N**g**/Jibaro moments on the way to Peru

Growing up in Michigan, I had an African-American friend who used to refer to those embarrassing cultural moments as nigger moments.  I know, I know… it’s not politically correct to say the N word, but I didn’t know any better, and I had a moment all to myself when I tried to use the same phrase, even among the same friend who had taught it to me earlier.  Apparently, only (some) African-Americans can use that word, and even so in selected circles.  Fair enough.  Lesson learned.

Lucky for me, I have a whole slew of other pejorative self deprecating words I can use instead that are both politically accepted and equally as funny.  There are trailer trash moments, as well as ghetto moments, but being a card holding member of the sovereign nation of Puerto Rico, I think I can use the jibaro moment card at will.  After all, I didn’t have a working phone until I was 15, and when I did we were restricted to 40 calls a month before the monthly rate doubled.

For those of you in the dark, my friend Doel (previously from Puerto Rico and now safely ensconced in Peru) invited me to cycle from Lima to Cuzco on a bicycle.  Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, I didn’t quite think about the details.  He had me at “cycle”!

Little did I know that the route was not as the crow flies, but as the llama walks.  Not the 500 kilometers I thought I calculated by looking at the map, but 1200 grueling kilometers over snow capped mountains. Let’s call this my jibaro moment #1.

Thinking it was only 500 kilometers, and knowing from past experience that Doel is always (a) overweight (b) under-trained, I presumed that I could show up with no training, and still have to wait for him. Fast forward 4 months when I get a call from him asking how my training is going.  I jested… “pffft… are *YOU* still 30 pounds over race weight?”  Well, apparently he was not!

After I admitted that I’ve been drinking beer and going to sleep on a full belly every night, I got quite an elaborate earful.  “Hey, dumbass.. have you looked at the course profile?  It’s 1200 kms… over mountains… some topping 4,000 meters just for the road, not the top itself.  Do you want me to scratch you out of the list? Because, I’ve been training for the last 3 months and have dropped 25 pounds”.

Now that hurt!  He actually thought I couldn’t make it.  And frankly, neither did I.  I said I’d be in shape, hung up the phone, and pulled out my calculator… Four and a half weeks minus one half week of recovery left 4 solid weeks of training with absolutely no room for error.  I couldn’t get sick.  I couldn’t get injured, and I couldn’t miss a day.  Somehow in the span of a month I had to work myself up to 5-6 hour rides on the weekends, without getting sick, something I don’t think I even did when I was racing.

So…I put the calculator down and got on my bike, riskily ramping up the miles every few days.  What I wasn’t prepared for was for the body breaking down.  I wanted to blame it on age, but I had never gone from 10 beers to 100 mile days in a few weeks, so let’s just say it was lack of training.  My upper body was killing me.  I looked like a robot at work, not being able to turn my neck.  I was downing Tylenol’s like they were Tic-Tacs, and then I started getting this annoying hamstring pain that I convinced myself I could train through. I mean, if I couldn’t train myself up to 100 miles, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be able to get over the first day, let alone the first real mountain pass.

I started panicking, but I marched on.  I pulled out all the tricks. More fruits and vegetables.  Elevating the legs while working. Sleeping copious amounts of hours.  Getting a proper bike fit by a Tour de France fitter. Stretching and yoga.  Until finally I had to bring in the expert– a Pro Tour massage therapist in California.  I mean, if I look the (anorexic) part, I might as well get serviced by the best.

I called a few pro bike shops and eventually was referred to Veronika Lenzi (Ronnie) who would see me on short notice.  I showed up in shorts, politely smiled, and as she walked out the door she told me… “strip and lie down on the table; I’ll be right back.”

Ok, here is where it gets confusing.  I’m so slim, that people assume I’m a pro.  I’m not.  I show up to a running race and they think I’m a Kenyan.  I show up to a cycling race and for the first half hour I’m not allowed to blow my nose without the whole pack lining up behind me.  So naturally, Ronnie assumed I was too, and required no further instruction…

…but I did.  When someone says strip, face down on the table, what do *you* understand?  As she closed the door I asked “naked, on the table?”.  I think I heard a yes.  Now this is where the jibaro moment shined right through.  If I remained in shorts, it’d be weird for her, but if I stripped as instructed it’d be weird for me.  Deciding she must know what she was doing, I did as instructed.  And this is where I am ashamed to say that as I was lying down, as a 3 year old calls to his mommy to finish the proceedings in the bathroom, I managed to say “I’m reaaaaddyy”.  As she walks in, I’m face down and barely manage to mumble “you mean, like this?”, when all of a sudden it hit me… Oh…crap, there are sheets underneath.

If Ronnie was embarrassed, she was too much of a professional to let it show. She politely went up to the table, got another sheet, and put it over me.

It’s at that moment that I remember how funny the phrase N***** moment sounded when I heard it two decades ago, and how this jibaro had let everybody know in a span of 2 minutes, that he had grown up on a coffee plantation in Rio Cañas Arriba, Mayaguez.  You can take me out of the farm, but you sure as hell can’t take the farm out of me.

p.s. So..here I am in Lima.  The carnival leaves tomorrow, and I’m as trained as I could conceivably get in 4 weeks with a bum hamstring.  I say bring it!  I grew up on a farm; I’m used to hard work!

p.p.s. If any of you is ever in northern California, I highly recommend Ronnie Lenzi. Now only can she deal with professionals, but she has stories galore, and is able to politely deal with neophytes like myself.

With a little help from my friends...