Monday, February 20, 2012

Riding with Einstein

 The whole is more than the sum of its parts. This little ditty is generally credited to Aristotle.  

I awoke, feeling un-rested, un-refreshed, a little bit queasy, and decidedly un-whole.  My experience has been that fools occasionally succeed because they don’t know any better.  On this day, I knew better (old enough to know better?) but felt that this foolish venture was not so audacious that stubbornness could not win the day. Whole or not it appeared that I might need to rely on that time tested low brow ‘gut it out’ philosophy to get one in the win column today. 

I was up at a little after 8:00 thanks to Chairman Meow.  He can be pretty insistent when he wants attention, ... and his morning meal. Those head butts to the hand usually do the trick, but I was groggy enough that he had to resort to the raspy tongue.

My 100Km populaire route started at 10:00 in Olympia. I had plenty of time, and so I had a second cup of coffee as I dragged myself about the house gathering up the last of the things I neglected to pile up the night before.  On another day I might have bagged it, we‘ve all had those days when, no matter how many times you yank the fricken starter rope, there is just no spark.  But this was not any old 100Km perm.  This would be P-11 (of P-12) in my quest to actually inject some small degree of consistency in an existence otherwise marked by false starts.  Not exactly placement of the top block of Khufu, but still, it meant something to me.

CRAP!  Suddenly the big hand and the little hand tell me I am late.  I kick it into panic mode, load the bike and start throwing stuff in the truck.
Shoes?      Check.
Gloves?     Check.
Helmet?    Check.
Bottles?     Check.
Raincoat?  Check.
Everything else is just fluff.

I arrived at the downtown Starbucks 10 minutes late.  10 minutes is not a big deal, even on a day when I feel like crap.  This ride starts with a long gradual climb up Capitol Boulevard, my quads are having a little talk with my brain, but I just lumber along. By the time I get to the brewery the hacking and wheezing have calmed down, the quads have resorted to silent sulking and I am just grinding it out, no joyful sense of gliding along here.   

It is a cold gray day, temps probably in the mid 30’s and that steel cover plate over head is bolted tightly down.  You know it is daytime because it is not dark, but there is no proof that there is a sun anywhere above, just the gray monotone of heavy low overcast. Sounds grim, but it is actually a pretty good day to ride.  The forecast is for 20 percent chance.  Yesterday it poured and the wind whipped.

I thought I was making decent time through the capitol forest, but once I hit the Weyerhaeuser tree farm that wind off the ocean punched me in the face, now I really feel like I am slogging.  I made it into the Trails End mini-mart with one minute to spare, this is about 40% into the ride, far enough that I should have built up some cush, how can I be so slow?

I head up Hwy 12, through Rochester, and as I turn onto 183rd that 20% chance turns into 100% cold reality.  The wind blows the rain into my face; it drips off my chin and runs down inside my coat. Sill my legs feel like lead.  As I swing on to old 99 at the Tenino race track I sense that my rear tire is going soft.  It is a slow leak so I pedal on hoping for a gas station drive through, a shop overhang or porch, anything to get a little cover from this cold wind and rain before the rim bottoms out. It doesn’t happen.  The best I can do is a chain link fence in a gravel drive to lean the bike up against as I fumble through the flat tire ritual.  It was another small sharp cinder, the gift of the sand trucks. Brand new tires are some defense against flats, but when they are not up to the task they are harder to get on and off in flat fixing modality.  My fingers feel like frozen sausages, and even though I have found the little cinder snugly tucked into the tread, getting it out without making a big hole in the casing is like threading a needle with boxing gloves on.  Eventually I get it all back together and pump up, ugh!

Once back on the bike I am chilled through, I feel like I am pedaling through sand and my stomach in churning.  I’m going to need to find a bathroom soon, fortunately Tenino is not far and I know there are restrooms at the ball fields along the MUP.  

By the time I make the park I’m breathing like a pregnant lady who is 7cm dilated in the back seat of a taxi cab.  I hop off the bike and gingerly make it to the bathroom.  LOCKED!  I find the nearest, biggest tree and suffer the indignity of doing my business in less than ideal conditions.  

Back on the bike I check my watch and see that I have about 20 minutes to ride 5 miles. I give it a valiant effort but between the stomach cramps, the cold and wind I soon realize it’s not going to happen for me this day.  I feel like I’m dragging a box of rocks. 

I was over 20 minutes outside the time limit at Rainier but elected to head out in fast mode.  I’m not really thinking that I’ll overcome the time deficit but I’d like to have a strong finish, and mostly I’d just like to finish. 

I’m able to get into some sort of rhythm, but still my legs feel knackered.  Along the way I pick up a tail wind and actually see numbers north of 20 mph on the computer.  Good news is inspiring and even though I know I will be hors delai on this ride, I still push on. That long slog up Capitol Boulevard makes for a sweet long spin down to the finish.  I finish 20 minutes outside the time limit.  Even accounting for a 10 minutes late start I’m still pitifully slow on this one.

As I wheel the bike around to load it into the truck I realize that the rear wheel is barely turning.  On closer inspection I can see that when I locked the axle into the dropouts after fixing that flat, the wheel was not straight and so the rim as been rubbing on one of the brake pads for the last 35 miles of the ride.  I‘d laugh if I wasn’t so tired. 

So here I am, at the back end of the month, once again in do or die mode.  I will ride this perm again next weekend, the last weekend of the month.  I’ll do it and hopefully it won’t feel like I am dragging that top block of Kufu’s pyramid along behind me. 

In this case Aristotle’s notion didn’t play out, sum of the parts and all.  I’m more inclined to think that one of Einstein’s ideas was at work: His thought was that as far as simple physical quantities like mass and energy are concerned, the whole is commonly less than the sum of its parts.  The key to this phenomenon is called binding energy.

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