Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shut up but Listen !

Can you read my mind ?

Listen to your body
   Shut up legs!  

Base plus intensity equals success
   Recovery is just as important as any workout

You gotta make those deposits into the pain bank before you can make a withdrawal

Without hesitation I admit to being a middle aged man.  With a façade of bravado I will also admit to being a competitive athlete. The juxtaposition of serious athletic competition and eligibility for AARP membership is a complex and often frustrating place to be.

One day I am flying up the hills as my heart rate climbs through zone four per my workout plan. I am unstoppable and taking on all comers. Two days later I am going to bed exhausted at seven thirty, with a sore back and several hundred milligrams of ibuprofen in my bloodstream.

The training edge is both ragged and sharp. In my current state I am reminded of a passage in “The grapes of wrath,” where the protagonist, Tom Joad is driving the family truck that should have been scrapped years earlier. The section describes how he is using his whole body to monitor the the old truck. As he drives he is feeling the transmission through the floor of the cab while at the same time listening for subtle variances in the rumbling of the struggling engine.  There are times when it feels like my body is that old worn-out truck and I am trying to listen and diagnose meaning from the assortment of creaks and groans that incessantly follow me each day.

My body didn’t come with an owner’s manual, just washing instructions and a warranty that expired when I moved out of my parents’ home. I am generally pretty happy with what I am still able to do at my age.  To my amazement I continue to be surprised as I learn new things about my constantly evolving body.  Stretching, posture, nutrition, sleep, and stress all play their role in my success, or lack thereof.  

My training has gone okay with the typical, “Whoa, that was too much, better back off a bit” episodes where I lose a few days trying to avoid total collapse.  Every year I try to hit the hard days harder and the easy days easier.  I’ve been hitting the hard days pretty hard of late and we’ll see if it pays off.  I refuse to entertain the thought that I am overtraining, but I will say I have been hungry for a month.  It is ironic that the first time I didn’t want to eat anything I could find was late Saturday after getting home from Starcrossed at ten pm.

I will go out on a limb and say that while I didn’t win or anything I am going to declare that I broke my long standing Starcrossed curse and had a decent race.   There were in excess of 200 fast men out on the course (in three groups) when I was racing and I beat a lot and a lot beat me. As I looked around after finishing the guys around me looked fast and I’ll take that as a positive.

A couple years ago at about this point in the season I whined that I felt like I worked harder than anyone else just to be a mediocre rider.  It was as if my lament were a prayer that was heard on high.  My placing improved each week after that and I found myself on the podium at the end of the season. 

It would be nice to be more competitive this season, but this year I don’t seem to mind at all.  When people ask me how my race was I grin and reply with sincere enthusiasm that I had fun. And really, with no Hawaii trip on the line, isn’t that the point?

In 2013 I am the definition of the mid pack racer and without any great rivalries this year I find that I am racing against myself in these cross races. I continue to take particular joy in my racing this season. The well executed barrier, the well ridden corner, and the right tire pressure are all satisfying to my soul. I am enjoying the beauty and poetry of racing Cyclocross this year.  Before you jump to an erroneous conclusion; let me assure you I am suffering out there.  When I cross the line I’m not feeling cheated that there isn’t another lap. I am thanking St. Nys that I managed to finish without my lungs exploding as I gasp for precious air.  My warm down is solely to try and break the Pavlovian response in my brain that riding a cross bike means limitless pain.
Kyson wondering, "is my leg supposed to go that way?"

Summer seems to have left under the cover of darkness and I expect to be pulling off the file tread and slapping on a mud tire up front for my next race.  Summer has been fun but football is underway and it is time for the sweet smell of embrocation to permeate the crisp fall air.

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