbs after a couple of days of recovery and full hydration. You simply can't eat enough to replace the calories you burn on such a ride.

Nevertheless, my sister-in-law was determined to do it, and so we went bike shopping for her in February, got her outfitted by early March (she picked up a Specialized Roubaix Elite), and we've been going on training rides since mid-March. All of this bicycling piqued my wife's interest in bikes again; we used to ride years ago before we got married but both quit for a while due to computer industry-related health issues (carpal tunnel syndrome) that made cycling too uncomfortable.

My solution to the discomfort problems was to go 'bent. I purchased my first recumbent, a Vision R32, back in 2003, and a year later bought my current bike, a Rans V-Rex. These short-wheelbase (SWB) bikes are very agile and fast, but also are different enough from a regular diamond-frame "wedgie" bike that there is a learning curve. Plus, unlike a regular bike, you cannot stand while climbing, meaning you have to spin, spin, spin! up hills.

To make a long story short(er), my wife saw how much fun we were having and wanted in on it. No problem I thought, and I went out and bought her some 1.5" slick tires for her mountain bike. They worked great, but the comfort issue was still there; she found cycling for more than 30 minutes uncomfortable and had the wrist and shoulder problems the next day that had caused her to quit years ago. What she needed was a new bike. So we went bike shopping.

She rode a SWB recumbent (a Bachetta Giro), and although she did well on it (she's very coordinated), it was different enough from a regular bike that she didn't want it. We looked at Rans' new line of crank-forward bikes next... and it was love at first ride. Although we both loved the Fusion, she realized that if she wanted to go for longer rides she needed the most efficient bike in the line, and chose the Zenetik. We've been going on rides for a couple of weeks now, whenever we can get someone to watch our son, and she's very happy with her choice.

Which leads me to the subject of this post: be careful what you ask for. My sister-in-law and I had made plans well in advance to get in a 50 mile ride early on Mother's Day so we could be back in time for the barbeque at their house. Then my wife threw a monkey wrench into our training schedule because she wanted to go on a ride, too, but not a long one. Okay I said, I'll ride on Sunday morning with your sister, and we'll get her to babysit while you and I ride Sunday afternoon.

Of course, things never go as scheduled. We got a late start on Sunday morning; I had to feed Las Tres Primas and fix my riding buddy's bike. A quick, and hard, 50 mile ride (with the last mile and a half being up a very steep hill) brought me home to one frowning spouse. Two granola bars and a bottle of Gatorade later, I threw our bikes in the back of the truck and off we headed for a local rail-trail (the Centennial Trail). A quick 10 miles up from Snohomish, yet another granola bar, and a quick 10 miles back.

By the time we got back I was pretty whupped, as they say where I was raised. Both sisters had no pity, and took great pleasure in teasing me about having to keep up with them. My reply: this isn't quite what I imagined when I fantasized about having two beautiful women arguing over who got to wear me out first.

I'm either going to be very fit, or very dead, in a very short while. As I said, be careful what you wish for....

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