It’s Not About The Bike…

As a kid I went through the usual variety of bikes. Kick brakes, banana seats, baseball cards in the spokes and all. Eventually somewhere in my early teens I graduated to the big leagues and I got a Schwinn Deluxe Varsity 10 speed. I loved that bike and rode it everywhere. I don’t know how many times I completely stripped it down as far as I could to thoroughly clean and lube it and then put it back together again. I enjoyed every second I spent on it. But, by my late teens it lay unused and virtually forgotten in my parent’s garage. I had moved on. I was now a long distance runner and had no more time for it.

A couple of years after graduating high school a friend brought me back to bikes. He was an avid cyclist and convinced me to start riding with him. I bought his old Raleigh touring bike, cleaned it up and painted it, and took it out on the road. I did a lot of riding with him, regaining my joy of being on a bike. I eventually did a number of weekend bike tours on it and a couple of biathlons as well. I started to get better and faster and even tried a couple of criteriums. Unfortunately after several years of this I somehow cracked the frame and had no money for another bike. Again, I stepped away from the bike.

Every summer I would watch the Tour de France, and miss the bike. I would start to save to buy one, hoping to get back out on the road again. A couple of weeks after the Tour was over I would forget about it and spend the money. Running was cheaper, I was good at it, and that was enough for me.

I eventually graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree and then with my master’s. I found my first job as an athletic trainer and moved to Texas. I quickly found that I didn’t have the time to even run anymore, much less ride. Besides, I was barely able to pay the bills, I didn’t have money to waste on a bike that I couldn’t even ride safely on the roads where I lived. But, three years later, during the summer of 2000, I moved to New York.

I found the time to start running again and the area was perfect for riding. I was still scraping by financially, but I managed to dig up enough money to buy a Trek 4500 mountain bike. I justified the purchase because I needed it for work. I started riding that around campus, using it as a way to get from field to field providing medical coverage for games. As the year progressed I found some trails and started riding them as well.

The following school year I signed up to do a 60 mile ride for MS and knew that I didn’t really want to ride a mountain bike that far. Again I felt I had justification to buy a bike and scraped together enough to buy a Trek 1000 road bike.  My first ride on it was in the MS ride, but soon after I was taking it out fairly regularly for rides. I was still putting in my miles running, but I was supplementing with my bike and loving it. That winter when the weather prohibited running outside I put road bike on my trainer and got my workouts in that way.

The next summer I started riding a couple of times a week. Never big miles, but decent rides of anywhere from 20 to 45 miles. I felt great and I was loving the bike again. But, as the summer wore on the rides grew fewer and shorter and by the start of the school year disappeared totally. I would still pull out the bike and stick on the trainer on the winter days when I couldn’t run, but that only lasted a couple of winters and then both bikes just got left in storage.

For some reason when we got out of school in June of 2006 I pulled out the Trek 1000 and loaded her on back of my truck before setting out for my usual summer of wandering around visiting family and friends. My first destination was my parents’ place in Michigan. I had couple siblings and a handful of friends still living in the area as well. I was about midway through my 10 hour drive when I got a call from a friend that lived ‘near’ my parents. He had just done his first triathlon, a sprint, that last weekend and wanted me to do one with him in the upcoming weekend. We discussed it for a while and I told him I would think about it.

The triathlon bug had actually first bitten me back in the 80’s when I watched The Wide World of Sports coverage of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. I already knew that I was an endurance athlete and after watching the race coverage I decided someday I would do Ironman. As with many other things, that plan was soon pushed to the back of my mind and virtually forgotten, but the hooks had been sunk in me. As I drove on it came back to me and the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was something I still wanted to do. A sprint triathlon was much, much shorter, but I had to start somewhere. So by the time I pulled into my parent’s driveway I was determined to become a triathlete.

The next morning I pulled out my bike, cleaned and lubed the chain, inflated the tires and took off on my first ride in a couple of years. I was already in pretty good shape because I had been running regularly, so I was able to hold a pretty good pace. I didn’t go very far that first ride, only about 15 miles, but it was a start and it was the distance that I would be riding in the upcoming triathlon. My butt was a bit tender, but it felt great to be back out on the bike again.

Despite a horrible swim I went on to have a good first triathlon that weekend. I managed to make the podium, finishing 3rd in my age group, just nipping my friend at the end. The hooks were now fully set and I continued to ride and train for triathlons the rest of the summer. I would do one more sprint a couple of weeks later and started to dream of Ironman.

As the summer ended and I headed back to work my triathlon training started to taper off and I soon was just running again. Fortunately we had a new coach working at the school who was a 6 time Ironman finisher and the fires were soon relit. The two of us hit it off and we were soon riding regularly together and it was only a couple of weeks later that I signed up for and did my first half ironman triathlon. In the race I rode my low end 1000 and found myself passing bike after bike, many of them 5-10 times the value of mine. I wasn’t setting any records, but I was definitely holding my own. I ended up posting a 5:08 in my first 1/2 Ironman and even though I would have a couple of faster bike splits, it would take 9 more tries before I would surpass that time.

After completing my 3rd triathlon I knew my distant dream was doable. Ironman! I soon told my new girlfriend of it and my plans to register for Ironman Lake Placid the next summer. After she stopped laughing and explained the race was already closed out, as were all the rest, and how hard it was to get into them I was crushed. I continued to train and ride my bike on a regular basis, but my motivation was slipping and the bike was in danger of being put back into storage, but fortune struck.

About a month later my girlfriend told me she had just heard that they were going to have a new Ironman race the following summer in Louisville, KY and that registration would soon open for it. I made plans and shortly after registration opened I was on the computer hitting keys with desperation, I was going to get in! I was successful but it was many months before the race closed. Which on hindsight wasn’t too surprising. Louisville in August was not going to be pleasant. It is normally very hot and very humid and swimming in the Ohio River is never a real pleasure. But, it was an Ironman, and I was going to do it.

I continued to ride all fall and winter with my girlfriend. She started suggesting that if I was going to stay with triathlons and especially since I was doing an Ironman, that I might want to upgrade my bike. There was nothing wrong with the bike, but it was heavy and not really meant for speed. She was certain I’d be much happier with a better bike. She wasn’t suggesting I needed to jump up to a high end, but that I should at least consider a midlevel bike. She made sense, but I loved my 1000 and I pretty much ignored her for a while. The thought did roll around in my brain occasionally, and I would even look around online at different bikes, but I wasn’t ready to give this one up, yet.

As spring started to roll around I was still riding regularly. I loved being out on my bike. Running was still my first love, but my heart had found room for a second one. Around this time I also started noticing that bikes were going on sale and I soon found myself exploring the internet more often looking at what was out there and watching the sales. I started finding myself going back and checking out the 2006 Trek Madone 5.9 almost daily and eventually, I fell in love and bought her.

When my new bike arrived I was excited and couldn’t wait to take her out for a ride. She was so light and felt very fast and I was ear to ear smile the entire first ride. I came home and my 1000 was put back into storage. I decided to keep her as a backup bike for use in bad weather or in case something happened to the Madone. I still had a soft spot for the 1000, but she had been replaced.

I kept putting on the miles all spring. My longest ride though had only been about 65 miles. I needed to get in some longer ones if I really wanted to succeed at Ironman. Shortly after the school year ended I did an 80 mile ride followed a couple of weeks later by my first century. We stopped for lunch about 60 miles into the century, but I still completed it in one day, so I was getting closer to ready.

Around the 2nd week of July, 2007, I found out from my girl friend, via a friend of hers, that there was a group of triathletes that were planning to ride from Westchester, NY up to Lake Placid the week before Ironman and then stay up there and watch the race. I had ridden once early in the summer with a couple of them at one of their regular tri club rides and they seemed like a good bunch, so I asked for contact info to see if they would allow me to tag along. The ride they were planning was going to be about 300 miles over a two day period. It would be a huge step up for me, but I felt I could handle the challenge. I was riding well and feeling very strong and confident on the bike.

When I got a hold of the guy that was leading the ride he told me that due to a lot of people dropping out of the ride that he had decided to make it a one day ride. It was going to only be him and couple of other riders. He asked me how much experience I had and I lied telling him that I had done up to 160 miles in one day. I felt if he knew the truth that I would surely be left behind. He reluctantly agreed to allow me to join in.

I showed up at his place around 1am the morning of the ride. By this time the group was done to me and him and one other person who would only be riding about halfway with us. We set out through the dark and started our journey. It was a long ride and it turned out to be quite an adventure (which hopefully I’ll write up some day). The last half of the ride was in a cold, pouring rain with high winds. There were several times where I felt like I was done and could go no further, but somehow I’d get another wind and claw my way back into the ride. It took us 19 ½ hours to complete the 300 mile ride, which included our stops for food, drink, mechanical issues, etc. Our actual riding time was 18 hours and we averaged 16.5 mph for the ride. I was exhausted, cold and hungry by the time we reached Lake Placid, but I now finally felt I could call myself a cyclist.

We stayed and watched the race and I cheered my girlfriend on as she completed her 7th Ironman. The next morning after the race we headed to the fairgrounds to register for next year’s race. I was soon signed up to do my 2nd Ironman and had yet to do my 1st.

I did several ½ Ironman races over the course of the summer and completed my 1st Ironman in Louisville in a very respectable 11:40. I was now officially in my mind a runner, a cyclist and a triathlete. My love affair with the bike continued to grow. I continued to run, ride and do triathlons. My girlfriend moved away after that summer and went back to school. We continued to date for a while, but eventually she broke things off. I continued on with my new passions, despite losing my best training partner.

This last summer as I was in final preparation for my 4th Ironman (3rd at Lake Placid) I took my Madone in for a tune up and new tires and tubes to make sure everything was perfect for the race. While I was at the bike shop I started admiring a Cervelo that they had on sale. As I was talking to the guys that worked there they couldn’t help but notice were my attention was focused and one of them eventually told me that if I really liked that bike they should see the one they had in the show room. He took me over and showed me a 2009 Cervelo P2 tri bike with Dura Ace components. Since this was 2010 and the bike was still there, it was marked down pretty low. We talked, and talked and finally I said that I couldn’t afford it at the time and I finally left.

I got home and found that I couldn’t get my mind off of the bike. I kept telling myself I didn’t need it, the Madone was a great bike and besides, I really couldn’t afford it. The next day I went to pick up my Madone and I was feeling confident that I had dismissed the idea of buying the Cervelo. I got to the shop, paid for my Madone and took her out and loaded her on my truck. But, before I knew it I was back in the show room looking at the Cervelo. It wasn’t long before they convinced me to take it out for a test ride. I fell in love in the first mile. She was fast! And I felt super comfortable on her. When I returned from the ride they could tell from my smile that I was buying her. We haggled a bit and they came down a bit more on the price and soon she was mine.

It was the weekend before Ironman when I bought the Cervelo. I knew it was crazy, but my intent was to ride her in the race. I’d done no training on her and it would break one of the big rules of racing, don’t change anything race day. I managed to get in about 150 miles on her over the course of the week and felt confident that I could do Ironman on her. I took along the Madone, just in case, but the day before the race it was the Cervelo I put in transition.

I would go on to set a couple new PR’s in the race. I finished in a time of 11:20, which was 20 minutes faster than my PR in Louisville and I did the bike course in 5:45 breaking my PR, once again from Louisville, by several seconds. Several seconds doesn’t seem like much, but Louisville is very flat and fast and Lake Placid is a very challenging course and it was over 20 minutes faster than I had done the bike course at Lake Placid. I again had found a new love. I would continue to ride the Madone for most of my training, but the Cervelo was now my go to race bike. I stripped the Madone of her aerobars for the first time since I bought her and made her into a true road bike again.

This fall as the tri season came to an end and winter started approaching I decided it was time to put the Cervelo away for the season. I continued to ride the Madone, but after having spent more money than I really could afford on the Cervelo, I was all the more concerned about damaging the Madone. I had been riding her the last few winters, but in the back of my mind I knew that if something happened I could scratch together enough money to buy a new bike. Maybe not as high a level of bike, but a decent one. This was no longer an option.

 The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was time to break out the 1000 again. She hadn’t been pulled out of storage in a couple of years, but I figured with simple adjustments and cleaning I could have her ready to ride. So out she came, but unfortunately I soon realized that it was going to take a lot more work than I expected. The chain was rusted solid, the brakes weren’t working, the cables frayed and the tires were rotten. She looked so bad, I almost just took her straight out to the dumpster. But, I still had a bit of a soft spot for her and I really didn’t want to continue to risk the Madone, so I got to work.

I went online and ordered all of the parts I would need. When they came in I spent several hours tearing her apart, cleaning, installing the new parts, lubing and getting everything adjusted. It was hard work but when I was done she looked good and I couldn’t wait to get her out for a ride. The next day we went for 40 hilly miles together and with each passing mile my smile started to grow. I was falling in love again. She was old, she was heavy and she was low end, but I loved her and found resurgence in my love of riding. I hadn’t fallen out of love with riding, but it felt like falling in love again for the first time. I couldn’t believe that I had left her in storage for so long, but that was now corrected and I know she won’t be going back.

After all of these years I’m 100% hooked on cycling. I regret all of the years that I let slip away without the bike, but nothing I can do about it except to keep on riding. Every time a new bike comes along my passion is renewed and I fall back in love with the sport again. I even now have plans to get my 4500 back out of storage and get her fixed up as well. However, it is simple to figure out that it is riding that I truly love and that it’s not about the bike.

But, yet, it is…


About Douglas Sawyer, MS, ATC

I am an athletic trainer who is also a very avid athlete. My first love is running, but I also love cycling and triathlons and many other activities. I'm not a swimmer though, I just don't drown for 2.4 miles... As a athletic trainer I work with sports injuries. I currently work at a school with athletes in 7th-12th grade in a wide variety of sports. I can be found on twitter at two different names: @IronmanLongRunr - where I tweet about run, bike, tri, & more @Longrunr - where I tweet about athletic training
This entry was posted in bike, Cycling, Ironman, Race, repair, Training, Triathlon and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to It’s Not About The Bike…

  1. easyrider says:

    Great Post, doesn’t matter what you are on riding in the open air is the best.

  2. sarat - DM mentee says:

    This is an amazing post..I loved your post about cycles and your love for them..I have to ride on my hybrid too..thanks once again for the great posts…

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