I figured Sunday’s 20K time trial would make a great tuneup for next Sunday’s sprint triathlon at Potato Creek State Park. And it was.
Yet as I pedal warm-up laps around the Lancaster Elementary parking lot, I can’t help noticing how alien this scene appears to an infiltrator like myself used to racing on foot.
No T-shirts, for one thing. Not in our race packets and not on any racers, either. (Cyclists are way better dressed than your average runner; you’d never see anybody pedaling one of these high-end bikes in a banana costume.)
Ben was smitten by all the pricey gear on the premises, but I was struck by its fragility. If I pulled a muscle running, I’d find a way to limp back to the finish. But if I blew a tire, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do — other than make like Iron Kid Colleen and jog my bike back to the finish.
The single biggest adjustment, however, comes as I hoist my bike into the start box: As a runner, I’ve certainly never had to worry about losing my balance and falling over while I wait for the starter’s pistol.
“I got ya, I got ya!” says race director Roger Bowerstock as I flail my arms in search of something to hold onto. But there is nothing — just Bowerstock’s iron grip on my seat post.
“I haven’t lost one yet,” he says in a jovial booming voice as he counts down the seconds to my launch, shoving me down the ramp with a hearty “Go!!!!”
And we’re off. Or rather, I’m off, rider No. 53, departing at 9:26:30 a.m. Ben starts 30 seconds later and passes me within half a mile — but not before the guy 30 seconds behind him, who might well be breaking the speed limit this close to a school.
My ignorance is astonishing. I have no idea, for instance, whether to pedal in fifth gear or 10th. In my few practice rides I rarely shifted out of fifth, so I decide to stick with that for the time being.
With my new speedometer still sitting on the counter at home, I have no idea how fast I’m riding. I can’t even tell you what my final time was, because I didn’t see a clock at the finish and my time wasn’t posted by the time we left.
I can, however, tell you this:
- Those bikes with the solid tires sound an awful lot like cars when they‘re coming up behind you.
- I did manage to pass one rider (and she wasn‘t a preschooler!)
- I can see now that all my fretting about the “boring course” was nonsense, because even at my speed, who has time to look at the scenery?
- I‘m fairly certain I went faster on this 20K than at the Fox Island Triathlon back in May, if only because I’ve replaced my crappy mountain bike with an old but functional road bike.
And finally: It was fun. It really was. I don’t see myself getting into cycling the way some people do; it’s too expensive and I’m too hopelessly inept at equipment maintenance. (I’ve been seen running in shoes with holes in them, after all.)
But it’s fun to get out and really see how fast you can ride — even if your fast is someone else’s “slow.”