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Long, Slow Cycling Distance in the Spring; Why It’s Not So Bad to Put Some Slow, Enjoyable Miles In Preparation for the Season… And How COVIDcation Changed My Attitude About the Concept.

I was sure the LSD people were full of LSD when they suggested you could get fast by riding lots of slow miles in the spring. I thought, if you wanna ride fast, train fast – and I thought this way ever since I started riding.  And that’s how I trained, as soon as it was warm enough to shed a couple of the multiple layers I wore to keep warm.  I’d attack hills and barrel into headwinds.

Sure, I’d smatter in active recovery paced rides here and there, but you gotta ride hard, if you’re going to be fast, right?!

Over COVIDcation, I put in more than my fair share of slower miles.  In fact, I think my fastest ride until last week was an 18-1/2-mph average.  This, for me, is unheard of.  My active recovery rides average 17 to 17-1/2-mph.  I actually pulled into the driveway with a few rides in the 16-mph range.  I won’t lie, a couple of times I got pretty antsy riding with my wife.  I had to apologize for being a dope twice.

The one thing I did out of the ordinary is I took all of the headwind on many of these rides – and if I couldn’t eat it all, I’d break it off into big chunks, four or five miles at a time.  I’d settle down into a pace I could hold, often in the baby ring, and spin on down the road with my wife and/or Mike in tow.  I found, and lean in real close so none of my friends can hear, a small corner of my mind where I could actually like the headwind.  It was crazy.  But it’s true.  Taking 20-mile long chunks of headwind for my wife or friend became a badge of honor to wear.  Sure, they were slower than if I only took two or three mile turns, but the people I was riding with wouldn’t have been able to keep up if I did anyway – it worked out perfectly.

Then, last week, I had a solo afternoon ride.  Nobody to worry about but me.  I started out with a goal of 18-1/2-mph for the ride but that rose quickly when I found myself heading into the light breeze north of 20-mph.  My goal became 19.75-mph in the first two miles of the 19.75-mile loop.  Long story very short (longer version here), I pulled into the driveway with a 20.5-mph average and I could have gone faster… I may have been able to pull off a 21-mph average if I’d started out with that goal right out of the driveway.  (Let’s see, 18-1/2 = 29 km/h, 19.75 is 32 km, and 20.5 is 33 km/h and 21 is 34 km/h).

Friends, if memory serves, that ride was 2-mph faster than anything I’d ridden outside, since I’d gotten off the trainer.  In short, long, slow distance (at least slow by my standards) worked.  I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how, but there it is… that 20.5 average for that route was a PR.  I’d never ridden that route so fast.

The tough part is where do I mentally go from here?  If long, slow distance really does work, that means I can actually relax a little bit and enjoy the miles until, say, the end of May.  There’s no question I don’t have to train fast, early in the season, to ride fast later.

This creates a problem, of course.  At some point I’ll have to put the hammer down – and my real fear is, when it’s time, I might not want to.

And therein lies the rub.