Monday, May 29, 2017

Ronde Redux

Rolling on the NTF bike path photo by Russ 
This post is alternatively titled HUP Plus Russ and Never Surrender. But I stole the title Ronde Redux from my friend Guthrie's Strava and like it. The Ronde de Rosey is a monument of NECX CX. It is a HUP/Zank colab that really is an excuse to ride in the woods all day on CX bikes and then retire to the Washington Square Tavern for burgers and beers. My co-DS and trail wizard supreme Michele Smith has been putting together the gps file for the event and helping steer all of us through the route safely for years. This year was probably her best wizardry. I would send her snippets of Strava files after I would do recon on a section. She put it all together to basically make a Greatest Hits of the #CBL. All my favorite places to ride melded together to one really awesome Ronde route. She knows more about route creation than anyone I know. Unfortunately she couldn't ride the actual Ronde. So we agreed a do over was required. We assembled a rad crew and set out from Cafe Fixe at 8 am this past Sunday.

HUP plus Russ=Michele, Russ and Chris
It was so great to see the crew. It had been way to long since we all last rode together. I told my wife I would be home by noon. And would love to go to Yoga at 6 pm. Spa Yoga sounds pretty nice. I mean they give you chocolate. As we rolled out we caught up on the usual things. Just chatted and rolled through Brookline. It was a beautiful day. Not to be a jerk but the early stages of the actual Ronde can be how you say "spirited" Any time you get 120 bike racers together even if it is for a benefit ride they get frisky. And even though you may know a lot of them they may do certain things on the bike that may surprise you. A four person crew like this is solid. You don't even need to rely on verbal communication. A hand signal. A shift of the bike. They know what you are doing. It frankly is what I value most in riding friends these days.

Disaster strikes in Cutler by Michele

We pop into Skyline and the trails are in great shape. We flow through the woods and come out by the golf course. We are having a great time. I ask if Michele wants to follow the route exactly as it was a month ago or whether she wants to freelance a bit. We had a ton of rain this spring so we had to reroute around some very wet trails. Most all of them were dry now so we didn't have to avoid anything. Michele and Chris both liked the idea of doing the route as it was designed. I was fine with that. Now for a bit of perspective for those who maybe aren't familiar with the Ronde de Rosey. It is a Park to Park CX ride. You ride from one park to another. Avoiding paved roads as much as possible. It goes from fireroad to single track to legit mtb trail to bike path and all shades in between. Cutler is a renowned destroyer of bikes and bodies. It is sneaky as it is a very mellow place to ride. But I think it is cursed. Like something super dark resides there and doles out beat downs when it is feeling agitated.
HUP There it is by Russ

The trail we call West Side is on the other side of 95. It is a trail. Sort of. It is overgrown and gets zero love. People throw trash out their windows onto it from the highway. I have found dead deer across the trail. But it keeps you off pavement so is a win in my mind. We are cruising along hopping logs and traversing stream beds. We are about 45 minutes into the ride. When disaster hits. Ok that is dramatic. Medi-flights weren't called in. But anyway. I am behind Michele. I hear a stick suck up into her rear wheel. Before I can even say "wait" The stick has Tomahawk chopped her derailler off. Ok then now its an adventure! We proceed to assess the situation. Rule #1 of a good crew. No one FREAKS out. Very important. We actually all were still in really good moods. Even Michele who's bike was just pretty much FUBAR'd. And it was. We take the mech off. Michele amazingly has a spare hanger in her kit. People LEARN from Michele. She carries actual things that are useful on an adventure ride. Spare hanger, duct tape, zip ties. I need to start doing this. And wearing sunblock. But I digress.

A quick trip to the HUP SSC and we are back on the road

Ok so we turn the bike into a semi-operational SSCX bike. And by semi I mean every time the chain is under load it falls off or shifts up and jams. We flounder through the woods until we punch out back on the road. Again, no one is getting mad. No one tossed a bike. No one is even in a bad mood. We roll back to my house and the HUP SSC. Luckily (and I still don't know how this is possible) Michele is my bike twin. I have two other bike twins. Abel and LPB. Bike twins are a beautiful thing. It means you share the same position so we literally don't change a thing on the bikes. We put her pedals on my green SSCX fix a flat and off we go. The fact that Michele is psyched about riding 40 miles of the Ronde on a single speed with disc brakes and tires she has never used is incredible. Again, my hero. And embraces the whole "Never Surrender" attitude. I won't lie. When we came home to my house and my wife and kids were eating quiche I was almost like "hey you guys have a great ride I am gonna eat brunch and hit the hot tub" But we were on a mission.

Always stop at lemonade stands by Michele
The ride takes on a whole new life with Michele riding Jager. That bike has secret powers. SSCX can be a blast in the woods. I hate climbing so any route I design will be light on the climbing and high on the rad scale. We find some really cool stuff out on the route. Stop to check out black snakes, road kill, all the stuff you miss when you are chewing off your stem trying to go as fast as possible. We stop at a Dunkins and refuel. The ride is going so great. Chris has become some kind of death magnet for snakes, birds and chipmunks. It is like the woodland creatures have been communicating and are attacking him at every moment possible. We somehow survive this attack by nature. Sometimes it does feel like the trails are trying to exact some pound of flesh for past or present transgressions.

Stairway to Heaven by Michele

I am getting a bit bonky. Not full bonky town but close. I really haven't eaten much food. We have been riding for about seven hours. Ok our ride time isn't seven hours but we have been on the road for seven hours. Spirits are still high but I am now in full tractor beam mode to get back to the Tavern. All I can think about is that burger and cold beer. All we have left is the nice new aqueduct sector. As we roll on the pavement and are about 500 feet from the trail I see a lemonade stand. Damn I think. One of my sacred rules in life is always stop at a lemonade stand. I mean kids put their hearts into those. Anyone who is resourceful enough to do that deserves a few bucks. Even if the lemonade is horrible. Which it often is. So I lead us past it. Michele comes up and tells me the stand is for Gender Equality. I am like WUT? No way. I hop the curb and roll right back. I see their sign. I congratulate these young women for being a part of the resistance. We give them all our money. We leave with our pockets filled with brownies and our hearts filled with hope that the world is not totally going to hell in a hand basket. We get back to the Tavern just as Gerry is pulling up in his truck.

We share all our stories and enjoy a great meal and cold frosty beverage. Then we slip back into the night and our respective lives. We are so lucky to have this life and these great friends. Such a great day on the bike. Thank you to Michele, Russ and Chris for always being such a great crew.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Shake it Off

The title of this post is not an homage to Taytay. This post is about pain. And injury. And the horrible job we all do managing both. "Shake it Off" "Rub some dirt on it" "HTFU" "Get up" We have all heard those things at varying decibels yelled at us in our athletic careers. Or our time riding and racing a bicycle. Grand Tour season means we get to see vivid photos and video of some poor bastard who hit the deck ripped all his spandex (and skin) off and rode to the finish line. Hard man. Tough. The envy of all. This isn't about me or cycling really. It is about being a good parent, dad and coach.

But like all things in my life the bike shaped me. It made me who I am. My earliest memory of childhood and getting hurt revolve around a bike race. I think I was 10? Maybe a bit younger. We lived on one side of a circle. My friend lived on the other side. It made for a perfect race circuit. The race started at my house. Two riders staged up. Then set out at warp speed. One took the low road. One the high. Who ever got to the Piersiak's house first won. We raced bikes when we got bored of rock fights, building forts in the woods and creating general mayhem. We were kids. It was a much more loose time in America. Your mom kicked you out around 9 am and didn't expect you home until it got dark.

So one day I was winning. Big time And I was sneaking little looks between the houses to see if Robby Sullivan was gaining on me. I was so stoked to be beating Robbie. We were arch rivals at this contest. I lost more than I won so this was a good day. My euphoria was about to be short lived though. As I bring my head around to look up the road I straighten up just in time to see a parked car right in my path. Luckily I am going so fast I don't even attempt to brake. There is no time anyway. I hit the car full speed and full on.

Now cars in the '70s were solid. Big. Metal. No plastic. I sail over the car and hit the hood. I sort of roll over it and land on my feet on the pavement. Well lost that race. Shit. I dust off my wrangler jeans and pick my bike up and start riding home. Pretty sure I had a concussion. Or just had my bell rung. As I am pedaling I notice my jeans are wet. Like soaking wet. Ok that is weird. I get home and find my mom. "MOM I CRASHED MY BIKE!" Moms looks at me. Ok you look ok. Then I lift up my jean leg. Massive cut across the knee. Blood is soaked all down the leg. It is making a nice red smile. My mom casually grabs a wash cloth and washes off the blood. Without washing her hands she pushes the fat that was sticking out of the wound and slaps a butterfly bandage on it.

She then waves her magic nurse wand and says I am ok and to go back out and play some more with Robbie until dinner is ready. This scenario on some level would replay again and again for my entire youth. My mom was a tough nurse from Rosindale. Her brother was a hockey player. They were dirt poor. Toughness wasn't a thing to be celebrated etc it just was. You were tough. Or you didn't survive.

But looking back and even reflecting on my adult life and my relationship with pain, injury and life choices I wonder just what type of dark passenger I really inherited. I really am not the type of person to look back and fret about things like that. At 50 you are in charge of your Karma. Own it. But when you have kids. And you coach other kids you start to change your view and think a bit about how you view injury, pain, toughness etc.

As a parent you want your kids to have a better life than you did. Even if you had the best life you want things to be better for them. And if you maybe had a tough childhood you want to make sure they live a pain free childhood. I know that is impossible but it is a good goal to have. The times are certainly different as well. And for the better. I am glad I am a man living in this age. I am more present than my dad or his dad ever were. I am certainly more "sensitive" than they ever were. And have been involved in the care of my kids from day one.

But I am getting way off track. This is supposed to be about Syd. Syd loves hockey. And lacrosse. Two sports I love. Two very tough sports. Syd has been hurt in hockey. A concussion. Separated shoulder. But as she has become a better skater and gotten a grasp of the game she has been pretty injury free. Knock on wood. I have always tried to balance telling her she is tough and celebrating that and letting her be not tough. But I sometimes probably put out that being tough is good. Syd has had a fantastic Lacrosse season. She plays goal. Goalies are like magical unicorns. Especially a good one. At her last game she stopped 11 shots. Only let one in. That is unprecedented.

The goalie in lacrosse is in a tough spot. I would say a save percentage of 50% is good. There is a saying that if you as the goalie stop two shots you can help your team win. That is how frequent the shots go in the net.

On that last game she got chopped from behind and fell. She seemed fine. Finished the game. Like I said its tough. She gets hit by balls in the leg, arm shoulder. Her pain tolerance is high. She was fine Saturday after the Friday night game. Then Sunday am she couldn't walk. I assumed it was a sore muscle etc. So I did what I do. I got her some treatment. Figured out a solution. Got her a brace. Taped the leg and off we went to LAX.

She had a good game but was obviously hurting. We went to see the Dr the next day. Orthopedist the next day. I breathed a sigh of relief it was just a strain and a hammy. No breaks or torn ligaments. Two weeks of rest. Ok no worries. A bummer but it is what it is. We did the same routine we always do. RICE. Tape. Stretch. Etc. It was getting better but not really. So we went to the Physical Therapist. At PT as I was describing past injuries and the PT was doing an assessment I had an epiphany. One of those the room goes real quiet and you sort of get tunnel vision moments. What are we doing I thought? I am pulling out all the stops to get a 12 year old in net for a town league LAX game. She is in pain. Her body is not working right. So I texted my friend Michele. She always gives the best advice. This article she sent me pretty much made me cry.

So, I let go of some of my old demons. Being tough is dumb. Especially when you are 12. We are shutting it down. I hope she feels better and can go back to LAX before the season is over but if she doesn't it doesn't matter. Getting healthy and healing is all that matters. I learned a valuable lesson from this. They say pain is a great teacher. It truly is. And in this case my 12 year old and her pain taught me one of life's great lessons.