Sunday, October 29, 2006

2006 Tour de Madeira--P J's take

At Dan’s behest I am adding my thoughts on the 2006 Tour de Madeira. I won’t pretend to write with the same eloquence as Dan, but I shall certainly do my best!

As one of the co-riders in what was originally a bi-bike event I have to confess that I was primarily just “tagging along.” I don’t know Madeira very well at all having only been a guest on those relatively infrequent occasions when the church would have an event there or someone in the area would invite us over, and even then I always find myself needing directions regardless of how little time has passed since I last visited. Dan expressed his amusement that throughout the tour I was consequently unable to suppress a frequent exclamation of, “I didn’t know Madeira had a [insert your own local company here]!” and indeed I was rather impressed with the community. Since I was completely dependent upon Dan for constant directions (a sort of DPS, or Dan Positioning System), I have to assume he invited me along for my survival skills on the bike. Currently I hail from Clifton where I bike the two miles to and from work each day, meaning I have acquired some serious skillz when it comes to successfully navigating through crime and traffic. While you might think a need for such an aptitude would be woefully lacking in a town such as Madeira, one can never be too sure…

Our original date for the TdM was to be Saturday 10/28/2006 and we had each planned on biking training routes each weekend previous in order to be ready physically for what the streets of Madeira would throw at us. The Cincinnati weather proved to be capricious in the month or so leading up to the TdM however, and this resulted in some inconsistency in our preparations. When the weather forecast predicted absolutely perfect biking conditions and temperatures for 10/21, neither of us could pass up the opportunity, although to be honest, both of us had reservations about our physical capacity. That being said, there was a tacit understanding between us that you don’t bike 25 or 30 miles of a 50 mile route and then throw in the towel to give it another try another week. There are no shortcuts—we both knew we had four to six hours of constant pedaling in front of us, but we both also knew that we had only to get started and the Tour would take care of itself. Our wives also both knew this, and much to their chagrin (and to their credit!) they watched us roll off on a Saturday afternoon, that rare day when Dad’s home all day to help take care of the kids, knowing we would only return in the evening on the brink of darkness. When our motivation lagged, we had only to think about starting over on some other weekend. When that failed, we had only to think of our wives and what their reaction might be if we told them that we were going to have to try again the following week. Needless to say, not finishing was never really an option.

[I would be remiss here if I didn’t add a quick positive note about my wife, if only because I know she’ll eventually read this and I’ll be in trouble if I don’t come clean: she was absolutely one hundred percent behind me doing the TdM. It wasn’t so much, “You should totally bike fifty miles at once! Think of the accomplishment! Think of the glory!” as, “Do whatever you want. It’s your body…” but she was incredibly supportive from the very beginning. I couldn’t have asked for a better support network.]

The first ten miles were difficult, if only because that’s where I had to come to terms with the fact that we were going to be on the bikes for a long time. This is also when we had the incident of trying to repeat Coachlite Way that Dan refers to, where I noticed we were on a street we had done before. Dan’s narrative suggests that I recognized where we were. As I mentioned earlier, since I was blind except for my DPS, I didn’t recognize the street but rather the three young kids throwing the football around in their small front yard. I realize that “the suburbs” have historically been lambasted for their homogeneity, but I had noticed those kids the first time (probably because I was wishing I was doing what they were doing instead of doing what I was doing…) and I figured that this was just a little too Groundhog Day for me, if you know what I mean. Not that I minded riding the street again if it was on the route, but when we rode this road before I remembered that it had ended in a cul-de-sac and I figured that unless we were taking a shortcut to another part of town, we’d be passing those poor kids a fourth time in a matter of minutes.

You’re probably thinking right now, “A cul-de-sac in Madeira? What a novel idea!” I personally wouldn’t use the word “novel” since about 123% of the community is made of cul-de-sacs! This I now know from personal experience…

The second 20 miles were the hardest for me, because that’s when I got to carry the pack. We had one between the two of us with provisions supplied through the generous donations of our primary sponsor, the Miller General Store. This was early enough that we still had plenty of liquid for the entire route and it proved to be heavier than I expected. Mile 11 gave me an instant appreciation for the work that Dan had been doing during the first 10 miles while I rode in absolute oblivion. After mile 20, though, the pack became significantly lighter as we went.

The miles after that kind of blurred together into one increasingly sharp pain in the rear end, no metaphor intended (although the pun, of course, is). With each subsequent break as Dan would check his notes I would wait, anxiously dreading: “Uhhhh, I forgot this one street back about 15 miles ago…” But just like when you’re playing basketball and you sometimes have the convenience of “the guy” who always remembers the score no matter how long you’ve been playing (which definitely comes in handy and prevents a lot of, “Let’s just say it’s tied…”), Dan consistently kept us on track with very few exceptions, and those being so minor as to be almost negligible. (Coincidentally, Dan is also “that guy” for us while we’re playing basketball…) The hardest thing of the entire experience for me was just being on the bike that long.

One quick note about the equipment we used: it may seem superfluous that I had over twice as many gears on my bike as Dan, but in my defense I ended up using every single one of them—there’s nothing like click-click-clicking your way to the very summit of a hill at mile 47, even if you are only going 0.5 miles per hour!

In review I have to say the TdM06 was a lot of fun, and definitely worth doing. I would encourage sponsors and riders worldwide to capitalize on this once-a-year opportunity and sign up now before it becomes so mainstream as to mean little or nothing. Plus the extra fame and accolades that accompany being involved in the critical formative years definitely merit the initial investment. It’s too late to have been there for the original tour, but there is still currently room for TdM07!


dan said...

You acquitted yourself very well with your missive - a very entertaining read

annahannah said...

i loved it! even better than Dan's. oh, wait, i mean, almost as good as dan's.

dan's mom

Harmony Packer said...

PJ, Dan,

You guys are great. Jeff would have loved to do the TdeM with you. He started biking on a clunky road bike from Hyde Park to UC. Now he has a sweet road bike and has really embraced the whole cycling thing, even on the awful roads here in San Angelo middle of nowhere West Texas. Anyway, he enjoys your blog Dan. Just thought you should know you have a fan.

dan said...

It's always nice to have a fan!