Ten miles. Hardly worth getting dressed up for, right? Well, not necessarily.
On most days, I’d say yes. If I’ve got time for ten miles, I’ve got an extra eighteen minutes for six more.
I rode my first 100k of the season on Sunday and while it wasn’t all that fast, I spent almost the entire ride out front, blocking for my wife. It was really quite the interesting ride. I was never working hard enough to struggle but we weren’t watching the grass grow either. In fact, my wife managed to turn in a time only nineteen minutes longer than the first time I did that ride. To put that nineteen minutes in perspective, that’s only 20 seconds a mile slower than my best the first time. We averaged 3m:36s per mile.
On waking up yesterday, I felt it. My legs were a little sore and touch slow to respond. Not sore, not dead, but they were worked. I’d hoped to get a full 16 mile recovery ride in, just enough to spin my legs out, but I was pressed for time to get my girls to swimming practice and the full sixteen at a recovery pace just wasn’t going to work. (Normally, 63 miles at 17 mph wouldn’t be a big deal, but this early in the season and after trying to make up for bad weather in the beginning of the week with a decent 43 miler the day before, an easier 21 and a hard 11 on the “blind guy tandem” on Friday, it made sense that I was a little off kilter.)
I set out for a ten miler, into a heavy headwind, dropped into the baby ring and spun up to an easy 100 rpm cadence which held me between 16 & 17 mph. After the first mile I headed east and switched back to the big ring for the crosswind (I don’t use the low gears in the baby ring [11, 12, or 13]) and held it to 18-19 mph for two miles. Then I had another two heading south with a tailwind and it was my best not to get overly enthused with the helping wind. I turned around after two and headed back into the wind but was happy to learn that it had shifted to a northeasterly direction. It still sucked heading north at 16-17, but I would at least have a little help on the way home. How rare is that? Two miles later and I was headed west with a lot more help than I’d anticipated. 21-22 mph was soft-pedaling and I liked it. My final mile back home was heading south so I had enjoyed a little more help, still keeping it between 19 & 20. The main focus of this whole ride was to keep the legs moving rapidly, the cadence. I ended up doing that ten miles in just over 34 minutes, barely breaking a sweat.
Having been through this rodeo before, if I know anything, it’s that when my legs feel a little smoked, I’m better off knocking two or three miles an hour off of my normal pace and spinning my legs out than I am taking a full day off to rest them. There are those days when a real day off is in order but those are reserved for the tail-end of a two-week stretch of riding every day. With four days off due to weather at the beginning of the week, another day off would only end in my legs hurting more for the club ride tonight. I’d spend the first ten miles just trying to keep up until my legs loosened up. Instead, I got an excellent night’s sleep and after this evening’s warm up I’ll be able to hit that first mile running.
I always approach the saying, “I have to listen to my body” with caution. While “listening to one’s body” is a good thing, I’d better know what it’s saying. Let’s just say I like to keep in mind there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation – especially when “my legs hurt, I must need a day off” is really just, “I don’t wanna”.