I started this season in a bit of a panic, followed by acceptance that I would be slower. What followed that was unexpected to say the least. Being only my second year cycling and at 42 years-old, when I started out slower this spring than last fall – after training doubly hard through the winter, I thought I peaked last season, that last year was a fluke of epic proportions and that I rode faster than I ever would again.
At the end of last season my easy recovery ride pace (solo) was between 18.5 and 19 mph. This spring I was struggling just to hit 19 with a hard effort. It doesn’t help that my miles are down over last year because the weather was horrendous and I was spending more time riding with my family – infinitely more enjoyable but nowhere near as “productive” – at least for me.
The only major thing I changed early this spring was how I looked at hills. In southeastern Michigan, we don’t have many, but what we do have I started climbing in a higher (harder) gear than what I cruise in on the flats. Other than that I tried to be patient and just enjoy riding. My wife and I spend a week every summer in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee or Georgia and we started riding down there last summer – that was probably the most fun I’ve had on two wheels so I wanted, at the very least, to be in better shape for that this year than last. Even if I wasn’t as fast. At the beginning of May I started showing sparks of brilliance. By the middle of May my speed was coming back and I was noticeably stronger. In the last two weeks, my season turned around. I’m back – and better than before.
The real question, at this point, is do I bother to try to sort out why. I’m staying with the fast guys a lot longer than I ever could last year on club ride Tuesday, but some of that is strategy – I know how to hide a little better towards the end of the ride and, humorously enough, I don’t get beat up on the hills anymore either though. Now on that same 33 mile ride, I’m averaging more than a mile an hour faster than last year’s best – 20.6 mph.
To be truthful, I don’t know if I really care that much. I was quite content where I was last month, so I can simply just be happy with where I’m at. I realize that this is something akin to sacrilege in the sporting community – if we’re getting faster than why not keep pushing to see just how fast we can get? I will to some extent, I suppose, continue doing what I’m doing but the truth is, once I get to a point where I can keep up with my Tuesday group, and maybe even inflict a little punishment of my own, I’m calling it good.
Right now I’m in a bit of a perfect zone – I have relative balance between family, work and exercise that I just don’t want to change. I’m faster and stronger, I’ve been eating like a cow over the last two weeks and I lost two tenths of a pound, and my wife is, for the most part, happy.
I’d have to be an idiot to mess with that.