I am an exceptional cyclist when it comes to distance and speed. All of my friends are exceptional. Pretty much everyone I ride with is in the top 5% of anyone who rides a bicycle… maybe higher, and we’re just the B Group. Most people can’t even wrap their head around what people like us do for fun. 100 miles in fewer than 5 hours? Sign me up! 4-1/2 hours? I’ll be there with bells on. Faster? Well, let’s not get too carried away. 30 miles? Give us an hour-and-a-quarter, maybe an hour-twenty… It’s not easy and there’s no time for sight-seeing, but my God, is it fun.
In order to achieve great speed there’s an enormous amount of effort that must be dedicated to training. The diet has to be watched, training time scheduled, and the commitment, dedication, and discipline required to consistently train hard enough to be that fast… well, most people can’t, or won’t, stick to it. It’s simply too hard. That’s why we’re in the top 5%.
Recently, my best riding bud, Mike, received some really bad news about his heart. He’s got genetic heart disease and he’s finally gotten to a point where he can’t out-ride it anymore. His doctor originally told him to stop riding altogether, but Mike told him, in no uncertain terms, that he wouldn’t stop, that they’d better come up with something a little more two-wheel-friendly. They came up with a compromise of no more than 120 bpm on the heart rate monitor and he could ride. That sounds like a pretty good compromise – especially when you consider the alternative is polishing couch leather with your butt.
There’s a problem, though.
Once one has committed oneself to getting that fast, once you’ve ridden so hard you’ve puked (multiple times), all on your own, and with no one looking, just so you can be fast… Friends, it’s hard to shut that off – and there’s a very simple explanation as to why this is so.
As exceptionally fast cyclists, we train ourselves to keep pushing when most normal people would simply say, “Screw this”, and putter away an easy at 18-mph. We do not. We learn to tell our bodies and minds to get in line and shut up. Eventually we realize that our bodies were weak, but they can be forged and toughened with effort. We learn that it’s only part of the brain that wants to quit. A very small, if noisy part. It will give way, though.
That’s when we become fast. We get faster, and as we do, we get better at shutting the pain and that sliver of the brain down… and the speed becomes fun. Glorious, unadulterated fun.
We learn we’re the boss.
And that’s why it’s so hard to turn off.