Glazed crinkly warm sweetness and fresh moist dough that melts in your mouth. Iced delicacies of sugared perfection with sprinkles and dainty sweet sparkles. Richly plump delights filled to overflowing with fruit flavors that burst at the first bite. Cinnamon rolled with gooey icing that sticks to everything it touches with cloying sweetness. Daring chocolate confections that hide iced pudding under sugared dough or flaky crunchiness. Reds, cherries, blueberry filling, apple pie tarts, and icing surprises all before me: tempting and tantalizing.
As most avid cyclists know: it can be difficult to find the necessary motivation to get out and push yourself when you are riding solo, especially when the weather isn’t playing nice. The group training ride served as a fantastic motivational forum for more experienced cyclists to stretch athletic abilities, gain strength and skills. Until quite recently, the group training ride was also a great experience for beginning cyclists to learn the ‘rules of the road’.
So, why is it that many group training rides have now evolved into some sort of awful etiquette-vacuum of mindless sprints, general chaos, and savage mayhem?
We might need to add structured training rides to the Endangered List.
January 24, 2017: Tommy Ketterhagen
November 23, 2016: Missy Hardeman
Over the past three years a 143 cyclists have been struck and killed in Texas by motorists. In over 70% of the cases no traffic citation is recorded by police for the motorist involved and the majority of incidents go without any justice at all. The current level of frustration and anger is prevalent in the cycling community as we mourn yet another needless loss of life. The big question is “WHY?” Why isn’t there justice and why are people so hateful, callous, or uncaring? As an avid cyclist as well as a continuous student of culture and sociology: I believe we are seeing the deadly impact of an impatient society.
It seems like I just dusted off my cycling shoes from the last race of 2016. These days, time seems to fly by faster than Peter Sagan’s sprint. That same speedy sprint that I wish I had at least 50% of. That crazy fast sprint that will get me back in the game – it’s race season! Wait, already?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Oh my 2016, you’ve been a stinker haven’t you?? Well, to be honest – lately it seems as if every year has it’s share of woes and accomplishments. We’ve seen more economic issues, social polarization sprung forth from politics (biking and politics don’t mix), good vs. greed in the Dakota’s … and crazier traffic than ever before. I’m even afraid to get on the busy streets in my car – much less on a bike!
Here’s some of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2016 – and a little bit of what’s to come.
Zone 3… What’s Zone 3??
I asked one day as I was riding with a friend of mine, who just happens to be a professional triathlete in training and certified coach. After being ruthlessly dropped like a wet bag of rotten tomatoes several weeks earlier on a weekend warriors ride I realized that I had forgotten about Zone 3 riding. It was glaringly apparent that, thanks to my normal riding routine, I wasn’t really spending any time in Zone 3 so I had a gap in my performance! Oops.
Perhaps I really didn’t know what Zone 3 is!
Do I think that there is elitism in road cycling? Sure, you’ve got all types of personalities in my favorite two-wheeled sport. However, I don’t believe that just because you are a Cat 1 or 2 you are a snob. Some of the nicest people I know will also just as kindly rip my legs off in a training ride. However, now that summer is coming to a close, road season is done, and the cycling vacations have been posted on Facebook – I’ve noticed that there IS a distinct difference between a Cat 3 or 4 vacation and one featuring our local Pros. Here’s a bit about why that difference is necessary for a Pro or semi-pro cyclist…
THERE WILL BE BIKING
First of all, you will see that the vacations for Cat 1 or 2 (and often Cat 3) typically feature cycling as the focus. Not just any old cycling either – epic sh*t. Cycling the highest paved road in North America, riding over incredibly hard mountain passes, crazy steep grades, cycling extreme distance, or maybe even throwing in a race during the vacation! You know: stuff that has you thinking “that is a freaking vacation??” Or perhaps you feel like: “Wow, some day maybe I can do that!”
Your Cat 3 folks, like me, will include cycling in vacations. Sure! However, we may not just focus on cycling and we might mix it up by throwing in a little hiking, surfing, beer drinking (that’s a sport, right?), mountain biking, or climbing. There might be some epic sh*t – but perhaps not as much in the epic department and more focused on just having fun.
DON’T DROP THE DIET
You might be thinking: “Diet, what diet – it’s a vacation!” … and that’s exactly what I think on vacation too, more or less. If you are a Cat 3 and you are worried about your race weight while on vacation: congrats, you are almost a Cat 2 and you don’t even know it yet. Those that aren’t Pro or semi-pro level usually aren’t worried about the diet so much when we are slurping down our third margarita and munching on our second dessert. Race weight can wait! It’s vacation BABY!
Your Pros and semi-pros however … well, they are still concerned about straying off of the training plan, even on a vacation. Ever vigilant, there might be a little fudging as long as they don’t push things too far from their program. After all, vacations end and more than likely there is a competitive event in the not too distant future. Coming back 5lbs heavier could be a disaster! So, they will probably stick to one margarita and pass on the dessert. Sounds like a sober bunch, doesn’t it?
IT’S ABOUT DISCIPLINE
It’s not that your Cat 1 & Cat 2 racers are uptight, it’s simply that the competition is tough. One little mistake can cost you. When one has worked that hard to get semi-pro or Pro status, you have to work even harder to keep it. Discipline is required to compete in Cat 1, 2 or Pro levels. This includes what happens when you go on vacation from what you do to maintain your fitness (or push yourself to be a better competitor) to your diet and including the off-season (what off-season??). It’s not that you can’t have fun – as long as you color inside the lines, so to speak.
On one hand, it’s fantastic to be able to compete in the top of your sport. On the other – it’s darn difficult too. Not everyone has the discipline to maintain the performance output required to be competitive semi-pro or Pro. So, if your top level cycling athletes have their own rides that will rip the legs off of any person under Cat 2 – that’s not elitism … it’s necessary. To a point. Even your semi-pros and Pros need a Zone 1 or 2 day. Cycling at that level is freaking HARD. It’s not for the feint of heart or those that can’t stay on plan and focused.
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
Lord knows I asked that question when I got to Cat 3. Actually, it was more like: “Well, I did
it! Now what?” After about 5 whole minutes of deliberation I decided I like to goof off too much and love cycling for cycling’s sake more than I love to compete. It’s not that I don’t enjoy racing, but it’s not my sole focus in life. There is so much else to experience! In order to Cat up at 40+ I would need to embrace a sort of discipline that would consume most of my free time. I’m not willing to do that. I had to be realistic. If you can find that drive to focus on what it takes to compete as a Cat 1/2 – that’s awesome!
One of the things that hit me was, if I leveled up a Category, I would miss racing with my friends. I’ve been down that lonely road before racing with women I didn’t know and might never see again on a strange course. I didn’t like it much. There’s something reassuring about racing with folks you know and care about. I feel like I’m a part of something bigger, a part of a community. You can be happy that you put in a hard days work even if it’s your friend that’s on the podium and not you, but that’s ok. You aren’t racing to be #1 or nothing. It’s not as empty feeling if you don’t achieve top three.
If you have the discipline to make the grade, stick to your guns, and focus your life on racing – I think that is wonderful. It’s a tough life and it’s not for everyone. Each lady competitor that makes it to the top of her sport does it for her own reasons, and I hope those reasons are worth it. If you can do it – go for it! You don’t want to look back one day and wonder: “What if…?” The only advice I have is: on those Zone 1 and 2 days – do something that reminds yourself of why you started riding a bike to begin with. Don’t lose that joy. Don’t get to the point you want to hang your bike up. Always remember, at the end of day, you ride your bike because you love to ride.
Cycle on Friends!
As I have gotten more candles on my birthday cake I have come to deeply value the balance between riding and resting. However, giving your body time to recuperate is not for those over 35, especially if you do high-intensity workouts. Training and riding hard will build endurance, however, ONLY if you also rest. You see: RESTING is when the body repairs and builds muscle: not in the middle of a workout. This concept took many, many years to finally sink in to my thick skull.
I have always been too hard on myself…
I want to do it all – all the time! There was a time when the only day I gave myself ‘off’ to rest was Friday and I would wonder why I couldn’t ride as hard as I wanted to on the weekend. I mean, what’s wrong with thinking that you are super-woman?? After a while, my body’s performance declined and I would become burned out (or get sick). I didn’t have a choice but to rest and I was constantly surprised how much better I performed after a few days off. It’s always been a fault of mine to push, and push, and push myself right to the limit to only wear myself down. After which came the struggle to get back to my ‘normal’ performance level: never understanding WHY I couldn’t be consistent. Well …. “duh”.
I am telling you now, my friends and readers: Allow Your Body to Rest. Looking back – I realize that I allowed fear of losing some level of fitness to justify why I didn’t want to rest. The reality was, I was losing fitness because I was doing too much.
If you do not build in rest time into your training routine you will break your body down and become more susceptible to injuries, illnesses, and other (potentially worse) issues. Over-training is a REAL thing, not just a buzzword. Our bodies perform amazing feats and can endure much more than we often realize. However, to constantly abuse it and not give it the rest it needs to repair and restore is just silly. After all: extensive hard exercise tears down muscles which then needs to be repaired in order to be stronger.
“The fallacy, however, is that we don’t actually get strong when we train, we become stronger when we heal from training. Outside of going so hard that one becomes injured much of the fatigue induced by a hard day can make us better if we allow ourselves to recover from that work.” – Dr. Allen Lim, PhD
The amount of rest required is entirely dependent upon the individual and the amount of exertion. A day off after a very hard ride or a race isn’t a bad thing. At most: an easy spin for an hour. Everyone’s combination of riding and resting varies based on what you did and how much you broke your muscles down, among other factors. It’s not a bad idea to have a conversation with your cycling mentor or a professional coach concerning the optimal ride / rest combo for you.
“When I later found myself in the world of pro cycling, … we discovered that athletes became stronger when they had at least one relatively easy day for every extraordinary day of training. At most, we wouldn’t try to do more than two or three days of hard training in a row without a complete day off or a very easy ride.” – Dr. Allen Lim, PhD
I’m still coming to terms with the concept of just taking several days off the bike to recover, even though I know I need it from time to time. I love riding my bike! However: it’s critical to get the rest you need to become stronger. It doesn’t work any other way. In yoga, we call this practicing self-care. I see very few people that actually practice self-care well. Instead I hear a lot of: “I suck right now” (heck, I’ve said it too!) and “I don’t understand why I’m so tired”. Keep in mind that it’s not just working out that puts stress on our bodies: life can throw other challenges our way that we also have to deal with. These additional challenges increase our body’s need for rest, even if it wasn’t a workout per se.
By experience, however, I have also learned that one cannot take many days off of the bike and expect to pop right back in at peak output! Resting is crucial, however, taking more than 2-3 days off of the bike and expect your body to need a ‘warm-up’ ride to get back into the swing of things. Don’t fret: you aren’t losing any measurable fitness by taking up to 5 days off but your body will need at least one day to limber up the muscles and get back into the rhythm of riding. This is why most professionals rarely take significant time off of the bike during race season.
If you practice self-care, you will thank yourself when you can still ride at 70+ years old… and remember why you are out on your bike to begin with. Don’t be as hard-headed as I have been about this; allow yourself to rest. Yes, it can be difficult because we like to be active. Yes, I understand all too well the potential fear of “what if I loose fitness”. It’ll be okay, a day off does not affect your performance. Please don’t confuse hot yoga with rest either! Sometimes you just need to do NOTHING that resembles a workout.
Buck up Buttercup – you can do it! It’ll make you stronger!
Who knew that finding the balance between riding and resting could be so difficult to do?
Rest so you can Ride more!
To the disappointment of many and the exhilaration of a few hard-riding fools – the debate about whether or not to go ‘off-season’ is continuously leaning towards consistent training verses an abandonment of strict discipline in favor of late mornings, leisurely base miles, and general enjoyment. It has historically been a time when a racer pulled out the old winter bike, enjoyed a comfortable coffee with mates, and generally didn’t focus much on a training regime.
The 2016 Olympics are now old news and the media headlines are all about Angelina and Brad’s impending divorce… if you care. Regardless of the media’s latest craze; there is one thing in particular that stuck with me from the Olympics and it might be helpful to those that would like to continue competitive sports long after their so-called ‘prime’. And that one thing was brought to light by one person: Kristin Armstrong.
Kristin Armstrong has inspired so many of us, not only as Americans, but as hard-working, athletic, competitive women who have real lives that include jobs and kids. The fact that she has won three Olympic gold medals – all of which have been obtained after she turned 30 – is revolutionary in the history of the Olympic Games. Kristin is a REAL person, with a REAL job, family, commitments, and struggles. She is someone we women can relate to, empathize with, and most importantly: she breaks the barriers that have held most of us back from serious competition later in life.