The Guy in the Spandex Shorts

I’m sure that in my youth I would have said, “men shouldn’t wear spandex.” When I did see one of these crazy guys I would think to myself “why would they wear THAT in public??? Are they just trying to look ridiculous and make me uncomfortable??? I do not need to see that bulge…” Nobody wants to see the guy in the spandex shorts. As it turns out many years later I started in cycling and learned of the very serious and very painful problem of chaffing. I took to the google-sphere to find a solution to this. Quickly I learned that spandex shorts is the one tried and true method to completely eliminate this problem.

I didn’t immediately go out and buy spandex shorts. I had to do some serious self-convincing that I needed them. That the pain of chaffing was greater than the pain of ridicule and social anxiety that came with wearing such clothes. I told myself that most of my cycling is done solo, and nobody will really ever see me. With those thoughts in my head I went off and bought my first pair of spandex shorts.

My first ride I decided to wear these under a pair of regular shorts. I didn’t want anyone to see me because I am a man and men do not wear spandex. They worked great and I had no chaffing at all! Cycling shorts even have a pad in them to help with soreness on the rear end. These were the best thing ever for cycling and made riding much more enjoyable. After a few rides I decided that I could go out without second regular pair of shorts on top. There I was riding around town in spandex for the world to see.

Then I met another cyclist who became my good friend, Brad. Brad and I decided to go for a ride together one day where we met at his house. I went to his house and I stood on his doorstep in skin tight cycling jersey and spandex shorts. I rang his doorbell feeling very exposed. He opened the door and stood opposite me outfitted in the exact same type of clothes. It was as awkward as a swimming pool men’s change room. Though, at the same time it was a relief that he was wearing it too, just like when you go to a party under-dressed and meet someone that did the same.

A few months later Brad and I went on a long bike trip from around Banff. We decided to stop at a coffee shop with a long line in Lake Louise for a bite to eat. As I stood there, I began daydreaming and looking around. My gaze went to a pair of shoes and I thought to myself that those are odd shoes. Mindlessly my gaze went up to see that the man wearing those shoes was in spandex shorts! Shocked and snapping back to reality I wanted to see the face of the man who would have the audacity to wear such a thing in a public coffee shop. It was my friend Brad! Quickly, I looked down to see that I was wearing the exact same thing. It felt like that nightmare where you go to work and forgot to put pants on. Now I was standing in this coffee shop with everything out there for the world to see.

It took a few seconds, but after the shock wore off and I realized that I do have at least something on, I understood. I understood all the men I had seen in my life wearing spandex. These people aren’t trying to show off their stuff, instead it was (hopefully) out of necessity just like me. I had turned into the guy in the spandex shorts, and it was OK. I have since become more secure in my training and the need for proper attire that I have bought many pairs of spandex running shorts and even a speedo. Though, I am not quite ready to be the guy in the speedo.

My First 100km+ Bike Ride

I am an idiot. I have spent some time writing in a journal and I find it really help sort my thoughts out for the day. Now that I have spent a little time writing about my experiences in triathlon, I really lack the ability to make any even decent decisions. I am relatively new to the sport, and I am bound to make some of the ‘newbie’ mistakes. But my first 100+km ride didn’t have any good decisions. Actually, if I wanted to try to kill someone on a bicycle, I would make them do exactly what I did how I did it.

The first thing that I messed up was getting it into my head that I should ride over 100 km in the first place . I don’t know how or why this got into my head. In 2012, previous to this first ride I had completed exactly six 20 km rides. Only six, and each one took me about an hour to complete. Not only did they take an hour, but a hard-working hour. Think sweating and panting. So after riding a total of 120 km, broken up by six different days I planned on a 100 km ride. Actually I planned on cycling from my house to a friend’s house in Medicine Hat, which was 140 km away. At this point you can see that there is clearly something wrong in my brain. I’m not thinking it’s just a loose wire, it seems more like somebody uploaded a virus into the mainframe.

The second fairly large mistake I made was that I was expecting this ride to take about 6 hours. This was because in my one hour rides I averaged around 23km/h. Being decent at math I figured 140km divided by 23km/h gets you pretty darn close to 6 hours. I thought I was really smart to figure that out. What I didn’t figure out at that time was that 23 km/h for six hours isn’t, and wasn’t, sustainable. The good news is that after this ride was completed I learned that nugget of knowledge. The bad news was that it came to me after being on the bike for six hours and only having completed 118 km.

Being on the bike for 6 hours is still a tough time. But because of what I know now about food, salt, and water needs, I know some of the logistics that would go into a long ride. I did not know any these things in 2012. I took enough food and water for what I know today to be enough for a 2 hour ride. Suddenly my math skills for a 6 hour ride don’t seem all that impressive. So as you can imagine about 3 hours and 70 km into the ride I start to die. Good news is that 15 km away is Ralston, and I can stop at a gas station and re-fuel. The bad news is that the gas station is 100 meters off the highway, and an extra left turn, so I thought it was best not to stop in. I kept going for another two whole kilometers before I hit the wall and had to stop.

Hitting the wall in cycling has a name. It’s called ‘bonking’ and it is the worst feeling that you can have without actually breaking something in your body. Imagine the feeling of being awake for 3 days straight, then add jumping up and belly flopping onto the concrete, and then add being given a shot of adrenaline. You’re exhausted you’re sore, and you’re hearts pounding, and I was still 65 km away from my goal. As I stop, another cyclist is coming towards me on the other side of the highway. He continues on past me for a few minutes and turns around crosses the highway and passes me on his way back to Medicine Hat. Bonk or no bonk, the race is now on.

I hop back on my bike but not to head back to the gas station. In the now 30 degree heat, dazed and confused, I decided that I am in a race with this guy back to Medicine hat whether he knows it or not. He starts about 200 meters ahead of me, and it seems like the road ahead is just a series of small valleys and hills. I get to the top of the first hill, and he has increased to about 300 meters ahead. I descend down the hill and catch up to about 250. At the second hill he is about 350 meters ahead and again after descending I catch up a little to about 300 meters. This continues on and he continues to pull away. On every hill I work harder and harder to try to catch up until I use every ounce of energy I have left. After about 15 kilometers of this he gets out of sight. I lost this race and now I am nowhere near that gas station.

I’ve hit the wall, I’m in the middle of nowhere, I have no water, no food, and a cell phone. What do I do? I kept going. At least what I lack in intelligence I made up for in determination. Ahead another series of small hills each slightly higher than the last. I kept thinking at the top of the hill, “I’ll see the town of Redcliff, and I’ll stop there.” But it seems that the joke was on me as every hill I climbed revealed just another hill. Upon seeing this I kept saying to myself “I can only do ONE more.” It seemed like forever that this series repeated, until finally I could see a straight shot to the town of Redcliff. 5k out I stopped, called my friend and asked her to meet me there instead.

That day I rode a total of 117.9 km in 5:27 minutes and I learned a lot. I learned I slow down as rides get longer. I learned that I need to take more food and more water. I learned that I should stop when I am tired and refuel. I learned that 100km is long way when you’re not in an air-conditioned car listening to the oldies. But unfortunately, in my next rides I make most of these mistakes again. So I guess I didn’t learn much. Hey, at least I didn’t die.