Monday, July 13, 2009

Rides of Not(e): Tour de Couch

For me, motivation is a zero-sum game. I only have so much of it, and if it's spent on something off the bike, I don't have any left for rides. Such has been the case for the last two weeks, which has seen most of my free time spent on La Musette, the "temporary restaurant" we put on during the Tour de France.

La Musette serves a multi-course meal with dishes and wine chosen from the regions of France the Tour is passing through on a given Stage, which we show on a big screen in the garage. It's a great show-case for LO's amazing culinary skills and an excellent opportunity to generate about seven million dirty dishes. We run the restaurant out of our crappy, 1970's era kitchen and seat about 30 people in the backyard. Everyone loves LO's food, there are kudos all round and everybody has a jolly time eating and drinking and watching the pros race each other at speeds that seem, to me, entirely implausible.

On the downside, putting the thing on requires vast amounts of time and energy, things I lack in the best of times. As a result, I haven't gotten many miles in on the bike and my fitness is steadily going backwards. It has taken me the last two years to get my average speed up by about 1.5 mph. But for some reason, I can lose that ability in just two weeks. I think my body's natural condition is a gelatinous pool, sort of like the liquid metal Terminator only more fat-ass than bad-ass.

In fact, I've been so fried by all the Musette-ing I've spent most of the last two Sundays on the couch, catching up on the Tour stages on the Tivo. When it comes to performance on the couch, I am more Jens Voigt than Fred. I have the strength, stamina and will to remain on the couch through the most grueling, longest stages, no matter the weather. My technical skills with a remote are legendary: I can program the Tivo in the pitch dark without looking once at the buttons and my speed at skipping commercials, when I'm on my game, is unmatched. Still, like Jens, I must admit that age is starting to catch up with me. Protracted sitting hurts my old back and hip joints and I can no longer drink hard enough to produce a hangover with the potency to elicit a couching session over 14 hours. Still, I soldier on.

(Speaking of Jens, I want to wish him a speedy recovery from the injuries he suffered in a horrific crash during a descent at the end of Stage 16. It seems even Jens can have moments of Fredness.)

Over the last two Sundays I reckon I put in a solid 12-14 hours on the couch, watching over 400 miles worth of skinny guys pedaling a bike through spectacular countryside deprived by the evils of Socialism of the freedom to post Stuckey's billboards every 20 feet.

I did notice one up-side to this marathon of sloth. Riding to work, I found myself staring at my knees while I unconsciously visualized the typical three-quarter profile shot of tour riders, their legs pumping as smoothly and efficiently as the pistons of a german sedan, probably a Mercedes. Sure enough, my cadence was higher than my usual 85-90. I think I had watched so much cycling that I had lifted my cadence to match that of the pros in the image burned into my memory registers like that 5th grade science lesson where you put a leaf or Star Wars action figure on a piece of photographic paper and then set it out in the quiet part of the school yard, over by the Special Ed trailers.

This week, when I ride, I will try to use Jens as my little plastic Obi Wan.