walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bikes in Chicago, Weird Triathlon Dreams

This weekend, DD and I flew to Chicago to visit our friends E&L, who are two of my favorite people.  I didn't bring my bicycle, because flying with a bicycle is an enormous pain in the neck, and also because though I am faster than I was a year ago I am still far too slow to ride my bike to Chicago for a three-and-one-half-day visit.  Or, well, maybe not, but I would've had to start out much earlier than Thursday evening.

While there, we rode the 'L' a whole bunch, got caught in a torrential rain storm, visited Oak Park (especially the Frank Lloyd Wrightish parts), ate a ton of really good food (for which I shall do penance in the saddle all week), and saw lots and lots and lots of bicycles.  Once, we even got all urban and sprinted to catch a train just as it was ready to pull out, and DD got all macho and shoved his arm in the door so we wouldn't get left behind.  ...And then we went to see Circque de Soleil.

Coincidentally, we visited Chicago at about the same time last year.  While my observations are less-than-scientific (as usual), I believe I noticed a significant uptick in the number of bicycles on the road.  In fact, I very frequently found occasion to either say or at least think, "Oh, look, bicycles!"  Fortunately, DD thinks this is cute, and not profoundly irritating.  He is, after all, aware that he is marrying a two-legged, un-hairy border collie (speaking of which, I found the newfangled Hairy Harry Potter a bit disconcerting in the final HP movie.  Somehow, I just wasn't quite expecting that).

I also noticed that the vast majority of Chicago cyclists that I observed were plainclothes-wearing cycling civilians (even on the recreational roads along the lakefront).  I saw only a handful of folks in full lycra kit, none of it with big flashy logos (well, two of them had their jerseys off and stuffed into the backs of their shorts, so perhaps theirs did -- hard to ascertain, thus).  Likewise, while I saw several car-top bike carriers, I saw only one bicycle riding around the city on top of a car.  I'm going to guess, based on these observations, that cycling in Chicago is fairly non-elitist.  That's pretty cool.

Next time we're in Chicago, I hope to be able to take a ride on the waterfront, and maybe a dip in the lake.  Perhaps because of this curious aspiration, then, I had a dream this morning of which I am very nearly afraid to speak, for fear of being accused of sympathizing with ... dare I say it? ... triathletes ;)

So, essentially, here's what happened: I signed up for a bike race, got sidetracked doing some kind of work thing, arrived late and missed the start, but decided to ride the route anyway.  I figured I could at least catch a few stragglers and hang out with them, which I did.  As I chatted with one of the stragglers in question, she (this was a mixed-gender, all-categories-together kind of race, apparently) told me that there was going to be a duathlon the next weekend if I wanted to ride this course again.  I said, "Well, I don't know, I don't really run*."  Then she explained that the 'du-' part in this case involved not running, but swimming.

I enjoy swimming considerably, so I said, "Oh, okay.  I won't be very fast, because I haven't swum much recently, but that sounds fun."

Thus, the next week, I returned once again to the same bizarre and confusing college campus, where once again all the racers went off in one big bunch.  We were fine as long as we were out on the roads, but when we returned to campus, we were subjected to its bizarre and confusing system of paths, whereupon we all sort of branched off in different directions as bizarrely-costumed race stewards tried to help us get back on track.  At one point, I wound up at the bottom of a ten-foot high retaining wall -- the race course was supposed to travel along the top of said wall, on another of the campus paths entirely.  I was discouraged, but determined to complete my race -- so I found my way back to the course, convinced that I must now be DFL, only to find that several other racers were at least as confused as I was and that there was yet another group of even-more-confused racers behind us somewhere.  A gentleman dressed up as Dracula helped us get back on track.

We then headed out on a stretch of road that looked rather like one from the 100k a couple weekends back, which led us to the second leg of the race: an open-water swim in some random lake.  I fretted about not having proper swimming clothes, but decided that it would be okay to swim in my bike clothes because they dry quickly.  And, of course, because this was a dream, my shoes conveniently vanished, only to conveniently reappear in the form of sneakers later on.

Just as my little group was ready to jump into the lake, a series of huge waves began lashing the shore.  For a few minutes, we all stood around, looking at each-other as if to say, "I'm not crazy enough to go first."  Then the lady who had told me about the race sort of shrugged and dove in, and I decided to follow.  It took several tries to get free of the big waves, after which we swam a pathetically short distance and emerged on the other side where ...

...People were running?

I said to my friend from the first race, "Oh, I didn't realize this was a tri-athlon!"

She said, "They must have put you back in the wrong group after we all got off course during the bike part.  Don't worry, though, nobody will mind."

To which I replied, "Oh, okay," as if that made any sense at all.

And then we ran straight out of the water, shoes having magically appeared on our feet.  I found myself regretting my lack of cross-training (a fact that plagued me all weekend in real life -- I need to spend more time walking and stretching to balance the time on the bike; walking makes me sore surprisingly fast) and running very slowly, but still not being dead last (in part because many of the remaining swimmers were still slogging through the big waves).

Shortly thereafter, I realized none of this made any sense at all, and woke up.

Of late, my dreams have grown stranger and stranger, but I'm also feeling more creative, so maybe that's a good thing.

That said, I have absolutely no idea what this whole triathlon dream thing is all about.

*In fact, I greatly enjoy running -- off road, in the woods and so forth -- and used to do quite a bit of it.  However, I don't enjoy running in the city, and as such don't generally run unless I am in Chicago and trying to catch the train.  That said, I have nonetheless agreed to take part in a running event coming up in August :)

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