I rode in my first advanced group ride of the season tonight… And before you ask, the Burger King double-dinner afterwards was fabulous.
It did not go well – check that, it depends on the perspective I choose to look at the ride with. In many senses I had a great time – I even had a guy ask if he could throw a rope around me. There was another neat moment but I’ll get to that in a minute… Back to the start.
We left promptly at 6 pm on the nose. After all of the work I put in this winter and my stellar ride on Sunday I had some high hopes. I’d envisioned the ride, reviewed it in my head and saw myself riding into town with the big dogs. I saw it happen. Unfortunately I saw that in my heard, not from the saddle of my bike.
The wind this evening was brutal, 15-19 mph sustained from the south. The first mile of warm up was nice, the breeze actually made the long overdue heat kind if nice. Then we headed north and were maintaining 18 mph without pedaling, an omen. We picked the pace up to about 23 and were probably in the neighborhood of seventy or eighty watts. At the end of that mile we turned around to head back. Oh sweet sister if morale sucking wind did that suck. We pedaled into that hellish vortex without a word… I was huffing for all I was worth within a half-mile. This night was not going to be fun. You see, our prevailing wind is out of the west all summer long and this route only had about ten sucky miles with a west wind. When it’s out of the south, there are 23 sucky miles – it seems as though you’re always fighting the wind – even when it’s at your back it feels as though it’s crossing a bit.
As is usual, the first mile and a half is easy, it gives the group a chance to tighten up. Mid-way through that second mile though it’s on and with a tailwind we were up to 26 mph in a hurry. Things were lovely for a whole two miles. Then a couple into a hefty cross-wind followed by a half with the wind at our backs… Then a hairpin left into sucksville.
I was off the back shortly after that – half of the field peeled off before me and I got left in the echelon gutter, fighting to keep pace with the pack with all of the wind. It was my fault getting left there but I didn’t know how to get back into the draft either so I just faded off of the back…
I went it alone for a while before catching up to a few other guys and we formed a small pack… Two at first, then four and five. I took big pulls at the front because I could see the other guys were in worse shape than I – here’s that other neat moment… I’m just cruising into the wind at about 16 mph and this big fella comes all the way up from the back, gets in front of me and says, “thought you could use a break from the wind”. He was right and he did the same thing two more times. In the cross-wind I kept it at around 18 to keep us together and we just enjoyed our first decent Tuesday out on our bikes.
We took a shortcut that knocks three miles off of the ride and came out 300 yards back of the lead group. Dale, one of the guys remaining in our group, suggested I could catch them if I wanted to. I thought better of that for 3.742 seconds and gave chase. With the help of the wind (and a stop sign) I caught them without issue. Within a quarter-mile we are cruising along at 29 mph… I hung on for a few miles but I was left off the back again.
So here’s my ‘come to Jesus moment’: I put in a lot of miles over the last few days and I’m probably a bit tired, but I really thought I was ready for that ride and I got my ass slammed. Twice. So afterwards I’m talking with my other buddy Mike (who also got dropped) and he mentions his weekend plans… 40 on Thursday, 70 on Saturday and 50 on Sunday. That was really the first time anyone had mentioned how many miles they were putting in to get ready for the season… I can’t put those kinds of miles in (and he still got dropped!). There are three factors at play here: 1) There’s no balance in riding that much – I spent years wasting away in a bar, while riding is a more healthy use of my time to spend that many hours a week on the bike would be trading addictions and I’m simply not willing to go there. 2) My wife is accommodating enough with my riding schedule, I don’t want a divorce. 3) I miss enough of my kid’s at 150 miles a week – enough said. In the end, what I can reasonably give to cycling just isn’t enough and 80-85% of me is okay with that.
And here’s the midlife crisis: That last 15-20% is a problem though. I know I could get to where I need to be with a little more effort and time. Also, and this is the important part, as I ride around on my thousand dollar bike ($3,600 new), my $500 jersey, shorts and jacket, my $110 helmet and my $300 shoe/pedal setup… I can’t help but feel like somewhat of a poseur… I’m close to that awesome but the only thing that’s standing between me and the greatness that I could have had as a kid had I applied myself a little is a bit of willingness and my wife and kids. Ah, if ever there were a mid-life crisis this is it.
So this is the dilemma: Anyone with half a brain knows that the 85% outweighs the 15%, but a lot of men are willing to trash that to hold onto or relive their youth and maybe experience that bit of awesomeness that will make others take notice of just how awesome they are. While I am not one of those men, I can’t just put that 15% to bed and ignore it either. I have to make peace with that in order to truly enjoy that which I do have so my wife and kids don’t get a bitter jerk for a husband and dad. Mrs. Bgddy and I had a nice long talk about that last night (with the Tiger’s game muted in the background 😉 – what a win!) and I made it through the obvious first step or two… Identifying, honestly, a problem and sharing it with another interested party… Now all that’s left is the steps reconciliation – or the tough part, in other words. More on that in the future…
Mid-life crisis? I’ve been planning mine for years. Being a husband and parent I can sympathize – you definitely need to keep that balance healthy. I think of my riding more in terms of hours than mileage but that may be more a factor of riding primarily off-road where distance doesn’t reflect the effort as well. Assuming you’re averaging around 20mph, that’s roughly 7.5 hrs/week or three 2hr. rides. That should be enough to get quite strong for racing unless you’re into ultra-endurance events – I don’t put in any more than that myself. Rest is just as important as training. Are you sure this is a mileage problem? Maybe some interval/sprint type workouts might make the difference? If you really need more time in the saddle, maybe you could steal it from times where it won’t matter such as early morning. I commute to work on my bike to get my “garbage mileage” in since that’s a time of day that would be mostly wasted sitting in the car anyways. Just some thoughts.
That’s interesting. I know I do ride too often, I might take one day a week off (I like riding a little too much)… Maybe I should take one more to get the lawn cut. Thanks for stating how much time you put in. I’ll have to tinker a bit – maybe go half effort a couple of days, intervals on two days and then a long ride… I greatly appreciate the help.
I’m not one to moderate myself well and that’s even more of an issue when it comes to the bike. That said, the best racing season I ever had was the one where I spent the most time off the bike resting (intentionally).
You probably have something there – just keep that hush-hush… Don’t need my wife to figure that one out. 😀
I have to ask myself all the time when is it too much. It so easy to get caught up in the thick of training and riding that sometimes you do not realize everything else that is going on. Good post, I am so with you.
Thanks brother, kind of funny how that works once you figure out that the exercise is actually fun isn’t it?
“40 on Thursday, 70 on Saturday and 50 on Sunday.”
I don’t train to race, but in my books, mileage doesn’t always equate to speed. Sure, it’s necessary to have a good base, but you get fast by training your body to go fast.
Now, with that said, I’m the world’s worst at moderation when it comes to cycling….but I don’t necessarily want to do anything about it!
I’m in the same boat my friend – can’t give up a nice day for a ride for a rest, no chance.
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It is hard, but you have to love it and enjoy it. Do as much as you love!!
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I am lucky unlike you in that I am single and have all the time in the world to devote to my exercise regime, however I am also unlucky unlike you, as I have no partner nor kids to complete my life and join me on family outings on the bike or at the park. As you said earlier in your post, it is all about the perspective, each of us are lucky and unlucky, what matters is that you make the most of opportunities as they present themselves whether they are in the 80-85% or 15-20% of life. – Simone
Exactly right. I’m dealing with a little bit of that reality right now – I’m having to devote 3 nights a week to my girls’ softball practices so that’s going to make fitting rides in rather tough (of course I will be able to ride every Tuesday now so that’s a definite plus) – there are definitely trade-offs.