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It’s Not Easy Being Lean…


June 2012

Yesterday’s club ride was not good for me.  I thought one recovery ride would be enough for my legs to come back after a really stellar training weekend.  I was wrong.  My inequities, how should I say, were shining in their impressiveness last evening – yes, that’s a pretty way of saying I was not in top form.

After getting home from the office, I waxed my bike and got my supplies ready while the wax set up.  I packed everything into the truck and went in to polish my bike up…  Things were looking fairly good and I felt ready, though I did have that nagging “what if” in the back of my mind.  Facing facts, I went at my training really hard on Saturday and Sunday.  There were easy legs – my ride out to the running club was slow by normal standards and half of my 10k was slow too, but the longer ride back to the house and the last half of my 10k were done at my highest level.  Sunday didn’t seem to be too tough with a 20 mile day on the fat tire bike, even though I knocked 21 minutes off of my last ride through the 13 mile trail, followed by a relatively fast ride looking for my wife and kids I really felt quite good after I was done…  An easy and slow recovery ride on Monday, I figured would be just the thing to shake any cobwebs loose.

Oh my, no – that was not the case.  We started off really easy to wait for everyone to get in line, a fair crowd but not as big as two weeks ago – and I was up front, where I most decidedly do not belong early on.  We were two miles in before we even touched 20 mph, but it went crazy from there – by mile 4 we were up to 24 mph, and part of that was my pull.  And that’s just about the time I blew up.  My “want to” went right out the door.  I dropped off the back and spent 20 seconds at 16 mph to catch my breath before picking up my pace.  The next ten miles I maintained a steady 19.5 mph pace into a steady breeze, just waiting to catch the tailwind.  When I turned the corner at 15 I could have sworn I saw somebody up ahead that I could latch on to so I gunned it.  With a cross-tailwind I managed 21-25 mph over the next 5 miles trying to catch up (minus a stiff climb that I attacked as hard as I dare).  The 21st mile is downhill so I kept a 22 mph pace through that before we got to some pretty steep climbs, and that’s where I reeled my guy in.  I hung on to his wheel for a few minutes and then took a pull myself – he had aero bars so I figured he’d be ok.  When I started my pull, he faded back – he must have been more gassed than I was (or he wanted to ride alone).  I was off on my own again by mile 23.

I had decided after I chose to drop off the back that I’d be taking the short cut, knocking 3 miles off of my ride, because I wasn’t exactly feeling all that good at mile 5, I figured by mile 31 I’d be wrecked with 2 miles to go.  By mile 25 and 26 I was starting to see-saw.  I’d get up to 22 and hold that for a bit then drop down to 16, catch my breath and ramp the speed back up…  That’s when some of the big dogs caught up with me (I’d taken the short cut).  Matt and Mike and a few of the other guys, so I latched on with them for a bit.  After crossing an intersection we worked our way up to 20, then 22, 24 and at 26 for more than half a mile – that’s when my proverbial wheels fell off.  I dropped off the back, shut the GPS down and crawled for the 3/4’s of last mile.  I know what the problem is – specifically.  I know where my threshold is and I’m very good at riding just under it.  The problem shows up when I have to ride at or above it…  I’m only good for a few minutes before I have to back off.  That’s exactly what happened.

In the end, I thought I’d done a lot worse while I was on my bike and judging by my overall average (19.3), but going back through the ride, mile by mile, I actually hung in there pretty good until I started to see-saw, and for the last 3/4’s of a mile.  Surprisingly well actually – I’d bet the see-saw alone knocked a good three tenths off the overall average and I left another three tenths out there…  But that doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely busted my ass to do it.  I finished beaten up.

I’m not done yet though – this gets interesting!

When I pulled into the parking lot, Mike (one of the faster guys and one of the last guys I’d ever expect to offer some friendly advice) came over and said, “you know you didn’t have to fall off back there”.  I told him that I just didn’t have anything left, that I’d busted my butt to catch one of the aero bar guys for miles – but deep down I now know he was right (sure didn’t feel like it then though).  I had the ability, what I lacked was the “want to”.  In response he offered another tidbit, even more unexpected; he said, “you just need to learn how to hide”…  And when I asked him how he got so fast and how I could hide, he simply said, “I’m beat by the time I get out here.  I already rode this morning and I worked half of the day.  I just take short pulls and hang out in the back.  As far as learning how to hide goes…”  He just pointed at Matt and said, “he’s the best there is”.

And then Mike asked me if I wanted to join them on an 80 mile 4th of July ride.  I must have splashed a little spittle on my shoes when my jaw dropped onto them.

So I’ll have 80 miles with my Yoda to learn how to hide.

A ride that I thought would end sucky turned out to be just the thing I needed, and it really went a long way in reinforcing my belief in the social aspect of cycling…  And from the least likely of the forty odd people I’ve met out there.  That was a really nice surprise.

Oh, and one other thought…  Had I put too much weight on the manner in which I perceive other people I’d have missed out on some great advice and an invitation to ride with some really great guys – and just ended up with a sucky ride.  I can withdraw and be an asshole because I think someone doesn’t like me, as juvenile as that reads (I can’t believe I actually typed it), as would have been the case with the way I misread Mike, but then I’d have missed the lifeline that he threw me – hell, I wouldn’t have been close enough to see it.

Live and learn grasshopper, live and learn.  Talk about a full circle.


  1. Kimberly / says:

    Awesome post! This has been my summer of putting myself in unfamiliar situations with people I would normally think were too rude to talk to me or not interested in talking to me… or just too athletically out of my league. After many situations where swimmers have been mean and rude, I am still going out to open water swim practice on a weekly basis. Last night, I struck up a conversation with a woman who gave me excellent advice on where to find the kind of biking hills I’ll need to train for my next big challenge… a conversation I never would have had with my old mindset.

    • bgddyjim says:

      That’s always a tough call… We have a guy on Tuesday – jackass brought his TT bike to the group ride, he’s the most enormous jerk I’ve ever met… Now if he knew where the fountain of youth was, the secret would die with him before I’d… Well, you get the picture.

      Some folks are too big a jerk to deal with, some are just misunderstood. It’s a craps shoot.

  2. […] frequent, Matt.  It’s been four months filled with a lot of “ups” and a few “downs”, but all of that is really paying enjoyable dividends lately.  It’s taken all of that time […]

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