Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bit by stinking bit

The road to hell is paved, so I'm safe on this one...

Finally I feel like I have some decent training under my belt. I am still way, way behind where I was last year. This is a different year with different objectives so hope is not lost.  Last year the objective was the volcanoes trip which involved lots of miles and long, steady climbs.  For 2014 the targeted epic is the gravel odyssey where the miles are fewer, the roads rougher and the hills wickedly steeper.

A tag team of injuries starting last fall and ending in February absolutely killed my base training and my guilt-motivated foray into the world of underprepared road racing just complicated the equation.   Spring came quickly followed by what seems to me like an early summer. It is well past the “now or never” phase.  It is now the “you is or you ain’t” phase.  I think I is.

Typically the training build up goes one of two routes.  The first is where you build strength and then incrementally add intensity.  This is the preferred path as you constantly have the feeling of accomplishment.  You feel that you’ve conquered one level and are prepared for the next challenge. 

The second training route is where you don’t really have the base and are constantly behind the power curve. This route is characterized by the miserable feeling of failing the challenge, but then taking on the next level even though you didn’t master the earlier one.  This is kind of like our public schools. Yep, you failed second grade, now let’s try third grade!  Even if this path ends up in the same place your ego is frustrated by a seemingly endless series of failures and a nearly total absence of successes.  This requires an almost unhealthy mental outlook to continue forward in the face of frustration. Luckily we cyclists are a warped bunch.

I finally have accumulated some base and although I am not sharp, those sharpening workouts are on the horizon.  My two recent Coffee and Lies outings revealed that although I can go all day, I can’t go super fast for very long. Intervals are the answer to that question and those start shortly after the Gravel Odyssey.

I have stolen a few glimpses of fitness including one on my homeward commute just the other day where my pedal stroke just seemed to turn over effortlessly.  It was awesome and I collected an unexpected Strava KOM to validate my self-perceived speed.   My climb up Starvation Mountain gave me a chance to focus on that same pedal stroke but with a lower cadence and I felt some benefit from that focus during my ascent.

The cumulative impact of my hard work APPEARS to be translating into some level of fitness.  At the very least I do have some impressive biker tan lines.  I’m also down to what I refer to as my “France” weight.  That transition seemed to have happened all at once.  I don’t understand why that is but I am just glad it happened.

Between the gravel weekend and the Fondo I managed to convince myself I have the base miles.  I suffered through both of those adventures but I came out the other side in better shape.  Although I recently found myself on Cougar Mountain riding the wrong bike (53/39) with the wrong cassette (a borrowed 11-25) I managed to find a rhythm and pass a couple of my brown brothers who are traditionally much faster on the climbs than Evo.

My self-talk came to a peaked when I rode up Starvation Mountain. I didn’t do the whole climb in zone five or anything but I was pushing harder than when I did the Fondo and when I finished that adventure I was twice as tired.
Tired Belgian Thugs
I showed up for the Coffee and Lies ride yesterday and had not seen any emails that anyone was going longer. I had a single bottle and a lone out-of-date Luna bar.  Before we set out McWoodie indicated some might be up for a few more miles. Fortunate for me, Einmotron grabbed a spare bottle which I gladly took.

The Coffee and Lies portion was wicked fast and took no prisoners. It got crazy both ways. Then McWoodie, Einmotron and I ended up tacking on 45 miles to our usual 34 miles and we rode to the top of Cougar Mountain. When I say the top I mean where the antennas are.  I kept working on my pedal upstroke and although it made me faster my legs were audibly swearing.  My legs know a lot of dirty words; more than I thought they knew.

About sixty miles in my lack of calories on the bike caught up with me and I got the Bonk in a big way. I kept at it convincing myself I was close to the finish even though it would have been smart to suck down a candy bar or something, anything with sugar.
At the Cairo airport once upon a time..
We ended the day with 125k and 1,550m of climbing.  The whole ride was punctuated with hard efforts and I was absolutely blown for the rest of the day.  Every inch of my legs hurt which was a pathetic, but good, sign. Sure I had trashed myself, but the fact that it wasn’t just one part of my legs that hurt was an indication that I had been using all of my muscle groups.  In my training log I gave this ride a ten out of ten for effort.  I don’t give myself a lot of ten’s.

I felt a sadistic satisfaction at the level of effort I had expended. In a way I was impressed I could push my body as hard as I did and considering the bonk it was even more remarkable.  Lucky for me the endorphins kept me lucid the rest of the day although no yard work was started or completed.
The trick now is to use whatever base I do have as a launching pad and get some higher intensity secessions while keeping up the mileage. I do have a plan and I am trying to stick to it.  If you see me riding down the street doing one legged spins, just know that even if it doesn’t help my physically, I will at least think I am faster. Without injuries limiting my riding I am back to the familiar conflict of sticking to a plan contrasted by listening to my body.

Ten days until our Gravel Odyssey and the corresponding Alpha-sequencing that is inevitable. I am glad it isn’t tomorrow, but I expect I will be ready if I can continue to dedicate the time and mental energy to stick to the program.

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