I’m a little behind on my Tuesday club ride. I’m good as long as I stay up front… Unfortunately, I can only stay in the top three positions for ten or twelve miles before I’m cooked. The back end of the group has been so fractured lately that when I fall back there’s nowhere to hide to catch my breath so the temptation is to just stay up front and avoid the mess in the back. I go until my legs get too heavy and I’m off the back. It happened again last night.
Now I could make excuses, I even have a good one or two, but in the end excuses won’t get me to a fitness level where I’m not crashing and having to go the rest of the ride alone. It’s a small part tactics and a large part pain management.
All through the winter and from the start of our admittedly lousy season I’ve been content to do somewhat of a minimum. I haven’t made my hard effort days hard enough and I’m suffering the consequences.
Last night, after getting dropped again (mostly by choice, I was tired of working so hard), I was into a terrible cross-head wind. I caught up to a couple of guys who dropped after I did and the three of us took 1/2 mile pulls for a few before I dropped them (accidentally). I had taken a decent pull into the wind and uphill and I just went a little too hard. When I flared out my right arm to signal I was dropping back and for the next guy to take the reins, there was nobody there. I looked back and the two of them were maybe 60 yards back. I could have waited for them – hell, I wanted to wait for them, who in their right mind charges on into a 20 mph headwind when help is only 60 yards back?! Unfortunately there is one inescapable truth here: I’m a little slow because I’m not working hard enough. The last thing I need is help, what I need is to get on it and build my fitness back.
I built up a pretty good lead and got stuck at a stop sign for a minute. They were still a ways back so I went through and kept at it. It was another three miles, where I turn to head back, that I saw a train of seven guys behind me turn for the long route (I start that next week). With only eight miles left I could have taken it easy the rest of the way back – I still had a crosswind but there was just enough west to it to help out a little bit. I thought for a minute about how nice it would be to relax a bit and cruise back easy… But opted to keep the hammer down instead. Cruising back won’t help – I’ve done enough of that this season and look where it’s gotten me, I thought. So I hammered all the way back with the exception of a few 1/4 mile breaks when I just had to catch my breath.
The one thing I’ve learned about cycling with any speed: I can pay me now or pay me later, but one way or another I’ve gotta pay up because if I’m not getting faster, I’m getting slower. To an extent slow has been okay so far but it’s time to make it hurt because I’m not going through another month of getting dropped like this.
And there’s no time like the present to put that crap in the rearview.
I announced a while back that I’d made a decision, after an online conversation with the Ragtime Cyclist, that I’d be tossing the tracking app aside to concentrate a little more on enjoying the experience of the ride rather than constantly worrying about speed goals and crunching numbers. For my first three seasons I relied heavily on Endomondo to keep myself honest and constantly on the gas. I was thrown a curve last year when my wife decided that she’d get into cycling as well. I’d been so wrapped up in getting faster that I had a tough time enjoying a nice, easy ride. The trick with the easy ride is that they’re necessary when you’re riding six days a week – or at the very least every pro that I ever read said they were (and I rode much better when I did). My problem was that I always had it in the back of my head that I should be pushing harder, that I was wasting perfectly good training time. That’s how I arrived at the conclusion that maybe unplugging would help.
There’s one more little wrinkle to this little saga (What can I say? It’s good to be me.): I don’t want to get any slower either. A couple of the guys I regularly ride with, and have for the last year or so, are a little bit ahead of me so far this spring. On the other hand, I know for a fact that I’m a lot farther ahead of where I was at last year – I don’t know about speed, but I miles ahead of last year’s record pace, even with the lousy weather. Last season my longest ride going into the Ride for Recovery was 35.5 miles. This year I’d already done a couple of 40’s, a 55 and a 65 – and I did a lot of pulling on all but the last ride when we had a tandem to hide behind.
I have no idea how this season is going to turn out as far as my ability to keep up goes but one grand side effect of my little “unplugged” experiment has been that I’ve absolutely found my little slice of Heaven in those slower rides. When I’m going all out, other than watching for traffic, I am solely focused on one thing – getting every ounce I can out of my legs – even on the recovery ride days it was all about the cadence and rounding out my pedaling stroke and mechanics… On rides that I paid to enter, such as the Ride for Recovery (RfR), it was all out – how can I get down the road as fast as possible. Now that I’ve started this little evolution, I saw entire segments of the RfR that I’d never even noticed because I’ve always been so focused on getting it done. I’m not perfect though, I have my limits: I can only go so slow before it gets tedious – I’ve run into this once and it wasn’t pretty (we’ll just leave it at that, I believe the issue has been rectified).
Thus far my enjoyment of the sport has expanded greatly. I get to enjoy a lot more quality in every ride, even the hard efforts, because now I know I’ll be able to enjoy the scenery a lot more in a matter of a day or two.
I’ve had it up to here (points to the crown of his noggin) with the BAA and complaints about “bandits”. While I don’t run much at all anymore, having only been out of the sport for a year (I do volunteer to ride the leaders out for the big local running race), I still consider myself part of the family. I’m having second thoughts.
What surprises me is the anger with said bandits. First, the move to ban bandits in the first place strikes me as odd. The two losers who messed with the race last year were cowards, punks, bitches and spectators. Why make a big deal about bandits? Running gear is in no way conducive to concealment, therefore to attack so-called “bandits” with such ferocity gives the appearance that they’re attacking the horse who saw the fox enter the hen house. It makes no sense to me.
Add to that the viscousness with which bloggers are going after these bandits, Chelsa Whatshername to name the only one you’ll hear of by name, and I’m thanking God I traded my running shoes for something with a carbon fiber sole.
Show up to our rides, paid or not, and you’re in. I’ve never heard of the organizers turning anyone away, let alone other participants. In fact, I regularly pay extra just in case (I pay the first day after the prices go up – for a ride, at least here, this creates no additional cost but does provide extra revenue).
Show up to the Assenmacher 100. I’ll give you the Jelly Belly beans out of my amply stocked back pocket. That’s how cyclists roll.
There is no doubt we cyclists have some funny and often obnoxious rules but they’re all in good fun. No, in order to raise ire on this level in the cycling community, you actually have to hurt someone. You have to do some damage.
So, for the dastardly crime that Chelsa committed: Wanting to run and finish, Boston with her husband (who couldn’t last year), the rich must be impaled on their greed yet again. They must be lied about and demonized because they cheated the system (like dozens of other non-wealthy folk who did the same thing – but you won’t hear their name).
For what? For a couple of punks defiling the race. Last year.
Now that I’m thinking about it, if you do show up to ride this year, I’ve got a gently worn pair of $125 Adidas running shoes that I’ll throw in with those jelly beans from my back pocket. I don’t need ’em anymore.
To wrap this up, I’ll take this back to a failure of my own. A failure that I’ve been busting my ass to correct for a long time. I must always do my best to remember: Tuesday night ain’t the Tour de Fuckin’ France. I must be an ambassador for the sport that I love. When I go off on my “whiners suck” rants, as rare as they may be now, I am failing to make my sport attractive. It is through attraction, not promotion, that the sport I love will flourish.
Just a thought.
All I’m asking is why the anger? I can’t find anyone around me to explain it… They all agree with my understanding of the situation.
UPDATE: This post was written while I was a little amped up and I just realized that not everyone in the world may be abreast of the kerfuffle going on with the Boston Marathon Bandits. There are several people who run that race without paying to, they call them bandits. While I am against “banditing” though I have used a friend’s bib once or twice (I once ran the Crim as Mary and sadly I didn’t shave my legs back then). I am also vehemently against these jerks who won’t allow runners to transfer a bib if injured. Don’t even get me started (I’m looking at you Bayshore Marathon).
My wife and I rode the Dawn Farm Ride for Recovery yesterday. 100k of pure joy (technically it was 103 or so, but who’s counting). We did it in around 4:10 – 4:15 and while it could have been warmer, at least it wasn’t raining this year.
This was my wife’s longest ride by just shy of 20 miles. She was a total trooper and muscled through that nagging committee member who said, “you can’t”.
Fortunately we lucked out with the wind too, it was directly in our face for darn near the entire first half of the ride. We stayed with a group of three other guys until I could sense the Mrs. struggling to hang on, so we let them go and I pulled the rest of the way to the turn around. It took some doing to get the pace and cadence right but I managed to find a butter-zone that I could hold easily, hands on the bar tops to block as much wind as possible, and Mrs. Bgddy could keep up with well. We just clicked off the miles one by one.
When we hit the turnaround I let her take the lead so she could choose the pace with the wind at our back. If I’d have taken the lead and not matched her pace I’d have created a yo-yo which would eventually have the effect of creating doubt – and I’ve been there before with my wife… Once the doubt sets in, it’s all bad and snowballs into something ugly. She cruised well and we made some good time. We arrived at the last stop with 17 miles to go and it was time for a shoulder rub and a pep talk. With that, we were off.
The next ten were pretty fair but then we turned north and were hammered by a nasty crosswind. My wife hunkered down alongside me and we ground out the next five-ish side by side. The last two of those brought some tears. She was really tired and ready to be done. I tried to reassure her that we were almost done, we were almost there, focusing on reassuring her – and I think it worked because she didn’t realize that five were almost all uphill and quite a grind.
We turned onto Stoney Creek road and the celebration started. Tears flowed, fist bumps and high five’s… And we turned into the farm.
For me, the time spent with my wife cycling was awesome. Light on the worries and expectations, high on the fun. It was also, by far, the best I’ve ever felt after a long ride. I’m looking forward to many, many more of those.
I’ve been seeing a commercial for a new “get fit never” device advertised on TV that offers a benefit – getting fit – for “minimal effortless resistance”. In return for effortlessness this device promises a tighter core, better fitness, more energy… Just about everything, short of peace on Earth. With “effortless minimal resistance”. I wish I were kidding, this is from the website: “The sitNcycle is a fun and convenient way to stay in motion effortlessly and get in the best shape of your life.” The commercial is even better (or that would technically be worse).
The reality is you can’t have those three words together like that and expect anything good. The problem is the “effortless” part of course.
Folks, the reality is this: That ass won’t lose itself.
For this reason I have a serious problem with minimum requirements and claims that minimal efforts will get results. For instance, the government recommends a minimum of a 30 minute walk, six days a week as “exercise”. There are studies out there that show you’d have to walk 100 days to get the benefit of one of my daily short training rides (1 hour). That’s right, it’s about a 50:1 ratio. Now, will that minimum effortless workout help? Well it won’t hurt but jeez, look at it another way: You’d have to walk a half-hour a day for 50 years to realize the benefits it took me one year to get.
That should put that “minimal effortless resistance” into context.