A little "Rapha for you today sir?
My hand fumbles along the top of the nightstand until it silences the alarm. I am awake; I pause to get my bearings. The room is like a sensory deprivation chamber. There is no light; there is no sound, the stillness even more acute after being broken by the alarm. I turn my head listening for rainwater cascading down the downspout and hear none. The only sound is an exhale from our dog who was also jarred from his dreams by the shrill alarm.
Pushing back the warm, soft covers I swing my feet to the floor and stand up. I am disoriented for a moment as my world shifts from horizontal to vertical. I put my hand against the wall for balance as my feet search out their slippers. I pull the bed covers back up and then grope for the sheet that shields our bed covers from our dog. While the blankets are still warm from my body heat Tux will softly settle down atop my heat
shadow and curl up beside my sweet slumbering wife.
While they sleep I change clothes and shuffle to the kitchen. As I walk I take a silent physical inventory. My legs aren’t too stiff this morning; my knee feels okay, my head is clear enough. I turn on a single sixty watt light and quietly extract a water bottle from the dish rack, fill it with cold water and drop in an electrolyte tablet. I turn out the light in the kitchen and feel my way down the stairs carrying my shoes and water bottle. When the hand rail ends, I am at the bottom of the stairs and I grope my way down the hallway toward my private pain cave.
I turn on the light and survey the room for a moment. My bike stands at full attention locked into the trainer and pointed toward the television. From behind it is almost like a rifle at a shooting gallery, begging you to use it. My helmet sits hooked on the handlebars with the TV and cable remote controls resting inside. There is a red towel on the floor under the bike and a yellow one across the handlebars to absorb sweat. The windows are dark mirrors because it is inky black outside; sunrise is well over two hours away. The room is cold and I put on the wool beanie that was sitting next to the bike. I will take it off when I am warm enough, but right now I am cold and it feels cozy on my head.
I slip my bottle into the cage and sit down to put on my cycling shoes. I push one foot into the shoe but the shoe slips from my hand and bounces away on the carpet. I chase it down and step into it and ratchet the buckle closed and soon I am ready to ride.
Cautiously climbing aboard, I start to spin. I’ve been awake only a few minutes and my bones are reluctant to move with any force. I turn on my cycle computer as the numbers will later provide a useful distraction from the monotony.
I have already decided what my visual stimulation will be for today and I turn on ESPN2 and catch Mike & Mike. Some days I watch a DVD of a series of world cup Cyclocross races with 100% Flemish audio. Other days I watch videos of EPO-juiced riders on famous French climbs. I have a few other options, but most days it is a choice between broadcast sports, the Cyclocross DVD and Tour de France videos.
Before long my joints are loose enough and I shift into the big ring. When my training dictates intensity I will do drills that range from as simple as standing during commercials to following scripted interval workouts, but today is all about spinning for an hour with moderate intensity for the middle thirty minutes.
The television eventually fails to hold my attention and I look to my cycle computer for distraction. I note my indicated speed and ramp it up. I check the time and commence my extended intensity block. At first the increased speed is manageable but two minutes later I feel my body asking to back off. My head is starting to sweat and I pull off the beanie and toss it aside. Yep, I’m warm now. I check the bike computer and hold my pace. I glance at the TV and realize it won’t be inspiring me to push harder any time soon.
My basement in the dead of winter isn’t a social scene and I’m not doing this as part of a weight loss program. I won’t be getting a tan nor is this connected to any charitable fundraising activity. This is training in preparation for racing. This is love of a sport and love of racing. Few things say dedication more than fenders, booties or an indoor trainer.
I am on the road back from my injury and I have some aspirations.
This is no longer rehab. I have the ability call a lot of miserable things “fun, but this isn’t among them. Today is nothing but training. This is “give up your sleep, postpone your chores, test you relationships” training. This is “you may have dropped me in 2013, but that ain’t gonna happen in 2014” training. This is the time to make deposits into the pain bank so you can withdraw it during a race. This is an “after burning 700 calories before six thirty in the morning, now I’m going to reward myself with a 200 calorie protein bar alongside my sugarless coffee for breakfast” kind of training day.
With the TV tuned out I close my eyes and imagine I am working as part of a breakaway at the Independence Valley Road Race (IVRR). On a different day it would be a different mental picture, but this is as good as any. IVRR has humbled me every time I have raced there and I don’t want that to be my fate in 2014. I drop my shoulders and get as aero as I can in my basement. I focus on my pedal stroke and pick up my speed.
I pedal harder and in my mind I am weaving along the forested section after the second hill and before the IVRR finish line. There are four of us and we are flying. When we hit the rollers I am feeling strong but I still take a short pull because I am saving my ammo for the finish. We are flying and even when I am drafting it takes a lot just to hang on. As we search the horizon for the 1k to go sign we are drilling it. “Stay smooth, nice pedal stroke,” I tell myself. I look around sizing up my breakaway companions for weakness. My fantasy continues and I keep pushing myself as the minutes tick by.
I am sweating and I try to dry my hands on my shirt or shorts but can’t find a dry spot. I try my hair and that is wet as well. My bottle is nearly gone and I am working hard. The trainer hums and my chain sings softly as it whirls under me. There are no unwelcome sounds that would indicate problems with the bike.
My bike computer tells me I have completed my long effort and I back off. The hard part of the workout is over. Now I just have to cool down another ten to fifteen minutes. I reach down to the drops and the bottoms of the handlebars are cold and wet. My sweat has made its way down to the drops and the cold room has chilled it. I wipe it with the yellow towel and sit up and pedal easy for a while as I catch my breath.
I try to be interested in basketball which is the subject on the TV during my cool down. I fail. My mind is already racing ahead to the day that awaits me. There is no finish line and no instructor that tells you that you’re done so ending a trainer workout is always kind of weird. I unclip and get off the bike (isn’t it funny that we all have clipless pedals that we clip into and out of?). I remove my shoes and open them up so they can dry out.
I take my bottle and turn out the lights as I leave the cave. The sudden darkness startles me and I look out the windows. It is as dark as midnight and I smile at that realization. I climb the stairs with tired legs. Before I turn on the lights I notice my neighbors Chismas lights are still on. I brew a pot of coffee and make the calorie-deficient salad that will be my lunch. I pour a cup of coffee and replace the pot to let the coffeemaker finish its assignment.
The hat says it all
I shower, feed Tux and have more coffee. I throw my soggy clothes into the washing machine and get it started. I fill a travel mug with joe and after kissing my sweetheart I head out the door. The coffee is gone before I arrive at work and after a brisk walk I am at my desk. I’m about ten minutes later than usual and a coworker asks if I overslept.
“Something like that,” I reply with a smile.