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Home » Cycling » The joy of the solo ride. And the other side of intervals

The joy of the solo ride. And the other side of intervals

June 2014
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I went on a fantastic ride today, early, because with Mrs. Bgddy on sabbatical with a friend in Chicago, I could only get my in-laws to watch the girls for a couple of hours this morning before they packed up and headed home. Unfortunately I missed out on an 80 miler with the boys but you have to play with the hand you’re dealt.

I managed 36-1/2 miles in 1:50… And stopped at my friend’s house for ten minutes to round out the two hours.

Doing the math, that’s just shy of a 20 mph average… So that means I’m in excellent shape – it’s like a 35 mile pull with the gang I ride with.

Something occurred to me, about six miles in… I’ve written before about how I attack hills. I look to pick up speed going up hills rather than slow down – I call this my interval training. Well about the fifth mile there’s a double hill with a four second false flat that absolutely gets the heart pounding by the second pitch up. It’s brutal. Today I didn’t approach it with the normal dread though because I knew it would hurt for a minute but I’d get through it… I always do.

That’s when it hit me: there’s more to intervals than just training the body to work better and faster. Intervals train the mind to push the body beyond what is thought possible.

Once you get the weight down, the bike fit right, aerodynamic position down, cadence right and the equipment straight, cycling fast is almost all mental. We all know this… It’s often portrayed as a willingness to hurt for an extended period of time (unless you’re with a group a couple miles an hour slower than your normal pace, then it’s an easy ride up front all day long), but that’s not it really.

I’ve been watching my wife shed the weight and get faster, heck she even tries punishing me every now and again – and fellas, remember Nicholson’s line in A Few Good Men? The one about saluting a woman? Yeah, being married to a woman who tries to (and on occasion can) punish you on a bike is almost as good… Anyway, I’ve learned a few things about cycling while watching her get her legs, something that I missed as I was coming up: Cycling fast has a lot to do with coming to the reality that one can handle a lot more than one gives oneself credit for.

My hill intervals, over time, smash that toxic “I can’t go any faster” thinking with action rather than trying to buy into cliches.


17 Comments

  1. Paul Donovan says:

    interesting insight, I think that’s pretty close to the mark

  2. I agree, cycling fast is a lot to do with being brave enough to push yourself beyond where you think you can go, and finding out you can handle it. Sounds easy when written down in black and white, but as you’ll know it’s harder in real life. It’s really a mind game.

    I think the same applies to riding big distances. Experience helps, because you can listen to you body and gauge your effort based on whatever challenge is in front of you, but if you can decide – I mean really DECIDE – you’re going to do it…you go out and do it.

    I find all this psychological stuff fascinating.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Well said, it never ceases to amaze me how fast I can go when my head is right. Getting the legs right is huge but after that, battling through the mental hoo-hah is the key.

      Funny thing about distances, I never had the same hangups I did with speed. I always figured if I bonked, I could spin back easy and I’d be okay. Following that I’ve only called for a ride one time – and that one was such an epic bonk, I still don’t have any negative thoughts about it (it was HUGE). Thanks for the comment brother.

  3. fastk9dad says:

    It certainly is mental as much as physical. I try not to obsess on details like distance and elevation, you can psych yourself out too easy that way when the reality is what is the worst that will happen – you get off and walk or call for a ride?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Or spin back at 15 mph and enjoy the scenery! That’s a win-win right there. You busted your butt for x amount of miles and now you’re taking the last ten easy. 😎

  4. Sandra says:

    It’s definitely both mental and physical–but being in physically better shape makes the mental part not as much of a battle, that’s for certain . . . or at least, being in better shape–I am certainly in better shape but I have a lot of pounds to shed before hills will not kill me quite as much (lugging extra weight up those hills, well, hurts.

    I do have to say, though, that on the same ride, I’ll burn almost three times as many calories as my hubby . . . and we do both wear heart rate monitors. His almost never goes above 125. That is, until he witnessed two cars speeding past him shooting at each other a few weeks ago (they were shooting so close to him that he smelled the gun powder). It shot up to the 150s. . . and so did mine just hearing about his experience. Ugh! I should blog about that.

  5. There’s so much good about interval and hill training. One thing I like is how much easier it makes goal race pace feel. And being able to kick it up at the end of a race is a nice bonus too.

    • bgddyjim says:

      My buddy Dennis is really big on kicking it at the end, we used to race the last 1/4 mile at a sprint all the time… With cycling, I do sprint at the finish now and again but I have a tendency to leave it all on the road. I don’t have much juice left towards the end. I definitely agree with your assessment though.

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