Monthly Archives: April 2012

Pick your poison

Consider this thought experiment. It’s race day, and you get to pick between these 2 races:

Race 1 will be held in horrible weather — 40 degrees and a steady rain. By the end of the race you’ll be so cold that your fingers will hurt, your arms will be numb, and it will be all you can do to unzip and pull off your wet clothes. You’ll be shivering for a full hour after the race. But you will have been in the winning breakaway, finishing 3rd while your teammate won.

Race 2 will be held in dry weather. You’ll get to race hard, but you won’t finish in the money and your team gets no real result. Then because it’s dry you’ll get to ride another 30 miles after the race. Your bike is clean, your shoes and clothes are dry, and you had a good day of training. But you had no result.

Which do you choose?

This was the situation last weekend. Race 1 (Race at the Lake) was the coldest I’ve ever been at the end of a race. But given the choice, that is the race I would pick.

When a race is over, my visceral response generally tells me whether it was a good race or not. If I tell someone about the race, the way that I describe it tells me how satisfied I was. Did I ride smart or stupidly? Was my fitness good or lacking? Did I do everything I could when it counted? And was the result commensurate with the effort?

As miserable as Saturday’s race was, I’d rather endure those conditions and have that result.

And besides, races like that are the ones you get to tell stories about.

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What is the hardest ride?

For me it’s the 1 hour easy spin on Friday when racing the next day (and the day after that).

… and it’s sunny and 72 degrees.
… and I have time to ride for several hours.
… and while riding a couple of triathletes come by with a sideways glance as if to say “that’s as fast as you can go?”
… and I have to resist the temptation to chase after them, just to show them the error in their thinking.

It’s difficult to force yourself to go slow. I’d like nothing more than to ride for 3 hours at a decent pace, eat a bunch afterward, drink some wine, and feel nice and tired and happy.

But if I do that I know I’ll have “heavy legs” when racing the next two days. I have this internal conversation sometimes: oh, just go ahead and ride, so what if you’re a little tired. But then I remind myself of the times when I’ve done that, and I end up regretting it when I have a crappy race. It may just be a local spring race, but it’s still a race.

So I go slow and resign myself to just working on tan lines.

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Can’t fix stupid

I get annoyed when people say that cyclist should follow every traffic law to the letter so that drivers won’t get so pissed off and will give us more respect.

My argument: the drivers who are hostile towards cyclists are just hostile in general, and do the same thing to other drivers.

They are the same ones who aggressively tailgate me when I’m driving to work, and who honked at and flipped off my daughter when she had a learner’s permit and couldn’t go over the speed limit.

My theory is that these people just can’t stand the feeling of someone being in their way or inconveniencing them.

Tonight while riding I got direct confirmation of this theory.

I was out on the TT bike, moving along at a pretty good clip on a fast section of country road (Music St, for those who know). From behind I hear someone laying on the horn. Not a beep but a long sustained blast that intends to say, “get the f*** off the road!”

It was a diesel pick-up truck. He got in front of me and tapped the brakes like he was going to brake-check me. He then slowed and turned onto a side street. I caught up and pulled alongside.

He rolled down the window. Instead of saying “what is your problem”, I decided to ask, “why the hostility?”

Basically it came down to: bikes shouldn’t be on this road because I might not see them coming over a hill and my truck is big and has side mirrors. Yes, that’s it.

So it’s really about someone perceived as being in the way and being an inconvenience.

After a minute or so, I knew that talking to the guy wouldn’t make any difference. A rational discourse doesn’t change that kind of mindset, because it’s not rational.

So I tried the irrational approach, and just told him that he should be careful because he doesn’t know which cyclist might just have a concealed-carry permit.

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The good times are killing me

I generally follow a model I call “opportunistic training”. It was invented when I had younger children, and had to be creative about finding training opportunities.

The basic idea is that when I have the time, and the weather’s good, I train. I don’t do the “3 weeks on, 1 week off” kind of thing. I figure the weather will get crappy, or something will come up with work or life to force some rest.

Usually it’s the weather. Last winter was brutal. I got lots of rest.

But I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with the “problem” of the weather being too nice. Each abnormally nice and warm day that we’ve been having, I feel like I have to “take advantage of the opportunity”. It’s only April 5, and I’m accumulating training points like it’s June. I barely earned any badass winter training points.

There was a moment last week where I thought, “I just can’t ride anymore right now.” That usually happens … in August.

This must be what it’s like if you live somewhere that has decent weather as a rule rather than an exception. It must be tough. But I think I would be willing to deal with it.

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Run lots

I have an idea why many people find it hard to stick with running: if you don’t run frequently enough you never get through the point where the discomfort fades.

I’m not sure if the discomfort actually goes away, or if you just get so used to it that it feels normal. In either case, a light bulb moment for me was when I discovered that running more frequently was easier than running less and trying to recover more.

“More frequently” doesn’t have to mean “more mileage”. It just means running more days per week. Same miles, but few miles per run. I always thought running back-to-back days would be too hard, but paradoxically it’s been easier than taking more days off.

This isn’t my own invention of course. You can find this approach documented in many running books and web sites.

Why bring this up now? It’s bike racing season!

Well, tonight I folded up my running clothes and put them into a drawer until sometime in September.

Last year I learned that it was too hard to continue even a minimal amount of running once the racing season started. I hit that point last week. The number of runs per week has been going down, and finally I realized that each run is now uncomfortable.

It’s not the mileage that’s the problem, it’s that I can’t run 5 days per week now. If I didn’t like bike racing so much, I would keep running and just have tired legs all the time.

I guess the “secret” to running is the same as in bike racing. To paraphrase Eddy Merckx: “run lots”.

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