Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beginners Page # 10 Lessons Learned or All You Wanted to Know But Couldn’t Find Anywhere or Even Here

I had decided prior to writing this, that it was going to be a rambling, incoherent, hodgepodge of non sequitur topics making the reader marvel over the words and say “Huh”? “Wow,” “What did he say?” If you think this feat is difficult—keep reading.

One of the first lessons I learned in my very first riding season: don’t breath through your mouth no matter how deprived of oxygen you are.

Little and big things fly through the air and even though there are 267,000 square miles in Texas—plenty of room for a gnat, fly, bug, bee, wasp, horsefly, chigger, or a grasshopper—to find some other place to fly—open your mouth and in one goes.
Ooops. The chigger reference, pull off to the side of the road next to a gate or mailbox or turn-around, NOT in the grass. Chiggers may not jump in your mouth but they sure can crawl or hop all over the body. But anyway, as I said, I learned the first season not to breathe through the mouth. I learned it in the second season. I learned it in the third season where I am now. I will have to confess, the wasp, bee, and grasshopper mostly aim for the helmet, but there is not anything one can do about that other than wear a helmet bootie which is self defeating. I choose to have a cool head rather than be a hot head.

But a hot face may be of assistance. If we could design a face guard similar to the motorcycle helmets, it could save some hurtful incidents. Christine was riding along one time minding her own business when something hit her on the sunglass lens, slid down it, and stung her on the cheek. And momentarily back to the open mouth: I have ridden enough with Chuck White to know that he doesn’t ride with his tongue hanging out. So it had to be breathing through the mouth when something came by and stung him right on the tongue. That hurts me just to write about it much less get stung by things that fly through the air. Maybe helmet booties and face guards are not kooky ideas after all.

Generally it is the small, crunchy bug that lands in your mouth. And, generally you can hack and cough and get the sucker out. But, one of the last times I had gotten a bug in my mouth, my throat was dry, and I think a gnat flew in. I hacked, coughed, tried all the usual tactics, and it wouldn’t dislodge. A person riding along asked if I was all right. No, bug in throat. I stopped and so did Christy Compeau. I grabbed for my water bottle and—it wasn’t there. How can you leave without a water bottle? Same way you get a gnat in your mouth—not thinking. Christy came to the rescue and gave me her water bottle; I gargled twice to rid myself of the embarrassing malady.

There is one more caution about breathing through the mouth. Never, never breathe through the mouth when it is raining and you are riding behind someone. The drink you get is not nutritional. (See Tour de Rooster Tail)

Bite down the correct way on Camelbak bite valve.If you aren’t paying attention to the way the valve is turned, when you bite down on it, nothing happens. Panic time. Obviously you are thirsty or you wouldn’t have put the tube in your mouth in the first place. When this happened I knew the bladder wasn’t empty as it was my first time to drink. I was not sure how to clear the tube if it was stopped up. After two or three tries, I looked at the nipple and sure enough, it was turned wrong. Lesson learned: Take a swallow before you take off on a ride to adjust your equipment.

Riding etiquette: it is OK to ride behind someone, and it is OK to ride along aside someone. Never, never pass someone going at a faster pace than the passee. That is an instant challenge and the race is on. I noticed this phenomenon my first season. If someone was out for a leisurely ride and I happened to be going downhill—and pedaling—and passed someone, suddenly that person would whiz by me and go on down the road. Leisurely ride over until he/she is out of sight. I noticed this on tours also, especially if I passed a person younger than I, and almost everyone is younger than I. (Generally that was only because they would be riding a mountain bike on a road tour and we would be going up a hill) I remember a young kid (20’s) who was on a mountain bike, and I passed him on a hill. Suddenly he came around me standing and pumping until he got past me. As soon as he would sit down, I would pass him again. Up out of the saddle he came. I thought it was funny, so I played the little game with him thinking I would eventually tire him out. He never seemed to tire of the “game,” so on a downhill I pedaled like mad and never saw him again. So don’t pass anyone unless you are willing to pay the price, or just don’t pay attention to the person passing you and slinging sweat on you (hope it is sweat) as he passes.

Next is a serious topic. But first, if big font is a shout, then small font is a whisper. Some of this I will have to whisper, as we don’t talk about it in polite society or around children—how to avoid chaffing or butt sores. We experienced rawness and assumed that we would just have to ride long enough to build calluses or tough skin or get bike shorts with chamois thicker than the 13 mil. But, as luck would have it, on one of our early on tours, the goody bag contained small samples of Chamois Butt’r. But, we didn’t immediately pay attention to the Butt’r until Christine was talking about “soft tissue” problems with Robyn Lomax. Robyn recommended using butt butter as that is what experienced riders do. We rummaged through our goody bag storage basket and dug out the samples. On our next long ride (20 miles was long at that time), we used the butt butter and it worked like a charm. We buy the 8 ounce size now.

Interestingly enough I applied some butt butter and my chaffing was over. Later, I watched a Tour de France DVD and a guy seemingly applied at least 4 ounces over the rider’s entire chamois. It was on so thickly that I was afraid he would slide right out of his biking shorts on the ride. (Maybe that is why they wear the bib shorts). I became curious so I finally read the directions on the Chamois Butt’r container. I will copy it here so everyone will be totally informed on trivia: Directions: Apply liberally to skin and chamois/shorts before each ride and to chamois after washing. (I didn’t know that! Seems it would collect dust in the crouch even if you hang your shorts in a closet—oh well). Apply to any skin areas that rub together or against shorts, shoes, bras, athletic supporters, or protective cups. Apply as a conditioner to skin exposed to moisture. (I confess that I hadn’t read the whole spiel until copying it just now. If they hadn’t listed so many uses to consume their product, the last sentence would be the clincher. When I ride during the summer months, my whole skin from head to foot is exposed to moisture.) I will close out this topic with a caution so that all of us do not experience a painful lesson learned—don’t apply Chamois Butt’r to your gloves. Nuff said.

Wear deodorant. I don’t know if David Durbin will remember this incident, but it is true. Background (OK, OK, Chris, I will make this short): when I first started riding, David would hang back with me and let me draft off him so I could finish a ride such as the Loop Group before sundown. One day we were on a local tour and surprise, surprise, the wind was terrible. As we were going up FM 2288 (I think it was a Biscuits and Gravy tour), a rider who said he was from out of town (if he were local I wouldn’t write this) fell in line with us, and we all took turns leading into the wind. Now, you know how hard it is sometimes to find the exact draft spot? Well, when riding behind the out of towner you knew exactly that you were in the slip stream when your nose hairs started to singe and your upper lip tried to block your nostrils.
PLEASE, I don’t care if you drove all night or had to sleep in your car before a ride, take a little kit with you with a stick of deodorant, maybe some cologne. So I won’t be accused of being a sexist, maybe use some perfume.

Christine (my editor and critic) always gets after me if a particular article gets too long. She may get sleepy or has a short attention span, or my topics are boring to her. We get into many debates when she wants to shorten (she calls it editing) my pages to make them a little more clear and precise. Now if you are reading this, I will have won this debate. But in deference to Chris I will just start shortening my Lessons Learned. It has dawned on me that I have written about most of my lessons in some other article. So forget the rambling, incoherent, hodgepodge of non sequitur topics.

Lesson learned: Ask questions, don’t buy equipment and assume you will know how to use it (see Beginners Page 1 Airing the Tires).I know, if you read Beginners Page 1, you know what Chris goes through to get me to the point of a story.

Lesson learned: If you ride, you will fall. (See Beginners Page 2: Pedals and Things for an example or the inevitable). Added, also see Beginners Page 9 ½: Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Lesson learned: Don’t be shy or bashful about your attire—we all look the same. (See Beginners Page 3: Style, Spandex, Helmets and Stuff).

Lesson learned: We will never find a comfortable saddle, so sit back and enjoy.

(See Beginners Page 4: Bicycle Seats and the Quest for Comfort).

Lesson learned: Ask more questions, swallow your pride and learn. (See Beginners Page 5 Fixing a Flat).

Of interest, to me, I was surfing on the net one day and came across a webpage that referenced my article about how to fix a flat. The author prefaced my article with “a little long”—I don’t think he really read it as it implied that after you read the article, you will know how to fix a flat. To prove otherwise, I refer you to "Tour de Rooster Tail" or "just ask Liz Rappe."

Lesson learned: Don’t spit into the wind or take yourself seriously, and if all else fails, reframe the situation into, “At least I am participating in this sport instead of watching cartoons.” (See Beginners Page 6 First Time Trial)

Lesson I would like to learn: I would like to know if anyone can beat my record of going up what I call Stonewall Hill at 2.9 mph and not falling over.(For example--See Beginners Page 7: How to Climb a Hill Without Rolling Backwards).

Lesson learned: Check equipment and bike before a ride or Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. (See Beginners Page 8 for clarity).

Lesson learned: If anyone reads just one of the lessons learned, it has got to be the one that warns husbands to keep a tight rein on their spouses or watch out!(See Beginners Page 9 Intro Into Mountain Biking).

Lesson learned: Try to think as you are riding even if you are talking. Case in point: Beginners Page 9½, Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Lesson learned: Don’t be a hero, drink plenty of fluids. Replace your bodies’ electrolytes as you go along either by your drink, your snacks, or tablets.
If you don’t, see Beginners Page 9¾, How to Get Muscle Cramps blah blah blah.

Lesson learned: That learning never stops if you continue to ride. Case in point: The two more lessons (9 1/2 and 9 3/4) while working on this paper. Let’s keep learning.

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