Monday, April 16, 2012

Accidental Duathlon

Wednesday was a great day for rainbows. I stopped to look at a spectacular double rainbow over Lake Wentworth as I rode out the path. Photographs of such things always fall short of the reality, so I did not try to capture it, only paused to admire it before pushing on. I was riding the whole route home, not just the short park-and-ride version.

Beyond the rainbow is the rain. The first splatters hit me before I'd reached the end of the causeway with the colorful arch still in view. Within a quarter-mile the light was wet and gray around me.

The forecast called for widely scattered showers. It should have said wide scattered showers. Every time I thought I might get out from under this one it extended a new lobe over me, thicker and wetter than before.

I had gotten the zipper repaired in my Sugoi Stealth jacket, so I was comfortable enough, but the thickening downpour and darkness under the clouds made me snap on my lights. Streaming water down my face and steam from my own moist heat covered my glasses inside and out. The rain continued to soak me, colder and colder. When a friend pulled over in her car I went ahead and hopped in. We hadn't seen each other in a while anyway, even though we both serve on town boards and live a mile and a half apart. We trade cat care and, in fact, her current two cats came from a batch of seven we rescued when they appeared out of the woods several years ago. So that was nice.

Thursday I drove because I go to a jam session in the evening and don't have time to make the whole route under pedal power, lights or not. Living in the country, one often has to travel inconvenient distances to do things. It might have been easier when you could doze at the reins while the horse made its own way home. I don't know what you'd do if the horse got sleepy. You'd be manure out of luck.

Friday I charged out again full of pent up energy and high resolve. I'd given in to the rain with eight miles to go on Wednesday.

The morning was quite chilly, down near freezing. I wore the Sugoi shell jacket again as the top layer of my ensemble. Then the day warmed nicely to the 60s, though it was cooling somewhat by quitting time. That was actually good, because clothing is easier to wear than to carry. I stuffed a few items in my pack and strapped the rolled-up Sugoi jacket onto the top of my rack pack in case I wanted to pull it out when I reached the long descent from the height of Route 28.

The path was somewhat crowded now that the weather is nice again. I maneuvered among the pedestrians and bumped and jolted over a section where dark, moist soil compacts over the railroad ties to create about 50 yards of rumble strip. The sky was clear, the sun was bright and the weather, in spite of Wednesday's localized downpour, is too dry. It was a fine evening to hammer. I gave it my best shot.

I was about three miles from home when I glanced back and saw that my jacket had worked its way out of the pack straps and disappeared. I had not imagined it could escape, the way I had it bound in there. It must have worked loose in the wind on the long descent on 28. I stood up to accelerate homeward so I could get the car and go back to search. As I did so, a spoke snapped in the rear wheel, causing it instantly to wobble hard into the brake pads. Even after I opened the brakes it dragged.

I called home. "Bring me a pair of sneakers and come in the station wagon," I requested. When the cellist arrived she was in the station wagon but had missed the part about sneakers. I haven't put my car shoes in the vehicle yet.

The cellist drove on toward town. We scanned the roadside and saw nothing, nothing, nothing. It had not blown off on the long downhill or any of the shorter ones. We reached the point where I'd entered the highway from the path. This was just about the worst scenario.

I'd already removed my cleated shoes. I pulled off my socks and stuffed them into my pocket. I told the cellist where to meet me and started barefoot down the path.

I'd actually been wanting to try barefoot running since one of the local athletes did some research on it a while ago. He's always trying to improve his workouts, and impact from running has been a problem. The barefoot crowd says that taking your shoes off immediately changes your running style to eliminate heel strike.

It most certainly does.

It did not hurt as much as I expected. Running was actually a little more comfortable than walking because it was easier to land on the ball of the foot in a running tempo than walking. I remembered barefoot rituals as a kid, when we would toughen our feet in the spring for a summer of shoeless wandering. It started to get to me after a while, though. I wondered if I would have big, nasty blisters or bleeding abrasions. And I still didn't see the jacket.

About a mile down the path I saw the welcome blob of yellow where my jacket lay at the end of the rumbly section. Beyond that I saw the cellist. She'd been none too happy with this rescue mission but she had volunteered by driving on out Elm Street rather than taking herself home and releasing me to my own foolishness. She told me to go dip my glowing feet in the cold waters of Crescent Lake while she went to where she'd left the car at a farther intersection with the path.

As I numbed my feet in the lake I thought I should go for a quick swim to make it a full triathlon, even if the events were out of order, but decided not to bother.

At home the first thing I did was put on socks and shoes. I really like shoes. I stuck the bike in the work stand just to assess the wheel and set up the repair for later, but I ended up fixing it instead. Then I went upstairs to degrime and have supper.

It was the first time I had had much in the way of bad luck on a Friday the 13th. Crap doesn't know what day it is. Eventually it will arrive on a day some people consider significant. I just hope my commuting wheel hasn't decided to start popping spokes. That's another dynamite argument in favor of the generator hub instead of a tire-driven one, certainly.

Saturday's half-commute went fine. Here's to better luck next week.


Steve A said...

Popped spokes are no fun. Finding the jacket made up for a lot, eh?

cafiend said...

The jacket would be hard to replace. It's the only biking shell I own that isn't a sweat bag.

Spoke breakage is disturbing because I build all my own wheels and seldom have a problem. Jobst Brandt and Peter White assert that spoke quality has improved so much that rim failure is now the most common cause of wheel problems. Where a wheel builder would routinely cut the spokes out of a wheel to rebuild on a hub, and maybe even salvage the rim, now the eminent Mr. Brandt says he will re-use modern stainless spokes confidently. So when one breaks I go through a whole process of self-examination about my procedures on that wheel.

But hey: sometimes things just break. I have been riding consistently rougher surfaces with that bike with all my dirt explorations. That stress has to build up somewhere. This rim is fairly recent. We shall see.