Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Anger Into Wattage
I had an interesting situation today, wrought with all sorts of "teachable moments". Let me preface by saying that triathlon is a lonely sport, it's participants spend endless hours training and competing alone. Sure you can run or ride with other people, but chances are they're not doing the exact workout that you need to do, so you inevitably head out on you're own. Swimming just speaks for itself. Having said that, when triathletes get an opportunity to socialize, they normally jump at it. Contact with other endurance geeks fosters conversation about upcoming races, the latest in lightweight aerodynamic gadgets, and comparing training plans.
Today I was out on a solo bike ride and nearing my turn around point on the out-and-back course. Just then, three triathletes came ripping the other way in a tight, fast-moving pace-line. Why triathletes are in a paceline is another issue, as it's illegal in races. My initial thought was to try to catch them and maybe have a chat that would make the remaining miles fly by. As they disappeared up the road I heard a male voice make some snide comment about a piece of gear that I was wearing. I was testing out a new aerodynamic helmet in preparation for a coming race. I felt the pangs of resentment start to rise, but pushed on to see if I could catch up.
Let me say, a solo rider trying to catch a well-organized paceline is no easy feat. The three riders can ride at a high speed using 30% less energy than it would take a soloist ride at the same speed. Nonetheless, after a mile or so I finally grabbed the rear wheel of the trail rider. I noticed that the rider was a female, and so was the lead rider. The middle guy was fit looking, and I identified him as Mr. Snide Comment.
I decided to play nice and introduced myself; I asked if I could join the effort. The guy, to my utter amazement, shook his head, "No". I have never in twenty years of cycling been told that I couldn't join a ride. It's sacrilegious not to allow a lone rider to join a group. The protocol is that if the group is faster, than the rider will eventually fall off the back. If the rider is faster, he/she will eventually push ahead of the group. To be told "no" is unheard of.
One of the girls spoke up and pleaded to Mr. Comment to let me join. He replied that I could if I went to the front and pulled the three of them. On that, I went to the front... and just kept on going. The group fell off my wheel and I contently left them in the hills. I watched my anger seethe and my ego swell as the three of them just couldn't keep up. For the first time I rode with anger, turning it into useful wattage and speed. I struggled with my anger, recognized it, letting it force my pedals around faster and faster. I'm not sure if I did the right thing or not, but it felt good nonetheless.