Drafting: to ride close behind another bike so as to benefit from the reduction in air pressure created behind the bike ahead.
I learned the basics of drafting while cycling last year from my friend Kay. It was a true case of the blind leading the blind, but we got the gist of it. I am not sure what surprised me more – that it worked or that I did it without crashing into her because I was following about 4 inches from her back tire. Afterwards, I went home and read a few articles on it (thus making me an ‘expert’) and learned there is a long stretch of beneficial air flow, and in the future I could follow at a safer distance. Practice makes perfect, and now I can recognize that sweet spot behind a rider much quicker. I usually feel a little guilty (Catholic girl problems) because I am leeching off the person in front, even though I know my turn pulling is coming up.
A couple of weeks ago I rode in the Ganther Race the Lake around Lake Winnebago. This is a 90 mile race – not a ride. Normally I take part in ‘rides’ which are not timed and nobody is trying to win, so this had a much different feel to it. There were waves of riders tiered on speed, with the élite riders first and the slowest riders last. I signed up with Kay, who had done this race last year, and we lied a teensy bit about our normal ‘average’ pace to get in a faster wave because last year Kay found she was dodging slower riders and had a harder time finding people to draft with.
This was my first bike race and I was pretty nervous. During the weeks earlier I wasted a lot of energy worrying about finishing on time and trying to devise a plan of action to make sure I finished in the allotted 8.5 hours. Kay assured me we would have plenty of time and she was right. It was finally our turn and we set off at a brisk 20 mph pace in our pack of 100+ riders. I found it was surprisingly easy to keep up that speed with so many riders drafting together, and we rocked the first 45 miles in two and a half hours, including one rest stop. It was a huge, exhilarating, bike vortex that just sucked us along, leaving us grinning and confident at the mid point High Cliff rest stop. I felt so…professional.
Unfortunately, the second half had higher elevations (the first being High Cliff Park’s mammoth hill) and it started out with me losing my chain and falling over in my clips (totally embarrassing – so much for my pro career). Because of the hilly terrain, we lost our ‘pack’ and the miles were a lot slower and harder without the momentum of drafting. However, we finished with an overall time of 6 hours and 15 minutes, and I was pretty happy with that (even though they were out of beer by then), considering how worried I was that it was going to take me the entire eight and a half hours.
Drafting is a principle I wish I could apply more often in my spiritual life as well. If I could follow God more closely and let him pull me along, life would be a little easier I think. I could catch my breath, check out the scenery, grab a drink. Maybe even have a conversation with him that didn’t start with “Lord, I’m in a pickle…”
Most times I am off on my own route, going uphill against a 50 mph wind, and then it starts to rain and my chain falls off and I get a flat tire and tip over in my clips, all while a manure truck flies past spraying me with gravel and poop spores. Poop spores are the worst.
Thankfully, God always comes back for me. He’s my spiritual SAG wagon. He fixes my tire, puts my chain back on and shields me from the next inevitable poop wagon. I keep telling myself I am going to try harder to keep my line behind the Lord but trying is not the same as doing (“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda). I’m like my dog Daisy – easily distracted by the squirrels around me and getting my undies in a bundle about the dog next door. I can’t stay mad at her though even if it’s 3am and she won’t get her barking butt back in the house, and I guess God can’t stay mad at me either. Maybe cuz I’m just so darn cute.