Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Velophoric Year

I love this cartoon. The first time I saw it, I was standing in the service area of my former LBS (much lamented), where it was posted on the wall. (Click on the graphic to enlarge it.)

The beauty behind the humor, of course, it's that there's so much truth to it. Cycling can be much, much more unpleasant than work. And I'm not talking about the long hill-climb or final interval unpleasant; we all not-so-secretly love that pain, or we wouldn't train in this crazy sport. I'm talking about frustration... dark nights of soul... cursing the day you first rode a bike... That kind of thing.

Now, Velophoriacs don't come to this blog for sarcasm or hopelessness. I fall into the "What you put your attention on, grows" school of thought, and, being a therapist myself, I try really hard to walk the talk of staying positive. But it's also important to be real, and part of reality is that even the best parts of life have some extremely crappy moments. Sometimes, especially the best parts of life. So, given that New Year's is right around the corner, and in the spirit of making light of the darkness, I'll do a classic "Year in Review" type piece by re-capping some of my low points for the last year.

In the 15 months since I started training again (after decades away), most of my frustration has come from injury, as is well documented here on Velophoria. Maybe four or five of those months, at most, have been free of worries about or pain from recurrent knee problems. And there were far too many rides cut short, the second half of which I usually spent cursing and grinding away in pain, trying to spin and get home with as little further injury as possible. Also, lots and lots of riding hours spent soft-pedaling, wondering when I'd be able to discover my limits again. Better than not riding at all, but pretty gray winter days, nonetheless.

There were sources of frustration beyond injury, too. I haven't had the money to get the equipment that reflects the type and level of riding I do. I also don't have the money to get a proper, full-scale bike fit, which would probably alleviate the recurring injury. There have been repairs during which I have crouched sweating and cursing next to my bike, running through the directions for the fourth time and still not getting the right results. There were the six or eight weeks of barely riding while recovering from classic overtraining (written up here). I was caught in numerous thunderstorms of biblical proportions 20 miles from home (like this one, for example). The one in Acadia National Park was just miserable, though the first half of the ride was blissful.

I was pretty frustrated when I first moved out here to beautiful Western Massachusetts, because the terrain is way more hilly than eastern Mass; my average speed went way down and I felt like a much weaker rider all of a sudden. That's changed a bit since then, and I've become a stronger rider for it, but I'm still adjusting to the hills to some degree.

Finally, there's the frustration that comes from being a fan of the sport and having to constantly adjust one's head to the "new normal," all the doping, the scandals, the politics and idiotic moves from governing bodies. I took that one head-on in June, in one of my favorite posts ever.

Now, I could sit here and spin all these frustrations into positives, and it's no surprise to loyal readers that each of these challenges has produced its own excellent crop of rewards and lessons for me. I won't bore you with that here. I was just looking through old graphics files and came upon an excellent Calvin and Hobbes, and decided we could all use a laugh, before we turn the calendar over and bump up into Base 2. Happy Season!

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