A little about books, a little about bikes

I had a couple races this past weekend and went on a long bike ride with a new cycling friend and got to visit some other cycling and bookish friends, and overall I had an excellent time.

The races were … well, odd. I came home with three bronze medals, so I should be happy about them, but the truth is that I didn’t race particularly well. I rode in two races; the first one was a race for women 30 and over. The race was short and intense and I worked hard the whole time. As usual, I wasn’t good at positioning myself for the sprint finish, and I ended up somewhere towards the back of the pack. I got 8th place, but there were only 11 of us.

The thing is, though, this was the Connecticut state championships, so the top three Connecticut riders get medals, I happened to be the third one from my state across the line. They were also giving another medal to the top Connecticut masters riders (meaning over a certain age), and so I got two medals for this showing.

The same thing happened in my second race, which was a category 4 race. I finished 11th out of 20 in my field, but was the third Connecticut rider across the line and so got another bronze medal, my third of the day.

This race was hard, though, because there was a nasty crash that happened right next to me about two laps from the finish. I don’t know what happened, but all the sudden the two riders to my left were going down, I was swerving slightly to get out of their way, and then spent the rest of the race shaken by the whole experience. Poor Hobgoblin thought I was one of the ones who crashed, so I was happy to come around with the pack again and show him I was fine.

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this. I would be a lot more excited about it if I had actually ridden well, and if I weren’t haunted by the sight of bikes and bodies sliding across the road. Again, I wonder why it is I race, and I also don’t feel quite ready to give it up. If nothing else, it’s an excellent motivation to stay strong, not to mention a great way to get strong, and that’s something significant.

But anyway, being the cycling fiend I am, I was up and out riding a 60-mile ride with a new friend who’s just getting into bike racing. We rode the course of the horrible, awful, nasty, miserably hilly race I’m doing this coming Sunday. I was seriously ready not to do the race this year when I found out that we are riding 54 miles instead of the usual 27 miles we’ve ridden in past years. Quite a difference, isn’t it? But … I’ll do it because it’s good training and because I’ve done it the past three years and would feel a little silly skipping it now. It’s very much a sense of pride and maybe a little masochism that’s getting me out on that course next week. We’ll see.

After the tour of the horrible, awful, nasty, miserably hilly race course, Hobgoblin and I headed out to visit two bookish, blogging, cycling friends (here and here). It was a great time, with good food and two great bookstores, R.J. Julia’s and later the Book Barn, a used book shop. For some reason I wasn’t in a mood to acquire a whole lot of new books, perhaps because I’m aware of how many great ones I have waiting for me at home, but I had a wonderful time browsing anyway, and I did come home with two. One is Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which is the selection of one of my book groups (confusingly not my mystery book group, even though this is a mystery. That group is reading Benjamin Black’s Christine Falls next). The other is Mary Brunton’s 1814 novel Discipline. She’s been someone I’ve wanted to read for a while, largely because Jane Austen admired her. Also, I’m very pleased with Hobgoblin for buying Elaine Showalter’s book A Jury of Her Peers, which is a history of women writers. I’m going to have to borrow that one from him.

All in all it was a very good weekend, bike crashes aside. I can’t ask for much more than that.

12 Comments

Filed under Books, Cycling

12 responses to “A little about books, a little about bikes

  1. I think three bronze medals is pretty cool. Crashes always sound so scary and to have oone happen right next to you, yikes! Glad you are fine and I hope the ones in the crash are ok. Seems to me you summed up why you keep racing quite nicely:

    “it’s an excellent motivation to stay strong, not to mention a great way to get strong”

    Those are pretty good reasons. I’m sure you will do great on the hilly race on Sunday even though hills aren’t your thing. Good luck! And the book part of your weeked sounds like it was really nice.

  2. Congrats! I think you are wise to accept your medals, but reserve some energy for improvement. It seems like a good balance. The crash sounds disturbing: I think I get more amped up over the close calls than when I’ve actually been taken down. Glad Hobgoblins fears weren’t realized.

  3. verbivore

    I’m quite interested to hear what you think of Christine Falls. I’m such a John Banville fan but haven’t yet been brave enough to try his writing alter-ego.

  4. It’s amazing how a used book sale can brighten up the day…. and making book purchases can raise morale, especially a bargain. Over the weekend I went to one and posted a list of my ‘loot’. You’re welcome to browse and give me some heads up on those you’ve read.

  5. I think I would enjoy the challenge of riding but not the competitiveness and it would scare me to think of crashing as surely you are all riding at fast speeds. Still the bronze medals sound pretty cool! I hope you like the Laurie King. I’ve really enjoyed the two books I’ve read by her. I liked the first one well enough, but I loved the second. I’ll be curious to hear what you make of it. I’ve read Christine Falls, but I still need to read his second mystery. You really do need to be in the mood for book shopping sometimes. Lately I’ve been a little too much in the mood.

  6. I agree with your saying that racing is great motivation to get and stay strong! I wish I were more motivated to just ride my bicycle this year for the same reason; it’s frustrating.

    I’ve never read Benjamin Black before and will look forward to your review. Your mystery group reads so many different authors I’ve never heard of, but hope to try one day. I’m curious about Discipline too!

  7. I’m glad you didn’t crash; I hope the folks that did got nothing worse than some road rash.

    I really admire your willingness to race 54 miles! Good luck on having a great race.

  8. It’s always so interesting to read about your complicated relationship with bike racing. There’s something in all that, and biking seems to give you not only the benefits of getting and staying strong, but also a way of examining your inner self. Can’t wait to read what you think of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which I am hoping to re-read soon. I’ve often thought about suggesting it for the mystery book group (would have been a great one to follow Holmes when we read that).

  9. I loved your description of the “horrible, awful, nasty, miserably hilly race course” – a reminder for me why I’ve only ever done two of our local 100km mass cycle events. You could write a book about your complicated relationship with two wheels but glad you enjoyed the race and well done on the medals. (Sounds a bit like everyone got prizes, well all the CT riders over 30!) And of course the comfort of bought books is a reward in itself.

  10. I want to read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, too–I keep hearing about it. And the Elaine Showalter book sounds great! You must borrow that from Hobgoblin…

  11. It does sound like a difficult race, what with the crashes near you and all, but congrats on the three medals. Glad it was a great weekend with books & bikes :)

  12. Stefanie — yeah, strength really is a motivator. Because I race, I can ride other kinds of rides faster, and I like that. And I also like being a part of things — it’s more fun being a participant rather than a spectator.

    Bikkuri — I think you’re right about close calls being particularly scary. When I’ve actually crashed, I’ve been quite calm about it. The anticipation of crashing is worse than the crash itself — at least it has been in my relatively lucky racing career so far (knock on wood!).

    Verbivore — well, I really need to read some John Banville! I enjoyed the sequel to Christine Falls, so I’m hoping to like the earlier book too.

    Arti — you’re so right about how book sales and book stores can cheer one up! There’s something great about the sense of possibility they provide. I’ll definitely have to check out your list.

    Danielle — that’s about it for me too — I enjoy the challenge of the riding I do, but I don’t feel the need to beat other people. I don’t have a strong enough sense of competition to really race well, but I do like to be strong. I’m glad to hear you like the Laurie King novels. I think I’ll enjoy them too.

    Debby — I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated about cycling. I’m sure the motivation will come at some point, but even if it doesn’t, that’s really okay too. There’s no particular reason you need to ride a lot, not unless you want to. I’ve learned so much from my mystery book group too, and I’m glad to share the knowledge! :)

    Bardiac — thank you! I’m trying to tell myself that I know I can finish the race, and it doesn’t matter really how fast I go. We’ll see if that makes me feel better.

    Emily — you’re so right that cycling is a way to examine my inner self — I’m sure I could a very long post on that subject, because how I feel about cycling is similar to how I feel about other difficult things in life. Very glad to hear you like the Beekeeper’s Apprentice so much! I’m looking forward to it.

    Pete — you’re probably right about the book; I do have some complicated feelings about cycling, and I like that the sport provides me with a way to think about other aspects of my life. Before cycling, I never would have guessed athletics could be so meaningful to me!

    Gentle Reader — yes, I’m excited about both books, and very glad that Hobgoblin is willing to share!

    Iliana — thank you! It really was a great weekend. I think perhaps I’m still recovering from it :)

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