Those words were said by JeffJ as we uploaded calories of a greasy kind after a 65 mile road ride. We had spent the day riding with a group of triathletes as they prepared for an upcoming Ironman event in Arizona. It was an interesting day.
I had never met any of them before but we had an invite to the group through a friend of my wife. I had pretty good feelings about the group dynamic and the route so off we went at a ridiculously early hour on a Saturday morning, pointing ourselves toward the promised cooler temps of the So Cal coastline. JeffJ was a bit more concerned that he would be a pariah, seeing that he tends to ride in baggies and a visored, bass boat green MTB helmet. A bit Freddish, but we are all mountain bikers at heart anyway. Introducing himself as "Jeff, or you can call me Fred" did not register at all with the group and just resulted in nervous laughter and odd stares. Exit, stage left for Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har.
So we were pilgrims in a strange land, this try-ath-a-leete deal. And as the bikes were unloaded and clothing assembled, I was struck by the complexity of the bikes. Oh my! There were angles and wedges and bobbles and bangles and widgets and bottles and wings and bags all over those bikes. They had handlebars that reached waaaay out in front so you could, I presume, steer with your elbows which makes some sense as I do not recall ever using my elbows much on a ride anyway, so they should do some work too.
I had an extra tube strapped to my bike.
I asked the group where the button was to transform the bikes into Optimus Prime. No one laughed. Serious folks, these tri people. No Fred jokes, no Transformers jokes. Got it.
|Be careful what button you push or...|
|...you get this.|
Rolling out into the quiet of the morning coastal fog, we began at a nice, friendly pace. This, I was told, was 'Zone 1' training. Later we would get into Zone 2 and 3. Hold on...what is a zone? Is it like a zip code for cyclists? I am not sure I have zones. When I am riding the SS up some stupid long climb and my tongue sticks to the stem, what zone is that? There is more to this tri stuff than meets the eye, and that is saying a lot as the bikes were just so complex looking, but still cool in an odd way. I am thinking that tri-folks are the golfers of the cycling world, always looking for that new 'thing' that will give them the edge.
Riding alongside the leader, a very fit lady on a very carbon bike, I asked her if that bike was comfortable to ride as it looked pretty stiff, all those airfoil shapes. She glanced at me with an odd look and then said, "it goes real fast in a straight line". Then she clicked up a gear or two, got onto the tri-bars, and showed me how that worked. Well, I guess so. See ya!
Seriously, that was pretty cool. She would just ride away from me with what looked to be barely any increased effort and I would have to up the wattage dial to just hang on. I guess riding the cycling equivalent of a Cruise missile aerodynamics study has its advantages, even if comfiness is not one of them. Zoom zoom. I considered tossing the extra inner tube strapped to my seat stays to see if that would help but I think I was just entering zone 2 and I did not want to mess that up. I might not ever get there again or if I do, they will not let me in.
So here we were, JeffJ and I, on our round tubed, old school road bikes, having a very nice ride at a very decent pace along with a very nice group of very well equipped people pedaling two wheeled airplanes. At some point we split the group as most folks were heading out to get some required training work done that apparently we had not done enough of and then they had to run across the county or some such thing and we better not stop too long here or we will drop into Zone 1.65 and that could be fatal. Whew! Close call, that one.
|What zone are YOU in?|
And so when JeffJ, seated outside the pearly gates of In-And-Out, said that immortal statement of truth-ness..."What a difference a cheeseburger makes!", it struck me that this revelation born of beef patties and grilled onions on a toasted bun was about more than just a much needed celebration of un-holy calories. No, it also was all about the day and the dynamic of the ride. JeffJ and I were just riding with no agenda than to see some new roads and ride our bikes hard in the company of some new faces. At least one other lady rider was out for fun as well, but all the others were there for a singular purpose - to be in Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, etc for the required time to get the required data to get the required result.
Now I respect that, even though it may not seem like it, because if you have a serious goal then you need a serious plan. And a full Ironman is no joke. I can throw a rock farther than I can swim. Running? No thanks. So I do understand the world of a serious athlete and the dedication it takes to make it happen, especially if you are making a living at it.
If you are just Joe and Jill average and you do not own a bike without a PowerTap hub and deep dish carbon wheels guaranteed to slice .006 seconds off a 2 kilometer time trial, then something is wrong. Because all the data downloads in the world cannot make up for missed opportunities like where a deer bounds alongside the road in a woodland echelon and you missed the sight, being so wrapped up in 'the zone'.
There are roads never taken that beckon a hard right turn just to see where they go. Close the laptop and be your own Google Earth. Pause long enough at a rest stop to rest. Life is a mad rush at the least.
Zone zero is OK every so often.
And a cheeseburger, when it is all said and done, makes all the difference in the world.
Although I still wonder how you steer with your elbows.