training plans and tots just don’t always mix all that well, at least if you are easily thrown by disruptions to your schedule –like i can be. missed a ride last night to help care for our 6-month-old on his fourth day with a fever. it doesn’t help motivation when the feverish tot deprives the rest of the household of precious sleep, everyone’s cranky, the chores are piling up, and … did i mention that everyone’s cranky?
but that’s just the backdrop to today’s topic: a glimpse (not pretty) into the mind of the cyclist who feels like missing a ride is a very bad thing. see, when it comes to riding your bike in preparation for something — even, as in my case, racing at a very low, and local, level — there’s the big picture, and there’s the little pictures that make up that big picture. and the trick is to keep the big picture in sight while keeping in perspective all the little pictures.
big picture: fitness in june & july, with a return to form come fall. maybe upgrade on the road. lose a few pounds.
little pictures: four-five rides a week, with two of them offering some challenge: intervals, hills, even some sprints now that racing season is coming up. one or two of the rides should be moderate, with one genuinely easy. there’s more detail, but that’s essentially the series of little pictures that make up a week. and to me, this seems eminently reasonable to expect even with two little ones in the house and a job and other responsibilities. heh.
but when monday’s an off day, and tuesday’s supposed to be one of those challenges and i miss it, and suddenly it’s wednesday and i haven’t ridden at all, and it’s raining so if i ride i have to go back down to the trainer (ugh), and a couple of the little pictures crack, and suddenly (in my mind) the whole big picture’s in jeopardy, and i start wondering whether these pants make my ass look big, or whether i’ll be able to hang next time i ride with the gang — after all, i’m losing training this week, and this isn’t the first week that’s happened. as bill the cat would say: aack!
the truth is that these little ebbs and flows happen all the time: i just have to work hard to remember that a lost ride doesn’t damn me to getting shelled off the back of all my races, and that i don’t have to be in top form for the first race of the year (good thing), and once thinking about riding my bike starts stressing me out, it’s not as much fun, and well, this is something i do for fun. right?
(now, how can i maximize my time on the trainer this evening to make up for missing yesterday? hmmm…)
i expect a domestic bike rag like velonews to cover every breath that armstrong takes (armstrong finishes paris nice! oh, and some guy named sanchez tops contador for overall.), but i have a higher standard for cyclingnews when it comes to actually covering the races.
tucked in behind the two fast guys, ramping it up, sun dappling through the trees, watching for the move, biding my time: first guy eases up, second guy goes and i’m right there, i’m still sitting right where i wanna be, i see a road sign up ahead: that must be it, so i time my jump, i give it all, i go, and i get around the fast guy, get to the sign first (and then make sure i get to the second sign just beyond first, just in case that’s the right one), and i ease up, thinking cool, took a sprint from some young bucks half my age, take a deep breath and sit up…
… and the train goes right on by, heading for the real sprint line in a half-k.
at least i didn’t throw my arms up.
at the far eastern end of madison, the road travels through the business district of madisonville and then dips down to intersect with plainville road (heading back toward mariemont) and camargo (heading out toward madeira. a typical route takes me out madison and left on camargo. once on camargo, you cruise along through the no-man’s land separating madisonville and madeira before grinding up a slight grade into madeira and some very popular routes beyond.
all of this, however, is after the beautiful sweeping downhill left-turn from madison road onto camargo, perfect for taking at speed, practicing your lean, your tilt, your carve of the road. even better, traffic from madison onto camargo doesn’t have a stop sign, so you don’t even have to break any laws to take advantage of this little sweet spot.
you might have to break a few bones, however. because, even though there’re signs at both the stop signs on plainville and camargo indicating that “TRAFFIC FROM LEFT/RIGHT DOES NOT STOP,” it’s never a safe bet that any car stopped at either stop sign will notice/obey/be literate enough to read such a notice.
take for instance yesterday afternoon: sunday, light traffic, sunny day. i come up to said intersection, and there’s a car stopped heading from camargo to plainville. i’m pretty sure he’s looking at me, and he’s stopped, so i think “sweet! a chance to take this turn the right way!”
and then he starts to roll forward. and i realize he doesn’t see me; he’s gawking at the street signs, trying to figure out where he is. and he keeps rolling, in that hesitant way that people who have not idea what they’re doing roll. i holler, and stop, but not before locking up my back wheel and feeling it fishtail ever so slightly.
there’s a lot of these places out there for cyclists: little curves and descents and sprints that would be perfect (and perfectly legal) if you could trust that automotive traffic would be predictable, or at least legal. these little frustrations are the reasons that when we do get a good confluence of circumstances that allow us to take a turn perfectly, or descend in the right line, we’re likely to give a whoop for joy.
hmmmm …. i find myself a little tight in the chest with nerves, with little butterflies in my stomach and a weird sense of hypervigilance. i’m wondering if the ache in my right knee is something to worry about, or a figment of my imagination. i’m not getting a lot of work done, because i keep checking tomorrow’s weather … in louisville.
that’s right, folks — i’ve got the prerace jitters.
here’s the thing: i don’t even know if i’m going to go. it’ll be a gametime decision.
more than that, it’s not a race i care about, or one that i would plan on doing well in. in the alphabet soup of low-level amateur races, with A races being the ones you care about, B races being the ones you come into fit and ready to go, and C races being the ones you enter with limited expectations, hoping only to finish upright (an admirable goal in its own right, i know) — in that pantheon, this is a solid D.
i mean, i’m not at fighting weight, i’ve got a six-month-case of sleep deprivation (that oddly enough coincides with the age of my son), and although training has gone relatively well so far, i know i’ve got a long way to go.
easy, right? just go, get the feel of the pack, don’t do anything stupid, and see where you are? what’s to be nervous about?
i tell myself all of that and more — and it does no good. i mean, it’s ten o’clock in the morning friday, and i’m mentally packing my raceday bag (don’t forget recovery powder — ooh, and it might rain, so get your poncho in there) and trying to remember any strange noises my bike was making on my last ride and when can i clean and oil the chain don’t forget that and do i need new bar tape don’t be silly and and and …
the good thing is, i know this feeling, and i know that it’s good to have it before any race. if i went into a race just “thinking of it like a fast group ride,” or “not really caring about it,” i’d be fooling myself. because no matter what it is for me, it’s someone’s A race (or even if it’s not, someone’s going to decide partway through the race that he’s making it an A race), and that means someone’s going to take chances, and not necessarily smart ones. and that’s what makes any race really unlike a fast group ride, and why it’s good to worry about preparation and have your spidey-senses tingling. plus, no matter how you cut it: this is why we do it, why we bundle up for sixty cold miles in february, or suffer through another interval workout on the trainer in the dark basement with only the ipod as company, or skip that dessert. we race. and racing season is about to begin, for me either tomorrow or in a couple weeks at hueston woods. we should get excited.
so on second thought, don’t talk me down: i’m right where i want to be.
right now it’s ride or write.