By Christopher Cudworth
Heading into a Memorial Day weekend is quite often a pleasure of purpose for amateur athletes like us. We hope and pray for good weather if there’s a race to run or ride. If we’re set up for a big training weekend we hope that other obligations don’t chew up our time.
A few years back a friend of mine was not riding that well all spring. He quietly stated on a ride just days before the Memorial Day weekend, “I’m going to ride all four days.”
And he did. He rode long. And he rode hard.
The weekend following his training binge his fitness seemed to have improved by 50%. No lie. He was leading the pulls and climbing with energy and focus. Before that, he’d been wheel-sucking, cramping and dropping on a regular basis.
Can one big weekend make all the difference? In cycling, it seems like it can. World class riders like Lance Armstrong chronicled their “big weeks” as being key to flipping the switch on fitness. Armstrong rode in North Carolina if I recall correctly, hammering a murderous climb again and again to push his body past the point where it resisted fitness.
Yes, that’s how one has to look at it sometimes. The mind has to take over at some point. You must become determined to get fit if you are really going to do it. That means pushing past that comfort zone where we all ride when we think we’re getting fit but really aren’t. Much of the time we’re just fooling ourselves.
My friend who did the big rides really knows his body well. He’s been riding for 30 years and has the muscle base to take on a big weekend and not crush himself. He’s also an incredibly strong sprinter so that when he throws some distance training into the mix and emerges on the other side, watch out. He can go from 20 to 30 in a heartbeat it seems. So don’t mess with him on the County Line sprint. It’s a remarkable thing to watch.
I always feel good when a buddy gets fit and feels good. It’s nice when friends round into shape and feel good on the bike.
Last weekend I was the lone rider who showed up for a Saturday morning session with another guy. He’s always fit. A really strong rider who competes in mountain biking as well as road races. We took off at 18mph and right away I knew it wasn’t my day. The legs felt sluggish. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep leading up to the weekend. At an hour I was struggling to stay on his wheel in the wind and rode up beside him to say, “You know what Tom? You go ahead. I’m holding you back.”
It was true. Released from the bondage of false companionship, he lifted off his pedals and rode ahead with a comfort that was enviable to me at the time.
It occurs that I once used to race a 10-miler every Memorial Day in Elgin, Illinois. The course was hilly and filled you with dread just thinking about the pain you’d feel on some of those climbs. Yet the last mile was slightly downhill. After you’d race 9 hard miles you could literally see the finish line ahead of you. I ran that stretch in 5:10 one year, finishing 4th overall.
That race was symbolic of what it takes sometimes to push yourself through to fitness. It’s like that with a big training weekend too. You push and push and think you’re wiped and then a second wind or a surge of adrenaline kicks in. You’re glad for the effort you put in.
So now it’s our turn. And whether you plan to log some good running miles or are riding in a race, a Century or some other event, may the Gods of Fitness go with you. This is the start of the summer riding and running season. Let’s go for it!
On a side note: Hope you enjoy this little video I created about an art project just completed in Geneva, Illinois. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eleO4gTONwI
Or read about it here: http://redroom.com/member/christopher-cudworth/blog/the-pleasures-and-principles-of-low-art