Criterium racing has always been a favorite of mine in the world of competitive cycling. The speed, the adrenaline and the social atmosphere appeals to me. I love sprinting and I love spending time with my fellow cycling peeps. However: there’s an uncertain side to competitive cycling. The darker side of injury. Multiple concussions have reshaped my life. Even eight months after a significant concussion I have to admit that I’m not sure I will ever be the same again.
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.
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.
We’ve all been there… You are riding strong, feeling great, racing well, and then: BAM! Something happens, life gets in the way, or whatever – and you feel like you have to fight your way back. I get it. Unfortunately, I understand all too well. You might say to yourself: “I’m not good enough” – or you think you suck. It’s hard and we are our own worst critics! You want to be back where you were, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Or worse yet, you are really struggling and you don’t know why.
It’s a fact that discomfort will impact performance. Some of the key target areas are where the human body comes in contact with our 2-wheeled steeds of freedom – in particular: the saddle. For women: the choice of saddle is a Big Deal for reasons I don’t think are necessary to point out here. I know that finally landing (literally) on a saddle that works for me was a journey that included several painful disappointments, many misdirection’s thanks to mindless marketing, as well as significant (and potentially unnecessary) investments.
Here’s my saddle saga…
Sorry guys – size does matter. At least, when it comes to wattage output vs. speed. This may be obvious to some cyclist, but to others, fully understanding power output and metrics is new-ish. What’s truly ironic is that I, the anti-electronic nut, am writing an article about all this. Stranger things do happen. Don’t have high expectations of seeing any technical jargon as you read further…
I have successfully avoided ‘Stage Races’ and ‘Omniums’ for my entire racing career – until recently when I signed up to compete in Local Bike Racing’s Sealy Stage Race. I am chalking up my recent oversight to a memory relapse… after all I am racing in the 40+ category these days. Regardless of my historical reservations and fears concerning performance: I learned a lot about surviving Stage Races and actually did surprisingly well!
With that being said: I’ll share what I figured out.
One day I woke up and realized that I had become what is known in the cycling world as a ‘Sprinter’. “Surprise!” Did the magic cycle fairy visit me the night before and sprinkle ‘sprint dust’ on my quads? No, sorry to dampen any dreams there. This did not occur by focused design or conscious training on my part either. By the time it dawned upon me that I had unintentionally achieved something quite good – I then had to figure out how it happened.
I’m a little backwards like that.
Contrary to the popular norm, I ride my bike completely without electronics. This shocking state of affairs is the product of a happy accident – much like most genuine breakthroughs in mankind’s history… Only much, much less significant. I tend to raise eyebrows on the rare occasions when I ask: “How many miles have we done?” Or, to the bewilderment of all – I have no idea what my mph average is; I just ride my bike.
My average speed is exactly whatever it happens to be on any given day and I really, truly, don’t care very much.
The big day is here! The day you’ve been training for, waiting for, and focused on… ok: maybe that’s over-dramatizing. Regardless, any competitive event comes with a certain amount of nervousness and proper preparation is vital. I will be the first to admit that I’m not extremely focused on ‘race day’ training per se. It sounds too much like work.
I train for life. A life of full of cycling. Because I love to ride, racing is like icing on the cake and it must be enjoyable (as much as anyone can enjoy slamming your legs to the limit). In order to ensure that I enjoy racing, I try to apply a bit of ‘smarts’ when it comes making sure I’m fit for a competitive event. If you haven’t read my blog on Top Tips to Prep for a Race – please do so… it’s “Step 1” in all this!