Monday, May 24, 2010

Low on Matches

I’m burning out.

Well, technically, it’s not burnout – that’s a step beyond this. I guess they call this “over-reaching.” My legs are heavy. My motivation is low. I think about riding and I get that “Ugh” reaction, instead of my usual charge of energy.

It’s only my third year in the sport, but I’ve already been through this a few times. (In fact, I had a terrible case of overtraining a year and a half ago, and wrote a post about how to avoid it.) I’ve learned that the problem is equal parts physical and mental. I’ve been training for months for a goal event coming one week from today, and I’ve tapped both sides pretty deeply.

Physically, I’ve increased my distance and altitude numbers very dramatically in the last three or four weeks. I mostly enjoyed it, but then I went for a shorter, taper-style ride this weekend, and I felt like dirt. I practically fell asleep on the bike during the second half of the route. I’ve also had a resurgence of chondromalacia in the last week, probably related to the spike in intensity and duration. Finally, let's not forget that Mrs. V. and I also bought and moved into our first house last month. All life stressors are training stressors at some level.

Mentally, a different story. This is the first year I’ve been healthy this far into the spring, that I’ve been able to ride whenever I saw fit. Part of that is due to my more thorough winter training, a lot of time on rollers, on elliptical machines and in the squat rack, stretching, watching diet like a hawk, etc. I was determined to build up steadily this year, and I did well at that.

What I didn’t expect was to feel so unexcited just as the weather started to turn warm and sunny. The idea was to hit the spring hard. But here I am, fuzzy-headed in the mornings, only slightly interested in the Giro d’Italia (which is my favorite grand tour), and so on. I’ve been training scrupulously for five months, and my body and mind say I’m done, and done now. I’m going to have to find a way to fire them up for Memorial Day. It isn’t a race, but it’s a harder ride than I’ve ever done, and I want to enjoy it.

Then I'll rest, take some time off the bike, detrain a little, let my systems re-set. I always, without fail, worry about the fitness I'll lose -- fitness I paid for with precious hours and energy. And, without fail, I come back stronger and more excited than ever. Maybe not right away, but sooner than I think I will.

When I do, I'll settle on my next goal, to fire me up for the middle of the season.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mass Bike Week

Have you ever been cut off or yelled at by a motorist? Have you ever wondered if that move you make at that certain intersection -- you know, the weird one that no one can figure out -- is legal? Have you ever wanted to tell a driver exactly where they can go -- I mean, where they're allowed to drive when you're on the road?

Massachusetts is celebrating Bay State Bike Week starting tomorrow. They've kicked it off with a catchy PR campaign to quickly and memorably educate drivers and cyclists on the basics of road laws and courtesy. Go check it out. It's a word-of-mouth campaign more than anything, so do your part. Spread the word.

Prolly a lot more needs to be done, but I'm proud of Mass bike advocates' level of activity and effectiveness. It's relatively high.

Besides, the SRSR logo is very cool. I hope they make bumper stickers from it real soon.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday's Velophoria Incident

Fifty miles today, with 3,800 feet of climbing overall. I'm slowly getting my climbing legs back; it's taking longer than I thought, but slowly the piernas are recalling that they really can scale a 15% wall, on two wheels, in the middle of a six-mile uphill stretch. Mostly they only give snarky commentary like, "Are you joking? We do hope you are joking."

It was CRAZY windy today down in the valley. I mean one of those days when the wind seems to come from every direction, all the time, to batter and bruise you relentlessly. Persistence, cruelty; the winds of the river valley know no limit in these qualities.

'S'why I climbed up into the sheltering hills as quickly as possible -- in fact, the hills of Wendell State Forest, a preserve I hadn't explored enough to this point. There was a long stretch, close to an hour, when I was way up high over the trees, on a dark, smooth ribbon of road, not a sign of civilization, good tunes fueling my climbing legs and the impossibly clean wind gassing up my lungs with each searing gasp. That is a good setting for climbing, with no head-shaking homeowners out weed-whipping their roadside lawn. I like to keep my true, deep, self-inflicted suffering between me and the vast sky. Sometimes it's the only thing big enough to absorb it all.

Two great sightings: Leaning against someone's barn just south of Miller's Falls on Route 63 was a lovely old upright steel tandem. I could tell it's still being used, because it sported a dandy oilcloth handlebar bag, the old-fashioned kind that are so much back in vogue these days with randonneurs. Then, at the end of the ride, as I turned off the main road near our house, I caught something coming the other way out of the corner of my eye. Before I even looked straight at it, I knew it was out of the ordinary. It just felt weird, the speed of its movement and the weird shape and color of the object. It turned out to be one of those recumbents covered with a hard shell; sort of like this one...

... except a) I'm pretty sure it featured only two wheels, and b) it was electric blue. I gave the rider (driver?) a friendly wave, and he waved back. So much for a UFO sighting -- piloted by a human.

All in all, a satisfying Sunday's work.