Posted by: wheelywonka | September 4, 2010

A Band of Brothers (and a Sister)

Including this weekend, there are only 5 training weekends left to prepare for you the Bike MS: 2010 Valero Alamo Ride to the River.    If you plan on riding both days and 160 miles, then your training should include longer rides, and rides on back to back days.  In this spirit, this morning I joined Velo Valero for a 70 miler in the Hill Country in and around Boerne, including the huge hills on Sisterdale  and Big Joshua Creek.    This brutal route was devised by John “the Punisher” Tennison, who (as everyone knows) is a closet sadist who concocts routes that are 90% uphill (or more).    But, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and felt pretty spry at the end of it.  Much of this was due to the cool weather, which as I mentioned in last week’s blog, does allow you to ride harder with less effort because your body is not working to cool itself down.  

The other reason is quite simply the company of the other riders.   This training season has been a little strange because I’ve done most of my cycling on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings with a small group of riders, mostly male with one notable exception (which I’ll explain later), in a group I will henceforth refer to as the Band of Brothers (and a Sister).   As I pointed out in a previous blog when I presented the concept of a cycling pod,  you develop the three Cs when you ride with a group of familiar, complimentary cyclists – comfort, confidence, and camaraderie.   You may only see these folks once or twice a week during training rides, but you can end up spending a lot of time with them – and, at the end of the day, why not enjoy that time?  Take time to train and train hard, but also take time to laugh and to revel in the company of your fellow cyclists who are training at your side and on your wheel.    

…Here’s some examples of the friendly barbs that fly back and forth while flying down the asphalt:  

At the beginning of every ride I do with Chuck, I always ride near him at one point and compliment him on his bike.  “That’s a damn good-looking bike, Mr. Chuck.”   To which he replies, “Yours is not so bad, either.”  (Publisher’s note:  Chuck and I have the same bike, Cad 9s we bought from Matt at Bicycle Heaven in the summer of 2007.)  

I have a notorious reputation for getting lost or leading riders astray, which dates back to the fall of 2008 when I was Captain of Velo Valero.  We were at the head of the Day 1 starting line for the Bike to the Beach, with over 3000 riders packed in behind us.  I was telling a rider next to me (who also happened to be the CEO of Valero) about how I had done this ride 9 times, and knew the route by heart.    The ride starts, and I immediately make a wrong turn.  Unfortunately, over 3000 riders follow me and temporary chaos ensues.   Fortunately, things get straightened out real quickly, and no one gets hurt.  But, I was forever tagged with the nickname “Wrong Way Ray”.   So,  at least once during a long ride, someone makes a comment such as , “Any one know where the next turn is?” And suddenly there is a chorus of –  “Don’t ask Wrong Way, he has no clue” and “Whatever you do don’t follow Wrong Way” and “Just do the opposite of what Wrong Way does…”  and on and on.  

Another thing we make fun of is how skinny JT is, and for this reason, the dogs we encounter always seem to chase him because they can sense he’s a leaner cut of meat.  Today a dog leaped out at us outside of Waring, and immediately went after John.  To which I yelled out, “Yeah, go after John – he’s better for you, and won’t raise your cholesterol level.  I have too much marbled meat in me…”  

And, of course, you have to make fun of someone who’s not quite bringing it on a particular ride.  If someone is getting dropped, you have to give them a little grief.  I held on for most of the ride today, but got dropped on some of the bigger hills.  At the Waring General Store (which just moved across the street from its old location, in case you can’t find it), I was chatting with the guys during the break, and I was bemoaning the fact that I just didn’t have the juice on the big, gnarly hills I used to have.  “You know, I’m just not the man I used to be.”   To which someone replied, “Pete, you were never the man you used to be…”  

And finally, I have to say a thing about Andrea “Wild Thing”  Shull, Captain of Velo Valero, the only woman with the Chutzpah to replace me when she took over the team in January of 2009.   Andrea is a true force of nature, and has been an occasional Sister in our Band of Brothers during this training season.    She has done an incredible job as team captain, a job that not only forces you to ride almost every weekend and be in superhuman shape –  you also to be an administrative genius because of the size of the team, the number of events we participate in, and the amount of money we raise.    …Well, there’s no other way to put this.  I’ve  said this in the past – I’m 5’6″, and I’m comfortable with that, because God has a plan and this must somehow be part of it.  Well, Andrea is taller than that, and she never lets me forget it.   Often during a ride she’ll pedal next to me and utter something totally devastating like, “How’s the air down there?” or “You know, you’d probably ride a little faster if your legs were just a little longer.”     

Velo Valero Captains - I'm the Hobbit holding the blue trophy thing, and Andrea, aka Too Tall, is the blonde Amazon standing next to me...

So, class, the lesson today is to get to know the people you ride with, and to enjoy a few laughs with them while on the road.   It can make a long ride seem just a little shorter.  

See you on the road!

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