I went out for a great ride with my buddy Phil on Saturday, nothing special,
52 miles + or – 58 miles and we certainly didn’t burn up the clock. We ended up out in Fenton to climb my favorite, (and one of the larger in southeastern Michigan) Denton Hill. If I had to guess (and it would be a guess), we kept it around a very easy 17-18 mph. We hit Denton Hill road more than halfway through the ride and I’d been pulling the entire way… I was thinking about how happy I was to be me quite a bit during the ride. Here we were, just a couple of guys cruising around town, enjoying a nice, easy bike ride. It was entirely sunny but cool enough to keep the sweat to a minimum and sipping was all that was required.
Down the hill we went, 40 mph without breaking a sweat. It’s a straight shot so all one has to do is tuck and fly.
On the way back, with about thirteen miles left, I noticed Phil lagging behind a little bit, almost every time I looked back. I slowed down and let him take the lead for a couple of miles so I could get his pace right. It turned out that the hill toasted him just a bit… We stopped at the shop with just five miles to go, Phil headed home and I went in to use the facilities before heading home myself.
I was only three miles from home when I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since I left the house, since breakfast. 53 miles down, at a relatively easy pace and I needed only one bottle of Hammer Perpetuem laced water and one bottle of water.
A constant thought that made its round through the melon committee was how lucky I am to be me. I’m not perfect, I have plenty to work on, to improve – and I will, but for right now, for today, I’m just about the best me I can be at the level of effort I’m willing to put into cycling and staying fit.
I look good, feel good, have a great handle on what I eat and my miles are way up from last year (mainly because of longer weekend rides). I’m riding strong.
Denton Hill is what really had me smiling yesterday. It’s not an easy climb and riding it the easy way/hard way one after the other should have hurt me a lot more than it did. 7% the easy way and 10-12% the hard way and it was the first time this year that I needed the small ring. That monster should have had me struggling for the rest of the ride but it didn’t. I recouped within a half mile and was smiling all the way home. We’re halfway through June and I’m in better shape than I was last September.
Here’s the kicker: There are two major departures from last year, and only three things I’m doing differently. First, my slow rides are a lot easier. The second is I’m at least five pounds heavier than last year. Finally, I’m riding a lot longer on the weekends and on my easy Friday ride with Mrs. Bgddy. This week I managed to squeeze in somewhere around 172 miles.
The major departures are in the easy efforts and the increased mileage. The smaller began before the snow had melted all of the way… at the start of the season I decided to make a few changes. I started concentrating on enjoying cycling more and tracking everything less (or not at all as the case turned out to be). I anticipated a decrease in performance over last year but I was willing to accept that as part of being able to enjoy cycling and spending more time with my wife over enjoying great stats. Now, I’ve known for a while that I had fallen into a common trap for avid enthusiasts: My easy efforts were too hard and my hard efforts were too easy. Not so anymore.
The point to this is all very simple… Last year I thought I was as fast and strong as I could get without working harder – or hard enough to take the fun out of it. I was certain of it. This year, the only thing I did was ride easier a few key days of the week and bump my miles up by maybe 20%… and I’m already in better shape than the height of my season last year. First, there really is something to the statement “your easy efforts are too hard and your hard efforts are too easy” – believe it. In addition, because that isn’t the all of this, I’m still – more than three years into an insane cycling schedule for a normal person – trying to figure out the exact combination required to unlock everything I’ve got. Folks, this isn’t about riding bikes or running or even swimming… Almost anyone can do them, it’s about getting the combination right so that we can do our best (or our best approximation of what that is at any given moment).
I wasn’t slow last year (indeed, I was quite fast), but I still wasn’t doing it right.
If I could offer one thing from my experience, it would be this: Don’t be afraid to not know everything. I’ve found my best me by remaining teachable – which, ironically enough, also helps me to not be an asshole. Just sayin’.