Somewhere past the one-hour mark in a 1:30 training session on the Computrainer at Mill Race Cyclery, I simply had to get off the bike. The compression of the bike seat added up to soreness on the sit bones, and I’m pretty sure that every white blood cell in my body had gathered around the region of my sit bones just in case something caved in.
So I stepped off the bike gingerly and stood bent over a minute or so just letting blood flow move through the area. The red blood cells waved as they went past the white blood cells. “Hi guys! What’cha’ll doing down here?”
“We’re on Ass Watch,” one of them replied. “Remember the great Hemorrhoid Cataclysm of 2007? We’re just trying to prevent another incident. Like that.”
Well, things calmed down pretty quickly on their own. I just haven’t been on the seat of the Venge since November. That’s two whole months of my butt sitting on nothing harder than a cushy office seat and maybe a hard chair now and then in my art studio.
So the Moment of Truth was real. I was officially Computraining my butt.
Ranking my ass
Up until that moment everything was going well. Over the hour I’d climbed up the rankings from 9th out of 10 riders into fourth. My FTP setup was a mere 175 compared to my wife’s 220, but she was far ahead of me from the Get-Go. She finished the day 3:00 ahead of everyone else in the room. Perhaps our trainer Darryl Tyndorf could have given Sue a run for the money, but who knows?
The woman has been training hard for weeks. in the early morning hours, I can hear her whirring away in our training room a few mornings a week. The hum of tires comes through the structure of the house like the drumming of grouse in a spring woods. The sound has its own wavelength, like the deep sounds of space or the grinding of trillions of neutrinos as they pass through the earth.
If you’ve ever stood by the side of the street when a pro bike race comes by, you know the sound can be massive. The whirr of tires is profound. The rush of wind. The coil of wheels repeatedly fighting to spin out of round are held together only by thin bladed spokes of metal fighting back the stress of centrifugal force. It is both a mechanical and metaphysical world, this thing called cycling.
But it’s the contact points between rider and bike that make the difference in how the ride will go. Until those first couple rides are behind you to toughen up the sit bones, there’s a bit of discomfort involved. That process is only exacerbated by the controlled torture of going nowhere on a Computrainer ride. During periods of high cadence riding, it can get pretty painful.
During the training session my equipment kept wobbling in place. After the session was over, the reason became apparent. My trainer was sitting on some cords and that made it unstable. “Look!” I said to Sue. “Think how much energy was lost! I probably used 20% of my effort fighting this! I could have won!”
She rolled her eyes. She knows I love to play games like that. She also knows that I’m full of shit while doing it.
But I was proud of how well I rode considering the Butt Factor and this being my first time on the bike in a while. The first fifteen minutes I’d languished down near the bottom of the heap as my body adapted to the indoor climate and riding. At first the fan blowing right on my face felt too cool. But soon enough the blue Castelli cap on my head was soaked with sweat. I was getting into it.
Positioning my virtual butt
That meant my competitive juices started flowing. I watched my position go from ninth to eighth to 7th. Then there was a gap of almost two minutes to make up between 7th to 6th. During that portion of the ride we were doing ten consecutive two minute hard efforts with a 1:30 rest between. So I set my mind to cross the gap just like I was riding in the Tour.
It went from 2:00 down to 1:30. Then down to 1:10. Then it was down to forty seconds. And 20. But it was getting tough to get many more watts out of the gear I was riding. So I took the risk and lifted it up a notch. That dropped the gap and I passed the next rider. That’s when it became evident there were three of us together.
The next interval was a long 20:00 session at 95 cadence while changing gears to drive up watts. During that ride our positions changed some. It was forcing all of us to concentrate on good riding. No slacking off. I moved up to 4th for a while, but the next person was 1:40 ahead. That was a risk of blowing up if I went after them. That’s also when my butt went into a second round of ass panic.
This time I stood up in the saddle a bit, but the thighs doth protested. So I sat back down and resolved to ride through the pain no matter what. For the first two minutes I hovered again in fifth, then dropped briefly sixth! Damn! It was time to make another move.
Nothing stopping me
I realized that I wasn’t really hurting that badly in the legs. With concentration on keeping the spin smooth, I actually found a painless groove. The bike was still wobbling on the trainer, but that was no longer my concern. I wanted fourth and nothing was going to stop me.
The 20:00 endurance interval was over . It was time for a series of 2:00 drills ridden in our biggest gear. That jumped the watts over 300 for me, but I looked at Sue’s numbers and she was even higher than that. The girl’s got game, I tell ya.
For some reason I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of big gears and even bigger hills. The focus it takes to ride against such resistance erases all other purpose in this world. You don’t have time or energy to think about anything but turning those pedals.
My butt no longer hurt so much. I had moved past the pain point into the zone where the seat becomes part of your ass, not the other way around. I was officially computraining my butt from that point on.
And despite a mere 10 second gap throughout the three deep stroke intervals, I recovered and then held my coveted fourth place position all the way to the end of the session. It was a hard-earned battle for fourth place, and meant literally nothing to anyone else in the world. But for a guy coming off a winter layoff, it was a good effort. No butts about it.