O Canada! Part IV

I hate taking my bike apart and putting it back together. My philosophy of bike tinkering is very simple: Don't. If it works, don't touch it. Don't fiddle, tweak, or adjust. As surely as you experiment, you'll destroy the careful balance that constitutes a functional bicycle.

Flying directly in the face of this logical approach is the concept of travelling by plane with one's bike. How on earth does any sane person do it? By practicing intense denial, that's how. Don't allow yourself to think about what you are doing as you dismember your faithful steed and cram it into a flimsy plastic case while visions of Lars Thorwald and his unfortunate wife dance through your brain. Steadfastly refuse to contemplate the innate delicacy of your race wheels as you tighten the web straps around the whole affair. And never, never, under any circumstances, watch baggage handlers at the airport.

By following this recipe to a "T", my bike and I both survived the journey to Canada in reasonably good shape. I succeeded in reassembling my darling with a minimum of fuss and strife. Precisely determining the correct positioning and angle of handlebars and aerobars proved the most daunting task. Some minor derailleur adjustments were also necessary, and I experienced a little concern over a bit of lateral play in my rear wheel, but all else appeared fine. Along with a crew of RSTers I rode the marathon course Thursday afternoon and worked out most of the kinks in the bike. Friday I took it for a final spin to make the last aerobar adjustments. All systems go, she's running like a champ!

At bike check-in Saturday morning the mechanic seemed to have a little trouble getting the bike to shift properly. Don't ask me why or how, but somehow I convinced myself it was simply because the bike shifts differently when it's actually being ridden, as opposed to when it is held up and the levers whacked. Maybe it was just a denial hangover left from the plane trip. But hey, I'd spent all week feeling as relaxed as a plate of overcooked spaghetti, I wasn't about to tense up now over a finicky derailleur. The thing had been performing flawlessly the past two days, and the mechanic didn't seem too concerned about it, so why sweat it?

So, Sunday morning. It's approximately 8:19 am, and here comes TriBaby, roaring out of the transition area to the cheers of the crowd. I'm spinning my way up Main Street, happy to be on my bike and ignoring the fact that others around me are flying past at breakneck speed. Main Street tilts gently upward heading south; I respect this fact. I take a look at my heart rate monitor and immediately reign in the adrenaline a little bit. 167?? I don't think so! Back off, back off. It's gonna be a long day out there, and there are 112 miles to go. Don't needlessly burn yourself out at the start. Shift down a gear, get that HR down.


Grind, grind, skip, clunk!

Uh oh.... Click. Grind, skip, skip, skip, CLunK. &*&%^##

112 miles---I have to ride 112 miles with my derailleur behaving like THIS??

Oh dear. Not good.

Now, here's the truly bizarre thing: I don't flip out. I just figure I'll have to coax my shifts out of that finicky derailleur and do the best I can with it. It's not as though the thing doesn't shift at all; it's just shifting in a less than graceful manner. Sure, it'll probably drive me insane within the first 40 miles, but what the hell! It's not the end of the world.

(Allow me to point out here that this is NOT normal TriBaby behaviour. Even now I marvel at the surrealism of the moment. What on earth got into me??)

So accompanied by the occasionally off-beat rhythm section of my drive train, I pedal my way out of town in the dreary grey morning. The first few miles go by quickly, after the initial gradual grind up Main Street. The stretch along Skaha Lake that travels the marathon course is scenic and fast, a perfect opportunity to get settled in the saddle and establish a rhythm. I'm surprised when George Ball zooms by with a hearty "Go, Tricia!" Hey, how did I get out of the water ahead of him?? "Go, George, you look great!" I shout at his back. Man, he's hammering!

Eight or nine miles out we hit the turn on McClean Creek Road. This is billed as a hill; I view it as a very gradual blip. Aside from the aggravation of getting my derailleur to shift all the way down to my 25, this stretch doesn't phase me in the least. Sure, everybody and his second, third, and seventeenth cousins passes me, but that's no different from any other uphill stretch on any bike course. I'll catch 'em back on the descent, no worries.

Chugging along, I fish my amber-lensed Oakleys out of my jersey pocket. Looks like these clouds will be around for a while. I'll leave the dark ones hanging on the leash, though, instead of stuffing 'em back in the jersey; the sun's sure to come out eventually.

(Oh, optimistic naivete! Would that I might always find you in such moments.)

As the road flattens a bit after the crest, a brilliant idea strikes me. Reaching down, I give a quick twist to the adjusting barrel on the lever boss; try that shift again now. Click! Hey, crisp and sweet! Try another one: CLICK. Smooth as silk. Wahoo!! Not to mention "DUUUH"..... I coulda saved myself 10 miles of aggravation if I'd thought of that simple little thing earlier. Boy, sometimes ya just hafta wonder...

Well, now the delicious curvy descent down to Highway 97 fills me with glee and adrenaline. As predicted, I make up a lot of lost time speeding around the rough, narrow roads, sailing by more timid cyclists intimidated by the grade. The sky, however, seems to be suffering a fit of sporadic sneezing attacks; it spits and wheezes at us every now and again. The air is warm enough, but....

Highway 97, and the long, mostly straight flats to Osoyoos. Hammer time, kids! Orchards, fruit stands, beautiful Vaseux Lake with dramatic cliffs erupting immediately beyond. Gorgeous country. A pity the sun's not out to further glorify it. In fact, the sky's sneezing fits appear to have disintegrated into a full-blown crying jag. Oh, joy, won't this be fun now? Well, perhaps it won't last too long. It's gotta let up soon.

Uh huh.

By the time I reach Osoyoos at about 40 miles, my brand new, blindingly white Pearl Izumi Attack socks are a dingy dark grey. My feet are frozen, and I'm wishing my Oakleys came equipped with those miniature windshield wipers that characters in old Looney Tunes used to have on their glasses for such moments. I've long since removed the dark Oakleys dangling annoyingly on their leash and stashed them for the duration in my jersey pocket. Somehow, I don't think I'll be needing those anytime soon.

"This is NOT pleasant," I grumble miserably to myself. "We are NOT having fun here." In truth, I'm getting kinda cold, though not yet quite cold enough to pull out the windbreaker; that's a last resort.

Rolling through the aid stations, I joke with the gallant volunteers and fans braving the wet to be out here cheering us on: "Hey, can somebody turn off the faucet now, please?" This gets a laugh and an enthusiastic cheer everywhere and makes me feel somewhat better. Amazing people out here, no doubt about it. "Can I borrow your umbrella?" I inquire of an elderly couple just outside of Osoyoos. "Sure!" the man laughs, "if you want to come back here and get it!" By which time I am indeed 20 meters down the road. "Oh well!" I call over my shoulder. "Thanks anyway!"

Cold and rain, cold and rain. Will this rain never let up? Aid stations break up the monotony. I grab cookies, grapes, a banana, water bottles. Keep eating, keep eating; eat your way through, that's the way to do it. Keep the energy up. Don't forget about your Pop Tarts, those are so good. And keep taking regular swigs of that Metabolol. Hmm, at least you don't have to worry too much about dehydrating today. Ha!

I don't see a whole lot of drafting, but I do see an awful lot of blocking. It sure makes it hard to pass people when they just don't have a clue about staying to the right. What can you do, though? I'm hardly going to waste the energy to yell at every single blocker I encounter; they'd probably just think I was being a bitch, anyway. Don't waste the energy, don't waste the energy; just do your best to ride clean, don't let it bother you.

Where's that Husky station sign? I recognize this stretch of road, it's gotta be really close, can't be too much further. As I strain to see the big blue and white block letters of the sign through the rain, my friend Beth Walker rolls by looking strong and tosses a cheery greeting my way. Wow, she's riding well; she probably came out of the water at least 5 minutes behind me (it turned out to be just about 5:22). "How d'ya like this rain?" I inquire with a grin. "God, I know! I didn't train for this!" she fires back. "I trained for it to be HOT!" "Well, let's just hope it lets up eventually. Although it wouldn't be too bad for the run."

At last, just up ahead, there's that beautiful Husky sign! That's the turn! Roughly 42 miles down. A right turn through the gas station and the first gentle climb begins that will take us to the infamous and dreaded Richter Pass! Gird your loins for battle, and take another swig of Cytomax; here come the hills...

Continue the race....