Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Less Than Optimal

Things just have a way of unraveling. 

This past week weather, work and family all conspired against me.  In a near-perfect alignment of factors I had a very tough time getting out on the bike with any regularity and for any duration.  I don't say that to complain or to solicit sympathy, but I think it's a pretty common experience for anyone committed to being a competitive cyclist.

The short version is that I've been traveling a lot over the last ten days between a weekend trip to NYC, a business trip to Chicago and Milwaukee from Monday to Friday, and then a family Easter weekend Saturday afternoon and Sunday.  During that window my opportunities to ride were extremely limited as I was traveling or talking/mingling/boozing on top of my normal work week schedule. 

At every turn I made an effort to stay relaxed and flexible  to manage each obstacle as it appeared, knowing that I'd be able to get back to riding soon enough.  I ended up giving myself some slack with the idea that I still have over a month to prepare for my first race, and that any losses in fitness would be minor and relatively brief.

With all of that rattling around in my mind I set off on a lengthy outdoor ride at 5:00 PM yesterday.  After a sleepless night in an 80 degree guest room, Easter dinner and some heaping handfuls of jelly beans  I finally got my act together so that I could stick to the plan of getting a head start on riding home; Carrie had planned to leave later and follow me on my route so she could pick me up on her way through.  

Normally operations like  that require a degree of precision.  Timing who needs to be where and when on which route is critical information when you're trying to arrange a rendezvous at some midpoint between either end of the journey.  Those calculations are best made with a map, slide rule and a quick review of 10th grade mathematics, and not on a Sunday afternoon after a couple gin & tonics.

With all of that in mind I got dressed for my ride, and quickly realized that I had forgotten my arm warmers and had neither bottles nor drink mix to fill them.  This was going to require some creative apparel combination and a trip to local convenience store.  20 minutes and $5 later I was wearing a long sleeve winter jersey and had procured my fuel for the ride: a 20 oz Coke, a pop tart and two 20 oz bottles of Gatorade.  As I stuffed the Gatorade bottles into my bottle cages I patted myself on the back for having the presence of mind to choose cages that could also carry non-standard bottles in emergency cases like  this.  Of course I'd put myself in this situation by forgetting bottles and GU Brew in the first place, so it wasn't really a win.

As I pedaled along the miles started to slip by and I found a groove partly out of necessity and partly because I was glad to have put the week's events behind me.  Daylight was fading and I knew I had to work to get my ride in and I was intent on making the most of it.

About 75 minutes into the ride I contemplated how well I was going to handle the effort when my recent activities caught up with me.  Fortunately I had a backup plan, namely that Carrie was coming along behind  so if I completely derailed I could always pull over and wait for the sag wagon. 

That moment never came, and somehow I felt great.  I wouldn't recommend the Coke and pop tart regimen but it worked fine for me yesterday, and it taught me a valuable lesson: be flexible, play the hand you're dealt and make the best of it. 

It's easy to have a good day when you can sleep in your own bed, eat your normal breakfast and ride a route you know well, but how often does it go like that on race day?  There's always something that breaks, something you forgot or some other unforeseen gotcha.  The key is to not let it ruin your day.  Being prepared is as much mental as it is physical.

The carrot for me is that I know the trails will be dry soon and I'll be able to ride in the woods.  My new RSL race bike is in transit and scheduled to arrive this week, so I have things to look forward to. 

Those are two bright spots to keep things in perspective. 

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