Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Raging Döners, Exploding Veins, and Time Trial Dread

A friend of mine recently rode so hard that his leg spurted blood when he got home.  He hadn't fallen or injured himself; it was just how his body responded to an 18-hour week on the bike.  The last ride done, he sat down, sighed, took off his clothes, and, lo, blood spraying at each pulse from his leg, like Windex from a spray bottle.  It spritzed his bedroom wall.  His girlfriend, a bystander at the event, was astonished.

I should point out that he's got a vein issue in the leg--he was born with it--and he wears a monstrous compression sleeve on it.  It was when he removed the sleeve that the skin gave way and blood began spritzing rhythmically.  He described it as a "fine mist" of blood.

Funny thing, because we were on our bikes the next day when he was telling me about it.   "And you're back on the bike?" I asked him.  He didn't seem to understand the question.

A polar vortex, as they're calling any slightly milder day than normal these days, put the temperature in the mid 80s and he was riding with his jersey unzipped.  We're dudes who used to race bikes and now just want an excuse to ride, drink coffee, and finish things off with a beer at Döner Bistro.
Oktoberfest ist gut
It used to be that if you wanted to get your Döner on, you had to ride out to Leesburg.  We used to to do this with Rugg, back when he was just an an aspiring aspiring pro.
Rugg with a raging Doner
Now that they put one in Adams Morgan, it's a whole lot easier.  You just pop into Rock Creek, take a spin for a bit, bullshit a bit, watch out for the odd trikke and elliptigo, and rack it at Döner.

I left my dignity over there
A döner ride is in no way a tweed ride, randonneuring, or that kind of thing.  It's not exactly a Rapha ride either, since we don't wear cool stuff and we don't have lyrical expressions on our faces when we do it.  We are nowhere near as cool as these guys.  

Jay Moglia definitely rolls deep.

A döner ride is a self-deluding ride, in that it is totally about drinking and eating, but we tell ourselves it's actually a training ride.

This gets at the heart of the oldest question in bike riding.  Is it better to ride faster or to ride with friends?  Sometimes we don't have to make this choice, but other times we have to choose.

For once this year, I'm choosing to try to ride fast:  I'll be hauling my carcass through the Shenandoah Time Trial this Saturday.  I know my body's going to fall to pieces.  No problems there.  It's my mental game that worries me.  It's unknown because I haven't done it in so long; I haven't focused on going hard in months.  I wonder if, in the sparse riding I've done, I've forgotten how to suffer.

It will be ugly.

Ugly, sometimes, is what it takes to be a dude who races bikes.  You can't always be the pointy end of the stick.  You can't always be the hammer.  Sometimes you just have to accept that you're in a condition where you might end up blowing a vein and spurting blood all over the place and horrifying your girlfriend.

Then you go out the next day and ride some more, just for the hell of it.

Suffering sucks, but it's the one constant in bike racing when everything else--power, speed, endurance--changes.  You forget how to cope with it, though.  That's the worrisome thing, the thing that training equips you for.  Döner rides do not equip you for enduring through pain.

But no big deal.  We ride to get somewhere, to be with some people, to go, not just to suffer. Those times we ride alone, we do it so, in the end, we can ride together.  Not the other way around.

There's more to life than just learning how to endure.  Or as Requiem for a Dream concludes, "Life was not longer something to endure, but to live."