Last spring and summer was a weird training period. Every time I ramped up something stupid would happen to provide a setback. Of course the worst of the lot was crashing face first into a tree. That was kind of insane of me to do. And stupid. Not paying attention is a bad strategy on the bike. Especially at 20 mph.
Which meant that the base foundation of my training on the bike was not would it should be all summer. As a result, when it came to relatively long rides such as the 70 miles we did on the Ironman Wisconsin triathlon course, there was suffering.
No faking it
Here’s the truth: Without a base you can fake it for a while. Then comes some long stretch of hill where it doesn’t matter what cadence you ride or what pace you’re riding, it just hurts. And you slow. People pass you by without a word because they can see what state you’re in. You would rather not talk at that particular point in time. Just pedal.
Some of this suffering, I have come to realize, is poor fuel strategy. A nibble on a Clif bar does not a good 70-miler make. There are nutritional needs to be taken seriously. Otherwise you can get insanely low on the things you need to pedal on. You bonk.
These things happen eventually to everyone in cycling. We simply cover so many miles the odds are against you unless you take your insanity seriously. Have a plan to eat. Do those base miles at a sane pace to start, but lots of them too. Keep it in the small ring for a few hundred miles at least. Build up those little muscle fibers that do all the real work. Climb and ride into the wind. Stop worrying about the cyclometer or the Strava or the heart rate monitor. Ride until you’re tired and insanely long at times. Just ride.
For me, that means starting with 30-milers in the winter months of January and February. Steady with lots of hills.
Then comes March and ramping up to 50-60 milers. All still steady state with some increases in group rides.
In April and May the harder paced riding starts and by June and July this year it will be 80-100 milers on weekends.
The last time I trained insane was about 6 years ago. My weight dropped from 178 to 163. Up the hills I went with far less of a problem. My group noticed this fitness, which meant longer pulls on the front were mine to offer. That’s how it is with the fit guy or gal in any group. You’ve earned it, but it’s your job to give it back. The Great Equilibrium of cycling is that it never gets easier. That’s insane, but that’s how it works.
So we acknowledge this thing we do is insane. These miles. These Shut Up Thighs miles. But if you don’t do them, the opposite of insanity can kill you. We’ve all been there. Being fit is a lot better than being rested. Rest runs out eventually.
It’s one of the tarsnakes of cycling that we are constantly being pulled or pushed to our limits. Sometimes we all wonder if it’s worth it. But those questions are best left for the base-building phase. Because by the time you enter the world of real riding, it’s always too late to ponder the insanity of why you did not put in real miles to begin with.