This post is a long time coming. It’s taken me the better part of ten years to figure this out and now that I have, I’m having a more enjoyable time cycling than any previous year – by a long shot. Allow me to expound…
Be Fast or Be Slow… But Be Happy… Or BOTH
Being fast is a bit of a double-edged sword. It sounds awesome to those who aren’t fast, but it’s not quite all “unicorns farting rainbows” as you might think. First, it takes a lot of work to get fast. There’s the solo rides, hill sprints, the hill repeats, the telephone/power pole sprints, and then you’re stuck feeling as though you have to go all out all the time. There’s a fear associated with that last bit – actually a few layers of fear. First, I was afraid I’d lose that speed, or at the very least, the mental drive to stay fast. There’s the fear that slow rides cause one to lose fitness. Then, there’s the fear that not riding fast at every opportunity will breed laziness, or a lack of desire to push hard enough that one is willing to hurl on one’s top tube.
It’s that last one that really hurts. The thinking is, if I take it easy, I might find out I like cycling slow and therefore lose the will to put in the effort to stay fast. I literally lost sleep over that. Not much, of course, but some sleep.
Put all of those together and I can be a very difficult person to ride slow with if I’m not in the right frame of mind or haven’t put in the requisite fast days. Ask my wife – she’s spent as much time grooming me to take it easy (and subsequently had to deal with her fair bit of venom) as I did grooming her to be fast.
Thankfully, because 2020 is so upside-down, this has been my fastest year and I’ve spent more slow, enjoyable miles than ever before. I learned a lesson I may never have without COVIDcation. Take 2020: 6,002 miles (so far) have taken me 377 hours. That averages out to just a 15.9-mph average. Last year’s average was 16.9 (both include everything from road to gravel to mountain). A drop of a full mile per hour on the overall average is huge. On the other hand, we’ve hit 24-mph once and logged several other 28-mile loops between 22 & 23-mph. Additionally, Thursday night went from being 20-mph for a hard workout to 22-mph.
So how could it possibly be that I dropped a mile an hour off of my average but turned out faster?
My wife, and taking massive turns in the headwind in her service, taught me how to f’in’ relax a little bit (more like verbally “beat me into submission”). As long as I got my weekly hard efforts in, who cared if I stopped to take a few photos at the side of the road and that burned five tenths off our average? Certainly not me! Not during COVIDcation. It ended up I was simply happy to be spending time with my wife. I figured I’d take five or six weeks to get back into the Tuesday Night groove when the rides started. It’d suck, but I’d get through it, I thought.
It didn’t take five or six weeks. It took a few to get my legs under me as we went from mild, late-spring temps to “freaking HOT” in the space of a week. I bonked out on a ride, gave up on one, then BAM. I got my legs after that and we were all over it.
I’ve done some decently fast centuries (six), a pile of metric centuries (a baker’s dozen), and set PR’s on the Tuesday and Thursday night routes – PR’s I didn’t think would be possible last year.
In other words, I’ve gone slower and gotten faster at the same time. I’ve been able to literally enjoy the best of both worlds without either messing the other up. In fact, because I’m able to enjoy the slower days with my friends so much, I’ve found myself a more fulfilled cyclist – and I’m happier all the way around.
There is one tiny trick to all of this, though: I must have my fast days. Without those, I get antsy. There is a part of me that has to go fast – speed, after all, is a huge part of the fun for me – I can only contain that beast for so long.