I never understood physics. I just didn’t get it; why it was important, how it worked, etc. I’m not talking about advanced physics [that’s in a whole nother world of “I am so confused”], but simple introductory physics. I recall vague examples of energy being transferred from one pool ball to another being involved, and glasses half full of water being swung around and not spilling. That’s about it.
Oh, and one other thing: that a body in motion likes to stay in motion.
At the time I “learned” that rule, I was more concerned with why an inanimate object would have wants or desires [sadly I was the only one that didn’t see the end of any potential career in medicine or science for another two years]. But it’s all coming back to me, slowly but surely, a decade later. Because bicycles and physics are like peanut butter and jelly. They go together and love each other and people really get them together. But to me? I’m feeling like when I was eight years old and choking down PB&J sandwiches at friends’ houses just to be polite and silently gagging. I still apparently don’t get it.
But I’m trying. And that old rule about bodies in motion hit me full force on Sunday when I rolled out of bed after completely passing out at the rockin’ late hour of 11pm. I could barely walk, and with sore legs that didn’t want to fully extend, I crab-walked down the hallway to dive into the bathroom, the need to pee being the only thing that was powerful enough to get me out of bed. Descending the stairs was painful but loosened up tight muscles, the running around before I left NYC behind for Boston aiding in the recovery process.
Recovering from what? From, oh, you know, DOING MY FIRST 60 MILER, EVER. I was so secretly proud of myself, I would have danced after my shower if my quads weren’t struggling to support my weight. After doing a grand total of 20 miles during the week, I got peer pressured into going on the NYC Velo monthly ride, led by Erik of Vice Magazine. Actually, I was asked to be at the shop to help out at 7:30a.m., which apparently means “7:50a.m.” in Velo-speak. I pulled on bibs and a jersey just so I wouldn’t have to climb those damn stairs again, and “helped out” by watching people filter in and talking to people about their bikes. The group that showed up consisted of about 12 or so guys, plus 2 girls [myself included]. The route planned was a brisk 80-miler that skirted the edge of the town I grew up in in New Jersey, but knowing I wasn’t up for throwing down four times the number of miles I’ve done all week on a bike in one day, I told Andrew I would tag along until we crossed the bridge, then do a solo ride up River Road.
So in my head, I imagined a leisurely ride up to the GW Bridge, then the struggle up those two climbs on River Road and an easy ride back on 9W, hopefully in the big ring. My illusions of having the energy to go up River Road crumbled as the group kept what was probably a “leisurely” pace for them, but was uncomfortably close to “balls to the wall” for me. CJ and Erik were at the front of the group, and shot up Riverside Drive with me huffing and puffing, attempting to suck on a wheel but losing it completely.
By the time we got across the bridge, I had the distinct feeling that I had probably blown myself up trying to keep up and that trying to climb up River Road would be suicidal. We were less than an hour into the ride and I was already popping Nuuns into my water bottles [Nuuns are incredibly awesome...you can even break them in half if you have smaller water bottles or you just want to thin it out]. I thought I was off the hook at that point; the planned ride was going up Knickerbocker Road, which is west of 9W. I thought I would be solo cruising.
Until CJ, Chris F., and Stanley decided to go with me. CJ called it the “fat, slow group” while Chris F. referred to it as “the ride for people who have other things to do other than ride all day.” Whatever the ride was called, we spun up 9W, past the Palisades Marketplace, and for the first time ever for me, to Bunbury’s in Piermont. There was a decent climb or two, a muffin split with Chris, some crashing into the woods [not me], and triathletes that piqued CJ’s competitive edge enough to have him decidedly drop me on the way back [the next time I saw him was at the bridge. LOL.].
But holy shit, as sweaty, snotty, and smelly as I felt after I was done, I could only think about doing a 70 miler next time. I was able to come back in the big ring, having at last grasped the concept of shifting gears and how to manage all of them. That’s not to say I wasn’t complaining, I was. When I protested at a climb, David, a friend of CJ’s who we picked up at Bunbury’s told me that I sounded like CJ two years ago.
“Now look at him. He’s a like a cockroach. He won’t go away.”
CJ laughed mid-climb, telling a story about his last Tour of Battenkill which had me laughing despite my labored breathing. An hour later, I was in no man’s land, but it was totally okay; we all start somewhere, and it’s usually off the back. Chris waited up for me, then bombed past me on a descent, shouting as he passed that that’s what 200 pounds looks like [there’s that physics again]. I had no hope of keeping up.
Maybe in two years, though.