Monday, June 11, 2012

Tricks of the Trade

Okay. I've had a day or so to sit on my modest laurels and enjoy the success of Saturday's ride. Now, for the left-brain post -- the attempt to analyze "How'd I do that?!"

Here is a list of all the things I think might have contributed to an unusually strong day on the bike. I don't know if I can re-create the feeling of having turbo-boost in my legs for more rides this year, but it makes sense to me to try to learn from success for once, instead of misery, as I do so often.

1) Bike weight: I'd been angsting all last week about buying a lighter set of wheels at a huge sale a local bike store was having. I adore the steel frame on my new Jamis Quest, but even when I'm flying, I can feel the extra weight over my old aluminum Cannondale CAAD 8 -- a thoroughbred racing bike. I finally decided that spending hundreds of dollars to lose six ounces on the bike was not a wise use of funds right now.

However, in an unrelated move, I did buy a new under-saddle bag for my road bike, way smaller than the expedition-sized one I've been using. To my shock, all my old stuff won't fit in the new bag. Huh! So, I ditched the multi-tool I've been schlepping around for five years, mainly for talismanic purposes (I haven't needed it once -- knock wood!) and lost those six ounces for a big round zero dollars. Maybe a couple more ounces, in fact, when you count the lighter bag. Saturday was my first ride with the new bag, sans multi-tool; the bike was about a half-pound lighter.

2) I ate a lot of fat on Friday; avocado, ice cream, cheese. Yeah, I know, sounds weird. But there's a whole school of nutrition that believes that wholesome saturated fat (as opposed to the crap they make potato chips in or put in donuts) is not only good for you, it's a necessary part of a healthy diet. I eat very low fat most of the time, but I find that an occasional boost of red meat or cheese does wonders for me. Maybe, instead of carbo loading the day before a ride, the trick is fat loading...?

3) Following in the footsteps of my friend Juancho, I have stripped down my already scrupulous diet and added a lot of kale and brown rice back in to my daily diet for the last month or two. I did a ton of this back in the hoary, new-age '90s, and now I remember why. I feel more energy, have fewer allergy symptoms, and have been losing weight. I recover from rides faster. And so on. Steamed kale is a superfood.

4) Focus. For the first 45 minutes or so of my ride Saturday, I was so wound up and nervous from all the excitement in my life these days (establishing a private practice, getting ready to adopt a kid, extra stress at the full-time gig) I just couldn't relax and enjoy the ride. Thoughtful riders know that tension in the body anywhere but the legs is a big energy-suck. So, I flashed on a trick I first discovered when doing solo singer-songwriter gigs; to deal with the terror of being stripped emotionally naked in front of a waiting audience, with only my voice and guitar to protect me, I learned to take all that nervous energy and direct it outwards, to encompass the room and the audience. This way, I felt excited and alive instead of scared. Great way to be on-stage. My fingers and voice just flowed.

When I got sick of feeling crabbed on Saturday, I tried a modified version of this. I turned my entire awareness to the beautiful natural scenery all around me; trees, brooks, winding road, sky, earth. The smells and sights began to feed me. I got out of my head and the specifics of my body -- worrying about technique, or aches and pains -- and simply expanded, to become part of the earth, moving over it like the brook, except I flowed uphill instead of down. I began to fly roughly around that time. You can bet I'm coming back to that one.

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Is any one of these enough to make the difference between two weeks ago, suffering up the hills of Shelburne, and this week, flying up the hills of Shutesbury? Probably not. Taken all together, though, and with the additional time for recovery and adaptation that came after Shelburne, they just might. There are probably other factors, as well.

These things are hard to quantify. What makes the stellar days, when we fly on the bike? Nutrition? Mood? Focus? Training? Kismet?

I don't know, exactly, though I love the process of gaining a bit more wisdom each year.

I'd be curious to know your tricks and thoughts!


Juancho said...

My trick is to visualize my enemies falling before me like wheat in the field.

That, and the brown rice.

Velosopher said...

That rates an LOL.

Scott said...

Maybe Juancho's remark isn't really off the cuff. I like the stuff your saying. Gear,diet,focus. Enemies and wheat.