Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Disruptions and Transitions

For many years, I have ridden four to five days a week, religiously—Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. But so far since December, when I consider the "new" season to start, I have had trouble hitting my rhythm, rarely riding the pattern that I want and am accustomed to—due to life, work, and the weather.

I have ridden more Friday and Monday rides in the past couple months than most of my nearly 30 years of riding combined. And the inability to find that rhythm has been hard on my fitness, my mental state, and my body's reaction to riding.

So yesterday, I ventured out on a Monday to do my first mountain ride since late fall 2010, and the climb + warm temperatures + hellish winds = a bad day of riding.

Some things to consider about my miserable climbing day include the following:

• Climbing legs are developed so becoming a climber again takes patience. While yesterday I was trapped again riding with friends who claimed to be riding easy (insert laughter here), I was committed to riding with my heart rate fairly low—just to regain the sensation of extended climbs (we climbed the Saluda grade and what we call the "backside" of Hogback, going up from the bookstore side, and not the IGA side). I was patient and even slow, but I still was wiped out—my legs and back really stressed.

• My Achilles heal (other than the irritatingly low genetic ceiling I tend to bump my head against when I ride with many gifted cyclists) is heat. Yesterday's 70s was too hot for me. . .I survive warm weather, but just barely. Climbing in the 40s and 50s is ideal for me, and a huge part of my success at the Assault is the luck of the draw on temps. The year after my first and only sub-6-hour Assault, I quit the ride in Marion because we started at 6:30 am in the 70s and the day skyrocketed to over 100 (after three consecutive days in the 100s). After the ride yesterday, I realized I had not been drinking enough, maintaining the pattern of drinking that has gotten me through the cold winter so far. Even after eating and drinking post-ride, when I got home, my weight was really low—clearly signaling I was struggling with inadequate hydration.

• Riding in the wind is really taxing, nearly comparable to climbing—so our almost 4 hours on the bicycles, with two 4-5-mile climbs and fighting high winds was equivalent to a ride with even more climbing. We were rightly tired after the ride.

Ultimately, I need to keep focused on the training that each ride provides, and not be as concerned about the ride itself. Would I have preferred feeling stronger and better yesterday? Yes. That I struggled, though, makes perfect sense when I look at the big picture and recognize that the disruptions and transitions in my training are part of that training.

Nonetheless, I could do without any more hellish windy days when I am riding in the mountains.

Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor
Furman University
twitter: @plthomasEdD

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