This year has been a total shakeup to how I ride… I’d say, “train” but I’m a lot less pro than that. Ride will do.
With COVIDcation, I was lucky to be able to ride with my wife while the rest of the state was riding solo – but I thought the pace often left a lot to be desired. I was looking to prep for club and group rides after the virus. My wife just wanted to ride. We had a tough time for a week or two with a power struggle but we came up with a way we could both be relatively happy.
I took the entire first half of the ride into the wind, pulling for my wife, then we’d trade turns heading home with the tailwind. It was better than nothing, I figured, though I couldn’t help but think I was missing out on an opportunity to get stronger if I wasn’t pushing it on a regular basis.
Late spring was on us and we finally started riding in small groups, lockdown be damned. My wife and I rode with a couple of friends of ours and I did my usual 20-mile pull into the wind and thought little of it.
Several hours later I got a call from another friend who was content to ride solo. He said he’d heard I managed come through the spring really strong. Befuddled is a good word. I couldn’t get a handle on the concept.
Long story short, I was wrong. Taking those slow pulls into the headwind for my wife turned out to be better than any spring training I’d ever done on two wheels. All of a sudden that stuff about spring training in the little ring made sense. It actually worked.
Well into this summer cycling season, the slower spring set up the fastest summer I’ve ever experienced. I still have some work to do on hills but our Tuesday night groups are killing it. We beat our old record (from last year) of 23.3-mph by more than half a mile an hour, topping 24-mph over a 28 mile route (28 miles in 1h:10m and some change. On a hillier route down south of us we’re turning in 21-mph+ efforts regularly, now. Last year we were happy with anything over 20 (20 on that route is really fast).
So here’s that context I mentioned in the Title: Those 20-ish mile pulls in the wind were at a pace I estimated had my wife on the edge of wanting to quit, but slow enough she wouldn’t leave my draft. Sometimes she had to dial me back, but I always got a good workout bucking the headwind. The key was working against the headwind, hours on end. There’s no question now that we’re later in the year, that this translated into a fantastic increase in my ability to hang with the fast crowd.
This isn’t perfect, of course. I had a lot of experience coming into this spring and I knew what it was like to crank out some watts. At some point, if you want to be fast, you’ve gotta ride fast. On the other hand, there’s no denying that this slow spring had a positive effect on a very fast summer – enough I’ll be training slow with my wife again next spring.
And now I’m off for another fantastic day in the saddle… Ride hard, my friends.