Friday, September 10, 2010
"Could be worse. Could be raining," Igor says in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, just before it starts to rain.
We Midwestern cyclists could have a similar Pollyanna refrain: "Could be worse. Could be chip-sealed."
Chip-seal is a pavement-maintenance material and technique that, to my untrained sensibilities, works like mopping your floor with mud. Yeah, I don't get it, either. What they do - again, I'm not a highway engineer, but if I get a few details wrong, trust me, I've got the feel for it - is take gravel about the size of ball bearings only with sharper edges, mix it with a little bit of tar, and then apply it to a paved road. There's little enough tar in it so that it can be scattered, rather than poured, all over the road. And there's enough tar in it so that the heat of the sun and the weight of car tires eventually mush it down until it hardens into an additional layer of pavement. More specifically, an additional layer that follows the same beat-up contours of the old surface, but with a new texture that turns the road into one long Magic Fingers mattress, no quarters needed.
From a cyclist's standpoint, there's just enough tar in the mixture to give the stones free rein to fulfill their ball-bearing destiny while sticking to your tires so that if the lack of friction doesn't dump you, there's always the chance of a flat tire. The closest thing to an upside is that you're not terribly to crash, because you know what that gravel will feel like embedded in your hip, so you ride with all the carefree nature of a bomb-squad detective with a cluster migraine.
This weekend is the Rev3 Sandusky, a 140.6-mile triathlon (what is generically known as the full Ironman distance, except that the Ironman folks who own the trademark are not too thrilled with the idea of something that valuable becoming generic) in Ohio. I was toying with the idea of racing it when I was planning this season out, but I couldn't do both that and the exquisitely accurately named Savageman* in western Maryland a week later. I decided on the latter and I don't regret it.
I will regret it at some point, as will anyone who's trying hard enough on what Triathlete magazine deemed the toughest triathlon course in the world. And that's when I will remind myself what I heard from my bike mechanic earlier today: The road commission down there reportedly chip-sealed the Cedar Point course this week.
My heart goes out to the racers, and just as much to the organizers.
At least it's not supposed to rain. That would be worse.
* Do click on this link if you've got time to kill; it is, in my opinion, the most appealing, well-done Web page in the triathlon world
Posted by Jef Mallett at 3:20 PM