03 January 2009

A story that will stick

This is my 4th year of Boot Camp workouts, put on and coached by ABD at the Prairie Path shops in Winfield ("my" shop) and Batavia. My Karen bought me my first season, a fitting gift for my 50th birthday. This season (fall/winter 2008-09) is my 2nd 2-session Boot Camp - now at my own expense and worth every dollar; even the parts I hate are worth it.

Man, if I had to ride like that every time I got on a bike, I really don't think I'd keep cycling. That is definitely why I do not race. But it makes me a better rider, and it keeps my weight down during the winter. And it is good to hang with other - almost all better - riders.

This season began with a whole series of missed sessions. We ride 2 sessions per week, and in the 1st 3 weeks I missed 5 sessions, including all 3 Monday nights. I managed a couple of make-ups, but it was nearly half-way into the season before I had my first Monday night ride.

We get to the shop early, set up the bike on CompuTrainers, warm up a bit and then our bikes are calibrated for the workout. An official timed progressive warm-up precedes the coached workout, which lasts 50 minutes to an hour or so. Then we cool down before dismounting, toweling off, changing, and heading home. The 7:00pm session thus begins any time after 6:30 and ends around 8:15/30 or so.

So, on my first Monday night I finally slumped off the bike and waited my turn to use the washroom. As I did all last year, I would towel down and change into street clothes before packing up the bike and driving home. [cue ominous chord]

We all have little things we do, habits or whatever - admit it, you do, too! When I leave the washroom in the bike shop (it opens up on to the workout area), I put my hand on the doorknob, then hit the light as I open the door. Imagine my surprise when the door opened up to a dark and vacated shop!
"Hello? Hello!?!"
Then I noticed that there was a single small light blinking, and a count-down beep. Yep, the alarm had been set. I was in the dark across the shop from my coat (and car keys), shoes, and bike. The bike I could leave overnight, I could probably get home without my coat or car keys, but not without my shoes. Between me and my stuff ... empty trainers, cords, cables, and who knows what all. It was dark, I tell you!

So, I carefully made my way across the floor, hoping that I could get out the back door before the alarm system kicked in. No such luck. Light and beep cut off just as I got to my stuff, and well - there I was: locked inside the best bike shop in the land.

Now what to do? I don't have numbers for anyone at the shop, on my cell phone. Do I call home and have Karen help me sort it out? Well, I reasoned (naively, or rather, actually knowing this wasn't going to work) maybe I can still slip out the front door. If nothing else, someone would show up!

But not before the ear-splitting security alarm. OK, so now at least a policeman will arrive, right? But first, the phone rang:
ME: "Prairie Path Cycles" (play it cool and give it your best professional phone voice)
HER: This is ADT security. We show your alarm has been activated.
ME: Yeah, um, I got locked inside the shop.
HER: Do you have the code, can you re-set it?
"No, I'm not an employee, I'm a customer!"
"Oh my God. OK, well I'll make some calls.

Which she did. Meanwhile, I saw the police car enter the strip mall parking lot, circle, and then park outside the shop. The officer stayed in the car, doing whatever officers do when they arrive at a crime scene, alone. I made my way to the door, so he could see me when he got out of the car. No need for him to wonder if someone is hiding out in there. Then, the phone again.

"Prairie Path Cycles" (always the professional)
"This is ADT again. I've called MaryLee. Someone should be there within 10 minutes. And, I'm sorry, but I did have to call the police as well."
"Yes, he is here already."
"OK, well, sit tight and someone will be along."

By now the policeman had come to the door, saw me, and it was clear that he had a good idea what was going on. He was already laughing! Within moments, Rob - who had coached the workout and closed up the shop - also arrived. He was both apologetic (unnecessarily) and laughing (appropriately). This episode is apparently the proof that the washroom light is not controlled by the shop master switch. Either that or Rob hit the shop lights at just the moment I turned out the bathroom light. It could happen. The police guy was cool about it all, I was soon out the door, Rob locked back up and within moments we were both home. (Turns out Rob lives just a few doors down on the other side of my street!)

I walked into my living room and Karen asked, "did you fall off your bike tonight?" (It's one of our running jokes.) No, but let me tell you ...
The shop is closed on Tuesday. [note to burglars the alarm works, so don't try it], so it was Wednesday before I could get back to the shop and check on some lingering concerns I had. I wasn't in the door yet when MaryLee saw me and she was laughing out loud before I opened the door. It is a great story, and really has taken on legs. My main concern at that point was whether the shop would be charged for a false alarm with the police. Apparently not, and apparently Winfield is in the minority in this regard. Thank you, Winfield!

By the time I got to my Thursday morning workout, the story had made the rounds of the bike club, and I have taken some friendly ribbing since then. For a quiet club member with a low ride/race visibility, it has sort of ratcheted up profile. As in the jokes and questions and "oh, you're the guy ..."

Jump right in

So, I really enjoy belonging to ABD, a great bike club. I wish I were more involved - I do the occasional club ride, try to stay in shape with the winter boot camp workouts, help out with the Winfield Criterium, and enjoy hanging out at an awesome bike shop. But I don't race, and as many of the club activities are race-related - um, as in bicycle racing - (and that almost always means, on Sunday) I don't get to socials much.

Given all that, it was a gas to host the club's annual New Years Day Ride and Party. The social begins with a club ride at Noon on January 1. The ideal is to ride 1 mile for every degree above zero (F.). In practice, it seems that is debated and rarely achieved! With an overcast morning in the mid-20sF, and wind-chill much closer to zero, we spent some time debating our options. How about 1 minute for every degree? (Too short to bother suiting up, really.) Other ideas surfaced, but we finally decided to do the Monday night "revovery ride" route, which leaves from the Winfield bike shop and covers about 22 miles. The roads were pretty clear, with perhaps more pot-holes than in the summer, there was no precipitation, but a pretty stiff south wind.

Isn't a south wind supposed to warm things up in the Midwest? It sure didn't help, though to be fair at least it wasn't a north wind. And also to be fair, with a few clear days after an amazing rain washed the streets earlier in the week, road crews had filled in quite a few pot-holes. Except for the cold, this would be a pretty "normal" casual club ride.

Back at the house, hot cider was ready and welcome, chili was on the stove, food had accumulated - brought by the riders who had come before Noon, and by later-arriving club members and family who decided (sure, you could say "wisely") not to ride. Amazing chili with all the toppings, taco dips, corn-bread, bread sticks, hummus - not to mention beverages and libations - preceded an excellent array of sweets, chocolate nicely predominating. Cyclists love to eat. And to eat with people you've just ridden with ... that is the best reward of the sport.

The obligatory race videos ran on the TV, groups of cycling enthusiasts (somehow "cycling nerds" doesn't seem quite right) discussed the ride, riding, gear, racing, and riders. Characteristically, even the trash talk was more encouraging than dispiriting. Then there were the more generally social groupings as well, the cycling spouses who - who knows how? - have other things to talk about.

It was a splendid afternoon: a start on the year's road miles, a casual but energizing club ride, great food and camaraderie. Yeah, I think this is the year to get more involved with ABD.

But racing? I don't know ...