Remember falling in love for the first time? Hoping that special someone will call, anticipating your next opportunity to see him or her, daydreaming about what that encounter will be like ...
While I don't expect a phone call from a track bike anytime soon, I feel something like lust and the start of a deep and meaningful relationship. My fingers keep typing track cycling terms into "the Google," which feels like the modern-day equivalent of scribbling "I heart [insert your dreamboat's name]" on a notebook.
Anxiety consumed me all day Tuesday. As track time neared, my need to urinate increased to an impossible frequency. And that's when I know something's really "got me good"; my bladder goes rogue.
Once I'd gone to the shed to claim my trusty "13 blue," I practically skipped into centerfield to prep her for the night's ride. The sleek racer guys already zipping about failed to intimidate me as I approached the track. I felt safe?
Despite the 40+ mph winds that night, I relished every second speeding around the track. (Sort of like holding your date's hair while she ralphs, but feeling happy just to be in her presence anyway.)
Okay. I admit the first few laps shook me a little. Heading into the first banked turn while fighting the air just to stay upright unnerved me, but my confidence swiftly rebounded.
We split into groups and followed the leader up and down the track, getting to know every inch of her body. Then it came time to do what I'd dreaded, hiking to the top and swooping down to the bottom (think of an owl diving down to nab its prey). As I charged upward I came off the saddle--then realized I was off the saddle. Rather than panic I kept moving, performed my shoulder check and went sailing down. I forgot to say "whee." But I screamed it from the inside.
Keeping up with the boys proved possible. I passed. I sprinted to catch the pack. I finally stopped viewing myself as a quivering coward. Our instructor informed us that he'd had some "sketchier groups" and applauded our performance.
After a crash-free lesson in drafting and just before we began our first pace lines, the rain clouds came rolling in. The night concluded prematurely, leaving me unsatisfied and longing for our next encounter.
09 May 2009
Tuesday night marked a new chapter in my life. For the past two years, Chris and I have trekked to the National Sports Center in Blaine to watch Thursday track cycling races at the Velodrome. It may be my favorite part of summer. Every time I watch, I wonder if I would enjoy the sport.
Through the last decade, age and a broken limb significantly depleted my thrill-seeking reserves; however, I hate living life with "what ifs" lingering in my mind. So enrolled in a course ... and made Chris come along.
Those unfamiliar with track cycling may envision a track and field track and think, "What's the big deal?" What if that track had 43-degree banks and the bike had no brakes and a fixed gear... and you were expected to travel around this banked oval ... and 20 mph was considered taking it slow? Are you getting my point now!?
After listening to the history and safety lecture, I transferred my road pedals to the track cycle, a 47-inch, powder blue fixie whose rental number was lucky 13. I hopped on, clipped in and started traveling the flat, asphalt warm-up track. I caught myself attempting to brake on the first corner and realized that letting up on the pedals was only going to send me to the ground. I prayed the ominous clouds rolling in would let loose and make it all go away. No such luck. A sprinkle here and there meant everything was dry enough. We headed to the track.
I couldn't sign up for the all-women class thanks to scheduling conflicts. So, guess what? I get to be the lone chick in the class. This made me feel like one bad-ass woman and like a complete liability. I tried not to cling to Chris. After all, this was MY idea, and I hated to look like the sort of person who did this because her husband was into it.
One by one the men entered the track. A few of them tried to coax me on, but my legs stayed planted to the grass. How the hell would I get out of this bad dream? I decided my curiosity had been sated. As I watched Chris step onto the danger zone, I mouthed, "I'm not doing this. I quit." I felt like an idiot, but there was no way I felt comfortable enough on the bike to take it on the track.
The instructor's assistant told me he'd take a few laps with me. I set my bike on the apron, clipped in a pedal as men whizzed by above me (yes, I mean above), and started forward--immediately faced with the first corner. All I could see was the cote d'azur (aka, the apron) and the wood slats. After a couple of laps, we actually got on the track at the black line. My throat felt like the desert. My heart felt like I'd drank my weight in espresso. What about this did I think I would enjoy? I paid these people to bring me careening to my death? Quite possibly my stupidest decision in 30 years of life.
"Okay, now I want you to go to the red line after we turn the corner," my sidekick instructed.
Shit. I hopped higher onto the track. Heading into the corner I felt my tires slip. I counter-balanced and picked up the speed. Was it avoiding negative thoughts that would land me on the track with splinters throughout my body, or was I sort of enjoying this?
After a few laps above the red, my buddy made me hop up to the blue line. The ground seemed so far below. How was it that my tires were still on the track ... and moving? Gravity started to take its course at the embankment; I had one option: Pedal like hell.
And that's the moment I knew. The faster I went the more exhilarated I felt. I heard only the whirring of tires on wood and saw nothing but swooshes of color. I picked up speed. Strangely enough, I felt relaxed as I continued my laps. It seemed impossible.
By some miracle, I managed to exit the track in one piece despite the lack of instruction for this critical step in the equation. Later I rode in a pace line with the dudes, some of whom I was actually faster. Some of them must have been equally scared, but none would have dared to cower track side. Sometimes stereotypes can be a relief. I decided to return for the second class.
A rush beyond all rushes coursed through me for the next 24 hours. I think I'm in love. Chris says he'll complete the class, but says it was "one of the scarier things he's ever done on a bike" and has no desire to take it to the next level. I agree with his first statement, but ...
If I manage to be halfway decent at this, I fully expect to participate in those Thursday night races while my hubby cheers me on.