It feels very strange: sitting at home on the first Saturday morning in April, drinking coffee, listening to music, and putting off doing my taxes. As opposed to being in the car, loaded with bike gear, on the way to a race. Which is what I’ve done on the previous 20 first-Saturdays-in-April (with one exception: the broken-collarbone-year).
Drinking coffee and listening to music isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what I’d choose this morning, given the choice. Since people have been asking: I want to be racing. I just can’t yet.
I gave it a little test, out in Arizona, which didn’t go too well.
It comes down to: I can’t go hard enough without it hurting. Go too hard then I end up having trouble walking up/down stairs. Or it hurts to walk, period
There’s an ironic aspect to this: getting on the bike and doing a bunch of miles has really helped — both mentally and physically. But so many miles on the bike I think has reinforced the imbalances that we cyclists tend to have. Strong in very specific areas, but weak in others.
It occurred to me that I haven’t walked more than 10 minutes straight for several months. It’s been all bike. When I walk, it’s still a bit crooked. I can’t stand one-legged on the repaired leg. So my operating hypothesis at the moment is that I need to do some more PT to strengthen those other areas.
We’ll see. The goal is that you see me with a number pinned on my jersey, before too long.
When I returned from Spain, people at work asked how much I rode. When I said “about 33 hours over 8 days” (not counting the first day’s 45 minute spin), the common response was “I can’t imagine riding that much.” A few other cyclists even said that.
It does sound like a lot, but having done a number of these kinds of weeks now, my experience is that it’s quite amazing how quickly your body adapts. This is true for multi-day races like Superweek also. After the first couple of days you think there’s no way you can continue doing it, but then at a certain point it switches and you feel like you have to do it. Your body doesn’t feel right if you don’t go out and ride (or race).
I understand why the Grand Tour racers go out and ride for 3 hours on the race’s “rest days”. They feel worse if they don’t ride.
Coming back home, I had a full day of travel where I couldn’t ride. The next day though I was back outside again, riding for 2 hours. Then every day since then. Not at the same volume or intensity, but I wouldn’t feel right not riding (both mentally and physically).
I’m sure it helps that I have been riding for quite a few years now, and have built a pretty good base of fitness. I don’t think I’d tell a beginning rider to go ride 30 hours in a week. But I think even beginning riders can do a period of increased volume.
There are a couple of secrets to it: you have to back off the intensity to what you can ride every day. I’ve learned what happens when you ride too much at too high an intensity: you dig hole that’s hard to climb out from.
The other secret is that when you don’t have to work and can just ride, rest, eat … well, you can ride a lot more. So I just need to figure out how to solve that problem of needing to work.
I started to write this a week ago, on Father’s Day, but got sidetracked … by riding then going out with my son for dinner at our favorite gourmet pizza restaurant (in Kirtland, of all places).
So riding can get in the way of things? Fitting, because that’s what I was starting to write about.
At various times I’ve been asked: how do you train and still make time for family? Don’t they resent the amount of time you spend training and racing?
It’s kind of moot now that my kids are well beyond that transition to wanting to do their own things. Actually that is part of the point: they have developed their own things that they want to do.
I’m mostly unapologetic about the time spent training and racing.
Parents push their kids to do sports, push them to do music lessons, to do activities, excel in school. But do parents do those things themselves? It seems to largely end up with the parents living vicariously through the activities and successes of their kids.
Why not show your kids a direct example of what it means to be engaged in something that is challenging, requires some discipline to be successful, and that you love to do? I think there is truth in the saying that kids learn more from what you do than what you say.
I could also talk about the different ways that you can do “opportunistic training” as I used to call it: ride early, ride at lunch, ride to and from work or family events. Ride a lot when you have the opportunity, and rest when other life circumstances come up. That worked pretty well for me.
More than anything though? I think they recognize that I’m just more agreeable when I am able to get out and 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.
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.
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”.
What’s your first thought on a snowy Saturday in January? (That would be last week for those of us “up north”; yesterday for those “down south” in Akron).
After “coffee”, it’s thinking about what is the training plan for the day. On a day like this you have to get into the right mental state to head to the basement and get on the trainer.
Is that what a normal person does? (no answer needed)
Most days are like this — not just snowy days. There is always that undercurrent of “where am I going to fit today’s training”, planning the next day, thinking of the next race coming up.
I’ve long felt that people who choose to race bikes have a compulsive nature. If it wasn’t bike racing it would be something else. The triathletes that I know are like this too.
I used to like brewing beer. I probably still would if I could spare the time. I couldn’t do it the easy way. I had brew all-grain, starting with the whole barley and grinding (I had a grain mill even). I made my own copper-tubed chiller to cool the wort before adding the yeast. It was an all-day affair.
A normal person just buys beer.
I used to think this was limited to bike racers and other athletes. But I know people at work like this too. The ones who are exceptionally good at what they do have a sort of compulsion about them too. They can’t do things partway. I’m pretty sure this is a characteristic of anyone who engages deeply in an activity — whether it’s bike racing, beer brewing, dog training, stock trading, writing, music …
So choose your activities carefully. The byproduct being a great brewer is that you have a lot of beer to finish. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)