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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Endurance sports require a difficult balance of training and recovery.  Of course that's nothing new to anyone who's done any semi-serious training, but for me that balance is remarkably elusive.

When I think about champions I imagine them to be like Bernard Hinault- strong willed, fiery, competitive and indestructible.  Of course much of that is genetics, but mentality plays a role as well. I've learned how much you think you can take is almost more important than what you actually can handle.

Cycling lore is filled with stories about riders building up that toughness: Tinker Juarez training with a backpack full of rocks, or Erik Zabel riding around town while his teammates stopped for coffee on training rides.  It's those little anecdotes that add to the legend of people whom we already admire, and I'd be lying if I don't think about them when I'm out training.

Since Christmas I've been building my way back, and it's been a mixed bag of some good, some terrible and some great days.  Although I stayed active through the fall I was too overloaded to do any serious training, and most of my workouts were necessarily short and infrequent.  I really didn't know where I was starting from so instead of getting further demotivated by some terrible benchmark tests I decided to slowly work my way back into the swing of things with regular workouts.

I was pretty haggard at first, especially on skis, but I stayed with it, and I felt like I was starting to work my way back.  Remembering how hard I worked last year I ratcheted it up a notch and decided to try to ski two days a week and do a double session on Wednesday with a midday run and a post-work roller session.  That was fine, but it left me so fried for the weekend that I had a tough time getting motivated to get out the door to head up to Trapp's until the last minute.

Of course weekends aren't solely for long workouts so my procrastination, short daylight hours, questionable ski conditions and a general feeling of malaise all added up to make me feel like I couldn't get out of my own way.  Then on the days I did ski I was so hell bent on skiing with perfect form and being out for a suitably epic workout that I was completely blown the next day.  It's as if I forget that Nordic skiing is tough.  In an effort to curb calories and fast track my lean-up program I was short-changing my fuel with predictably disastrous results.  Basically I pushed it hard enough in one particular workout that my blood sugar was still so depleted two days later that I almost went into shock after a light workout.  

Now in hindsight this is all laughably obvious, and I suppose during this process it was to those around me.  Fortunately this is the time of year when you experiment and make mistakes, and I've reacquainted myself with some of the underlying principles I'd lost sight of in recent months.  Really this effort is all about my own expectations.  Nobody except me cares if I lose 5 more pounds or finish 3 places higher.  I'm doing this on my own terms with a five year timeline because I didn't want to push too hard and burn out.  Right now that sounds really funny because I didn't follow one of my own rules.

A conversation with George at the shop yesterday helped me put that in perspective.  As we talked about the prospect of riding outside this week and what we were doing to get ready for the season he pointed out the obvious- that now is not the time to push it.  His two brief sentences completely crystallized the idea in my head and things made sense.

With my rediscovered clarity I'm taking a step back and trying to build fitness rather than auger myself into the ground.  After all, even the Badger wasn't out killing it in February.

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