Thursday, June 7, 2012

My sister's recovery and the long flat, June 6

Forgive me for posting the same thing to two blogs, but this post has lots to do with biking. The references to rowing are due to my years of competitive rowing and my sister's family's continued involvement in the sport. Her husband's name is John, and her son, Ben, is 6'6," thus the reference to his large hands.

Hi, my little potato bug,

Tomorrow you leave Spaulding, and despite Corinne’s beautiful smile and Brooke’s cajoling and Anne’s insistence on one more step or lunge or arm curl, you won’t look back. That’s the point, of course. I’m including a photo from the window you’ve had for the last 8 weeks.

Recently a neighbor who’s started biking asked how to improve her speed on the flat. I’m no expert; I’ve been riding for only 8 years or so. But on rides of 3-8 hours, you think about technique, especially when you run out of other thoughts.

And riding is surprisingly like rowing: technique matters. When you’re riding hard and well, the strokes feel light. The stroke should be quite different than the recovery. (Funny what context does for words like stroke and recovery…) In biking, the rpm is higher than in rowing (80+ rpm ideally), and therefore, more difficult to analyze. Near the top of the revolution is the time to push, before the top, and then, relax for a split second, and pull around the bottom of the revolution, relax, push, relax, pull… It’s important not to work all the time, to utilize big muscle groups like both quads and hams, and most of all, look up. Last weekend along the Columbia River, heron and osprey and kestrels and seagulls laughed at me. As usual.

Ten days ago at Spaulding you were doing things you couldn’t have done when I saw you the last time: walking without mechanical devices, feeding yourself, spotting someone approaching you from the left side. Ten days ago you walked along the Charles, cut your food with your fork in your left hand, zipped up your jacket, and did lunges. Lunges. One foot out. Balance. Lower your weight. Balance. Back foot forward. Breathe. Other foot out. Balance. Lower. Step. Your ballet training kicking in.

You are making such fast progress it may be hard for you to analyze what you’re doing. You are pushing the pedals at just the right places and propelling yourself forward. Those of us lucky enough to see you can tell you that you are blazing fast, that your technique is perfect, that Lance Armstrong is your peer.

And the next few weeks will be the flat. It may be a long route, but you have more determination and more drive than anyone I’ve seen. Quick and light strokes are good for biking. For you, I imagine the trick is the repetition, the unconscious movements like picking up that fork, and the looking up, seeing John walking toward you, or feeling the playful touch of Ben’s enormous hand making your hand look like a child’s. Those will be your osprey, not laughing at you, but cheering you on, encouraging you on the flat. I’m cheering you, too, from just a little farther away.

You go, girl.