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Monday, December 26, 2011

Misadventures of a Pre-Christmas Bike Ride...

My hairy legs slowed me down
I have several friends who are into cycling.

One has even started his own cycling team, goes riding every morning with some of our biking buddies and fellow cyclists from the area, and has even partaken in a 150 mile charity ride. This is from a guy, who friends say, when he first started, would show up with a cigar in his mouth.

For months, he has been inviting me to ride with him and some friends but since his riding group usually leaves way too early for me (about 5am), I always had a built-in excuse. That is until last weekend when he asked me to join him for a ride on Christmas Eve morning, at a more reasonable time.

After meeting me at 6:50am near my house in Coral Gables and backtracking to his house to get me a helmet (I don't have one), a water bottle and filling my tires with air (the guy doesn't fool around), we headed off to meet the rest of the group in South Miami.

As we approach a busy intersection, I was so involved in our conversation that I didn't realize a car was going to cross in front of us until my friend yelled, "Slow down!" As I hit the brakes, my bike came to a dead stop. Unfortunately, I didn't.

I took a nasty spill, flying over my handlebars and crashing violently into the street, breaking the fall with my hands and rolling over on my right shoulder. Fortunately, the car was able to stop in plenty of time.

Aside from a minor scrape on my knee and ego, through the grace of God, I came away practically unscathed; at least at first glance.

"Are you O.k.?" my friend asked. A couple of other cyclists, that were passing by and saw the tumble, also stopped to check on me.

"Good. I'm alright," I replied, trying desperately to play off the pain I was in. Despite still being dazed from the shock, I got back on the seat as quickly as I could and kept going.

The last time I recall falling from my bike, I was about nine-years-old and trying to beat a car across the street in front of my house. I lost.

The car broadsided me, tossing me and my bike in the air. As I came down, my head hit the front bumper (or hood; it just hurt!), before being flung to the pavement, where my head dribbled several times on the street like a basketball, as my body slid for several yards down the road.  I was lucky the car stopped before running me over.

I probably suffered a minor concussion, had bumps and bruises on my head, tailbone and elbows, and was bleeding from several bad scrapes, but my guardian angel was definitely with me then too. I was able to walk away from the collision on my own.

Back to my pre-Christmas story, it wasn't long after getting back on my bike, that I started realizing the pain I was in. My wrists and shoulders were barking, as the impact of a 250 lbs man traveling at about 14 miles per hour, stopping abruptly, catapulting in the air like a canon ball in medieval times and hitting cement would have the tendency to do.

It was an ominous beginning to our ride, which was supposed to go as far as Black Point Marina in South Miami-Dade, which my friend informed me would be about 45 miles roundtrip and take about two and a half hours (I usually ride about 12 miles max!).

Not to mention, Christmas Eve dinner was going to be at my house this year and I had told my wife I would be back in a couple of hours (yikes!). Considering that we were still heading to meet other riders to then begin a two and a half hour ride was concerning. (I didn’t want to start our Christmas celebration in the Espinosa dog house!)

The plan was to meet the others at 7:30am at a designated spot and despite the delay for gear and my fall, we got there about ten minutes early.

There were already about five people waiting when we arrived. All of a sudden, after a brief introduction, there are eight, then ten, then fifteen, twenty and by the end, about twenty seven cyclists had amassed (if I counted correctly). They were mostly from another bicycle team that rides several times a week. Aside from my friend, I didn't know a soul.

They were all in full bicycle gear, padded spandex shorts, multi-colored skin-tight shirts with bright lettering, helmets, glasses, gloves, bike shoes to clip on to the tiny pedals on their razor-thin lightweight foreign-made racing bikes and I'm sure several shaved legs.

Then I took stock of my look; an old grey fleece jacket, that had shrunk just enough to heighten my protruding belly, grey cotton gym shorts, running shoes, and old fashioned pedals on my clunky Trek mountain bike (not to mention; hairy legs). I knew my odds of keeping pace with them, probably looked as good as I did.

Yet, I heard someone say not to worry, "No man left behind." They were going to go on a nice leisurely pace, so I thought, "I'm good."

At 7:32am, we set off. I was one of the first to get going and started south on Red Road, my friend passing briskly by me with a group of riders, as well as several other guys. I kept pedaling away and picking up speed, as more men and women whisked by and then more, and then more.

As one guy passed by, he asked, "Are you Ok?"  Which left me a bit perplexed. 

I was going at, what I thought, was a good pace.  I wasn't showing any indication of physical stress or equipment problem.  Then, I glanced back and realized, I was the last one.  I was being left behind!

I started to push and pedaling feverishly to try to catch up with the peloton (I was forced to watch the Tour de France several times by my wife and brother-in-law during our family vacation in Sanibel!).

In fact, I had a brief flashback to a time that my wife, brother, sister-in-law, her husband and I rode to Captiva Island from Sanibel (about 24 miles roundtrip) several years ago.

It was during the Tour de France and I was trailing behind the others (our mini-peloton) in my rental bike. I decided to catch up and stood up to pedal faster.

As I caught up with them, I started swaying from side to side, like I had seen the guys in the Tour do, and, all of a sudden, the bike chain came off and the bike came to a sudden stop, hurling me forward and slamming the family jewels (as my high school baseball coach used to say) right into the handlebars, and almost tossing me off the bike in the process. I was able to keep from crashing head first by jumping off and landing on my feet (I was a little lighter and more nimble back then).

While they were all laughing hysterically (especially my wife), I had to fix the chain. Fortunately, it wasn't complicated since we were close to Captiva and it would have meant a long walk back).

Anyway, back to last weekend’s ride, I put the bike in the highest gear to gain speed in hopes of catching up with the rest of the group.

However, my top gear was having some sort of problem. It wasn't catching. So, I had to downshift and keep pedaling away.

Meanwhile, I felt like the little boy chasing a balloon blowing in the wind. Every time I was getting close to the peleton, as they slowed down because of traffic, they rode farther ahead.

By the time they turned, somewhere near SW 120th St., I was already lagging about half a block behind. I was definitely getting left behind!

There were two options at this point. One was to keep pedaling harder in hopes of catching them for a short while, knowing that keeping up with them for 45 miles was going to be a challenge, at best, or two, turn around and head back home.

The choice was easy. I decided on the latter.

I took up my normal pace of about 12-14 miles per hour, prayed a Rosary as I usually do on my morning rides, and got home before my family was up. Peace still reigned in the Espinosa household and Christmas was saved! 

Therefore, despite the pain and traumatic fall, I have to thank my friend for a nice ride after all (about 15-17 miles).  Although, let's just say, besides my girth, slightly lesser drive and bearlike hairiness, I won't be confused with Lance Armstrong anytime soon...


Johnny Herrera said...

Carlos I'm sorry to hear about your fall but that was a good one! I couldn't stop laughing especially knowing you were ok...

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Johnny.
My left wrist still hurts a little but other than that, I am fine...