I went for that 12 mile run with Pete and Jeff today on snow-covered back roads. The sun was shining and the wind, she was a blowin’. It was a chilly day, around 20 degrees but the sun really helped out. We decided on an easy pace and kept it around 9:30’s to start. After three miles we started picking up the pace, dropping down to 8:45’s for a bit… Pretty average on good road, but moving at a pretty fair clip on the snow. Around mile seven we slowed it back down again to keep from blowing up at the end. From there it was low 9’s till we hit mile 10.91. The course Pete had picked out was hilly as all get out and we were all getting tired of them. Pete started walking up a nice one – I joined him and that was my undoing. I could feel my left hamstring tighten up immediately so I gave it a quick rub and got back to running. Unfortunately it cramped up big time – I was certain I was cooked. I tried to stretch it but that just caused worse cramping, with just over a mile to go… I limped along for a few hundred yards, then turned into the wind for the last mile. I froze my butt off, quickly. Just as I was starting to get nervous about hypothermia (sweat, 20 degrees (F) and wind don’t mix well), my hamstring loosened up. Not wanting to hurt myself any more, I took it very easy, just fast enough to keep my body temp up. I went into Pete’s and sat down. That wasn’t too bright. Pain shot up the back of my leg so I tried to slowly stretch it out a bit. After five minutes or so the pain was manageable enough to drive home. On making it back I immediately started on my stretches and actually feel a lot better than I normally do after a long run, though the hamstring is still really tight. I’ll have to see how it goes, but I have pretty high hopes that a couple weeks of stretching will get me back to square and that I won’t have to take any time off.
The flu has been going through our house… My youngest had it last weekend through Tuesday and just as she was getting better the oldest started in with the fever. I have had moments where I thought I was coming down with it too but so far I’ve managed to refuse to get sick. Now I mean that how it sounds. I freakin’ refuse to allow my body to get sick, and it works – not every time – but often enough.
I’m curious, have you tried to refuse to get sick?
I have a hangup with training. I admit it freely. I love riding my bikes – I mean it, I freaking dig it, but I just haven’t found a way to translate that into actual training. It’s like this; you hit 42 years-old and you think back on when you were a kid. It’s summer break and all you’ve got to do is ride ten miles over to your buddy’s house to hang out, shoot pellet guns, jump old bmx bikes into the pond, play some baseball and fun the summer away… That’s how I feel when I ride my bikes. Honest to God – I feel just like that. I like running too though it’s not quite as sexy to me. Running takes a back seat to riding any day. More importantly, if I go too long without running or riding, I feel 42. I get grumpy, my body starts creaking in ways that it normally doesn’t – it’s all bad. I need me some endorphins.
That said, I’m horrible at actual training. While I do push hard, especially on my bikes, I have a serious problem getting into the interval training, staying in certain “zones”, messing around with specific diet plans… Last year I had planned on doing a half Ironman at the end of the season. About four weeks into the training, that feeling was fleeting. All of a sudden it wasn’t about just going out for a ride – I had to get my miles in, I had to ride this far and run that far and work in some intervals… I lost the summer break feel so I dropped the training.
This year I seem to be doing a little better with it though. I’ve managed for two straight weeks to bump up my trainer miles and I’ve kept up my running miles where I wanted them so who knows, maybe I can break through this year. On the other hand, maybe I don’t… Maybe I lose that summer break feeling again. That will remain to be seen, but I can tell you this – if I feel it slipping away again, that half Ironman is off the docket again. I love being in this position. To be fit enough that I can pick and choose what I want to do and whether or not I want to put the effort in to do it – and it won’t make a difference either way.
That said, it looks like I might be running twelve with English Pete, Aaron and Jeff tomorrow…
The other day I posted a little joke about a popular search term about speed on a bike that leads a lot of non-Word Press people to my blog. The search term that had me chuckling was “How do I get above 20 mph” and I responded, “pedal harder, faster and longer”. Another awesome idea was left by Eric in the comments section: Ride downhill! While these answers are both true, and hilarious, they don’t really help the recreational rider get any faster. Considering that the three of the six most popular posts on this blog have to do with speed, I figured I’d give a go at a decent explanation. For a detailed look at how I got fast, go here. That post has everything – miles per day, speed increases – everything.
When I originally started trying to speed up, I thought there was a magic silver bullet “thing” that if I just pedaled a little differently or something, I’d be up in the 22-23 mph range. When I started road biking a year and three months ago, I could already maintain a 20 mph average for a fair distance and I got to that point by riding a mountain bike as hard as I could for the previous six months or so (without looking up the time line). On my mountain bike I was around 15-16 mph average. I searched all over for little tidbits that, put together, might make riding fast a little less work. I think for most of us noobs, the real question that we want answered is, “how can I ride fast… without having to work so damn hard“. And that’s the problem – I don’t think there’s a good answer to that question. Hell, I worked my butt off just to get to 20 mph and what I learned was that I’m not getting a whole lot faster than that without doing some weight training, doing some serious interval training and “un-fun” stuff. Sure, rounding out your pedaling stroke will allow you to maintain your speed a little easier, but it won’t give you an additional mile per hour over any distance. Sure, proper hydration and eating habits help, but they won’t let you jump from 15 mph to 20… It just doesn’t work like that (oh how I wish it did…).
In the end, it really does boil down to hard work. It’s about interval training, hard rides, recovery rides and base miles. It’s about not taking the winter off (whether you choose to ride on a trainer inside or whether you brave the cold weather or run). It’s about eating right and dropping weight so that you’re not so tough to push down the road… And most important of all of the tricks, it’s about pushing passed the point where you want to quit – on a regular and consistent basis. To put the whole thing in a sentence, it’s about pedaling harder, faster and longer – or riding downhill. 😉
On a closing note, and to wrap the post up in a tidy little bow, I did get to a point where trying to get faster became a drag on my enjoyment of cycling. I was on century last fall with about six other guys, most of whom were quite a bit stronger than me. We averaged somewhere between 22 and 24 mph for 90 miles before I finally fell off the back and took it easy the rest of the way in (and I still ended up with an overall average of 20) – I was hurting after 75 miles. For a non-racer that’s not too shabby and I was really happy with it but to get to that level took a lot of hard riding. To get to a level where that didn’t kick my butt would take a lot more of much harder work than I’m willing to commit to the endeavor. Cycling – and all fitness – for me is about balance. Sure I want to be fast, lean and sexy… But at what cost? I’d much rather have my daughter miss me enough to call me at the office twice when she’s home sick from school. That beats fast any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Just a thought.
Mike Cohen, a cancer survivor, will be heading out on an 11,000 mile bike journey across the country to raise funds for post-cancer diagnosis recovery and to improve the lives of patients. He’s looking for people to join him (I’m going to join in for a couple of days when he rolls by Michigan if at all possible). Check out his post…
I don’t know of a distance athlete that hasn’t had to deal with a bit of chafing from time to time. It’s one of those things that come with the territory. There are pre-workout remedies that do help by slicking up the offending areas and I’ve tried a few but I don’t much care for using them. First of all, I’ve never needed them for cycling – and I’ll chalk that up to the excellent bike fitting that Matt Assenmacher gave me because I don’t chafe from riding. Running, on the other hand, get’s me pretty good almost every time I go more than seven miles. Over the years I’ve tried quite a few remedies, A&D Ointment (which works quite well on new tattoos as well), zinc oxide A&D Ointment and a few others. However, when I got my Triathlon tattoo the artist recommended something new… Aquaphor. It healed my tattoo up quite well so I decided to try it on the chafe-age as well, and it works remarkably well. With A&D, the pain was greatly reduced within 12 hours but with Aquaphor the pain is gone in a few hours and the areas are almost entirely healed in 24.
Since I started using Aquaphor, I haven’t worried about chafing at all – it’s become a non-issue. If you have problems with chafing, I can’t crow about this stuff loud enough.
There are two things that they teach you early on in recovery: HALT and FEAR. I’ll discuss both because I’m coping well with one, but the “T” in HALT is throwing me for a loop lately.
First up we’ll handle FEAR. Many will have heard of this: F*ck Everything And Run. Technically it would be better described like this: F*ck Everything And Curl Up Into The Fetal Position On The Floor, Sucking Your Thumb but that would be: FEACUITFPOTFSYT and that wouldn’t make any sense, even if it were more accurate. When your normal drunk begins a lifestyle of recovery, we generally don’t do so on a winning streak. After all, if things are going well, why quit? Well with the wreckage that we create comes a lot of fear. Then, pile on top of that a good dose of fear for the future, and some health fears and a smidge of family fear and there’s a lot to lose sleep over. I am aware of two ways to handle these fears: The first would be FEACUITFPOTFSYT and the other is to begin cleaning up the wreckage by taking action and control over what you’ve created. Often the fetal position may sound like a viable option but I can tell you from experience, it doesn’t work so well. The other alternative is to clean that mess up – and that’s where PEACE comes in: Pretty Excellent And Clean Existence. While a good clean life may not seem like too much fun, I can tell you this from experience; After a good dose of fear and using FEAR to deal with it, PEACE is pretty sexy.
Next up is HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. If I have any one of the HALT items going on, it makes for some bad decisions. Two or more and we’re talking about a mess and a half. Think about it… When you’re feeling fussy, how many of those do you have going on? I’d bet at least one, and probably two or three. Hungry is easy enough – feed your face and do so on an appropriate basis. Angry is often the result of H,L or T but can have its own roots if you’ve recently been spurned in some way. Forgiveness is the answer here, and if you can’t forgive ’em, I’d recommend investing in glass home owner’s insurance because you’re probably chucking rocks at someone else and it’ll eventually end badly for you. Lonely is the toughest one to identify and takes a little practice and a profound ability to be honest when assessing your emotions – Angry is often substituted when Lonely is the culprit. Finally is Tired. We’re not talking about the “I just ran a half marathon and I need a little nappy” tired. We’re talking about the “I’m not sleeping well lately because life has thrown me a curveball and I was sitting on the fastball” version of tired. If you don’t get the “curveball sitting on the fastball” metaphor, in baseball you have fastball pitchers (Justin Verlander) and Curveball pitchers (Kenny Rogers).
When you have a fastball pitcher, you can “sit” on the fastball – you look for fastballs to swing at, letting other pitches go by. In doing so, you can “cheat” by starting your swing a split second early. This allows you to catch up to a pitch that’s coming across the plate at almost 100 mph.
In any event, being Tired can cause two of the other three (AL) to appear intensified. Tired is a killer for a good mood and can lead to or be caused by FEAR in a second. Now many people would recommend getting some sleep. Not me. I look at what’s causing the fear that’s keeping me from sleeping – and dealing with that fear demands action. Now, to keep from falling asleep on the way home from work, I take a nap if I absolutely must… But the important thing for me to do if I’m not sleeping well is through action – or the opposite of FEAR and FEACUITFPOTFSYT.
Now, we will have the negotiators – the “Aw c’mon man, you’re too hard on people” crowd. First, this post is about my experience and how I have dealt with these common problems and I am writing those experiences on this blog for someone who may find that experience helpful. It is perfectly OK if you don’t like it or won’t accept it. Buy a yoga mat and assume the position (thumb in mouth is optional).