A friend told me a joke the other day. We were in a conversation about Hemingway, (often where my thoughts turn prior to a Sunday ride !) She said If you asked Hemingway, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The response would have been, “It didn’t. It died. Alone. In the cold rain.” For some reason, despite the beautiful mid-November warm spell, this tidbit was floating in my gray matter today on the difficult parts of the run in back home. But so was Puccini’s Nessun Dorma on the way out during the brilliant parts. The mundane with the miraculous. You’ll see why later in this report.
It was a great ride today, on a number of levels. To begin with, 16 riders showed up at the downtown Bakehouse to take a shot at the 446 Flashers’ route, a favorite Fall/Winter ride of ours, despite the holiday week in front of us. The flasher’s ride is wide, safe, fast, challenging. I don’t remember everyone on the ride (I’ll be 53 in January so pardon the lapse), but I do remember Chris Kroll and Tim Nixon (Upland), Hans Ibold (Joes), Gary Palmer, Emily Palmer, Jeff Thompson, Colin Allen, Myron Lewis, Thomas Walsh (all from Scholars Inn Bakehouse), Shane Slaven, Kevin Hays, Chris “Jarvis” (Cutters) and Brant Powell(BKB). Chris brought along a new neighbor, his name escapes me, but he’s a new dentist or oral surgeon in town. He was wearing the equivalent of basketball shorts but rode remarkably well and he was entirely gracious. We cut a fast pace to the causeway and up and he was just a few bike lengths behind the fast moving train when we crested the top, so my cap is off to that gentleman as he will be pulling me to safety in the near future I am sure!
We left the Bakehouse just a few minutes after noon. It must have been 55 degrees, some in shorts, most with thin gloves, knee warmers, light vests. We arrived at 446 in the typical way and turned south for the next several miles. We navigated through the west loop of Knightridge, then began to form our informal pairings. We were chatty for a bit, the left line placed on the road and the right just leeward of the white line. There wasn’t much wind to speak of although it was favoring a westerly bent. A few pairs began pulling off the front two by two, but it wasn’t long before the left line began setting the pace and moving faster than its mirror image. We dropped into a proper paceline, awkward at first, some pulling hard and fast, forcing the tail to come around too quickly, others staying on the point just a bit too long, letting the slower line languish in the wind on their way to the back of the line. There was some grumbling in the ranks, some brake tapping, and it was all warranted, as we set about to work out a few of the bugs in this rolling game of musical chairs where we were at once the participants and the musicians. I remember I was playing Pavarotti’s version of Nessun Dorma, perfectly suited to the tempo, in my head as we hurtled north on the tarmac. Soon we had it sorted out! Proper speed, good timing, steady pulls, perfect ease offs. Little conversation now. The train had left the station. We weren’t going fast, but it was fast enough to keep us completely focused. later, a team mate would tell me we averaged 23 mph on 446 out and back. “Tempo robusto!” as one rider said, quoting my recent Tweet! And it was beautiful, if only for a moment.
I am always in awe of this ad hoc power of collaboration, the work toward a greater good despite several different teams represented. I remember the riders because, not only are they now my friends but as a racer (back in the day) I would, and still do, look at the start list prior to each race then count the riders on each team on the line. How many, what colors. When I was on smaller teams, I would use this information to my advantage in determining (not always successfully!) which teams to let go and which to attempt to get into breaks with. But today, we were Team Bloomington. A fairly well matched, homogeneous group of racers all tapping out a nearly identical tempo on the rural roads of Monroe County.
At the first flashers at route 58, me and Allen, Thompson, Ibold, “Jarvis”, Palmer, Slaven and Hays decided to turn back for home watching our, perhaps fitter counterparts, Kroll, Lewis, Powell, Walsh, Nixon and a couple of others head an additional 4 miles to route 50. We turned for home and again formed our pairs, some grabbing a snack from their pockets. We were soon re-establishing a paceline looking for that magic combination again, so often elusive. Prior to the causeway climb we were still working on our form after several miles but a few of us had hit a bad patch and were unable to contribute while others had more fitness. This resulted in a fast but untenable paceline that ultimately began to unravel. But I accept that as a part of training. And that too is the beauty of this course. Palmer and Hays were able to power away at the causeway, with Thompson and Slaven in the second group and me and Ibold chasing with Allen and Jarvis just behind. I was lacking in motivation to close the gap ahead. Puccini had deserted me and in its place, Hemingway and the chicken joke! I put my head down, and in the cold rain in my mind tried to do my best!