Marked Improvement: A 180-Mile Test

I woke up a achy, groggy and a bit puffy. I was retaining water because I sweat so much the previous day that my electrolytes were all out of wack. I needed some potassium. I wanted to take a day of rest.  I was being booted from my temporary accommodations, so, I had to hit the road anyway (side note to my friend, don’t take that statement the wrong way, I am just writing things build in some captivating drama and hook the reader, I really had to hit the road regardless). The previous day’s motor cycle training promised a marked improvement in my riding; today, a 180-mile ride back to Pollock Pines would put that to the test.

I spent the previous day taking the Intermediate Riding Clinic with 2Wheel Safety Training. The training was the real reason I took that trip to Sunnyvale last week. The side trip to commune with Ceridons and college friends and also catch up with a friend and get some riding in around the Bay Area were serendipitous happenstance.

Despite my the verbose and descriptive post last week about riding to Sunnyvale, the experience was sobering. After 4-1/2 hours in the saddle, I was exhausted. I felt wind and road abused. My ass hurt. And there were a few moment where I thought, “I am in over way my head.” I might sound wildly confident (one of my special talents is faking the shit out of confidence), but I was having existential doubts about launching myself onto open road alone for multiple weeks.

My subconscious also subtly made its trepidation known by distracting me from sitting down to do the work of mapping my route. On Monday, I finally forced my conscious brain into action and plowed through pinning way points and preliminary routes on Google Maps. Despite road tripping to both coasts a few times, the land is enormous and vast and empty. It was overwhelming to see the trip laid out in 19 discreet steps. A friend and I once pulled an all-nighter from Denver to DC. The need to refuel forced our only stop with a  short nap parked next to gas pump waiting for the station to open. In my slow, road trip, self-discovery, two-wheeled mentality, I will make that run in 13 stops – at least 13 full overnights.

The combination of feeling my own smallness on the road and the staggering immensity of my intended road trip sent me into a contemplative funk on Tuesday which looked an awful lot like me laying around on my friend’s couch wasting time on social media. My subconscious again wedging its protest as wasteful avoidance in brain cell burning Facebook feeds, YouTube videos and online political analysis.

But Wednesday brought the real reason for my trip to Sunnyvale, my riding class. The twenty-some-odd mile ride to the class reminded me again of how freaking big the highways around the Bay Area are and how small I was. Seriously, seven lanes in both directions?!?! My side trip to Colorado caused me to bump my class from Sunday to Wednesday. That lucky stroke put me into a class with only one other student.

As it turns out, 8 hours of practically one-on-one training is exactly what my subconscious needed to give it a swift kick in the medulla oblongata and move my inwardly actual confidence closer to my outwardly feigned confidence.   For either hours, we alternated between classroom lessons and road lessons. Did you know that the highest percentage of motorcycle road fatalities are NOT the 18-25 year old males? Nope, it is us mid-life crisis riders that own that category. Apparently, there are more of us and we are more affluent and more reckless. That factoid made my subconscious tingle in a little smug “told you so.”

The morning fog and clouds burned off and left us on a blacktop parking lot in 86ºF heat in full cycling gear. Most skills were done at less than 20mph, so we weren’t getting the wind for air cooling.  We stopped hard and fast, we road in circles, and patterns and swerves and we did evasive maneuvers over and over and over again.  It was hard work physically and mentally. With just two of us in the class, we rarely rested between runs, but that also meant we got way more practice and way more opportunity to work skills into out automatic reflexes and way more personal coaching. Shout out to Kevin Magee for the awesome instruction. If you can take a class with him, I highly recommend it!

I needed that. I needed to push my new bike and my subconscious brain to limits I wouldn’t dare try on my own – force activating the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS), leaning my bike over so far it scrapes the pegs on the ground, positioning my body way over the tank and my ass way off the seat, letting the bike ride like its meant to and learning not to fight it but work with it. I sweated through everything and exhausted my brain.

By the end of the class, I was already pondering ways to maximize my rest time and delay my departure back to Pollock Pines. My stubborn subconscious wanted the rest day. It was saying “You are tired. You worked muscles in new ways yesterday, take a break. You need to re-hydrate. You should wait. ” My friend’s eminent departure the following afternoon meant I would head back the next morning regardless. This unfortunate circumstance turned out to be the right thing to do.

For the next 180-miles, I took the concept of marked improvement to task. On the bighighways, I re-positioned myself for aerodynamics. it is a scarier and more uncomfortable way to ride, but I felt more in control and prepared for the unexpected. The big highways still sucked, but they weren’t abusing me. While I thought I was moving my ass in the saddle before, I realized my previously paltry weight shifts with my ass glued to the center of my seat was not really maneuvering the bike. It served marvelously to numbing my glutes and turning my tailbone into a pointy hot spot. Now, I actually moved my ass and worked with the dynamics of the bike rather than the handlebars to steer. I shifted my weight as road conditions changed practically eliminating the sore ass feeling. The two winding mountain sections were more controlled and more fun.

I arrived back in Pollock Pines sweaty and hot, but energized. It wasn’t just a marked improvement from my ride one week earlier, it was a completely different ride. Even my subconscious smiled, relaxed and even slyly admitted, “You. Got. This.”

Happy cooking and improving!


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