Friday, March 29, 2013

Into the Swing of Things

Over the course of last year I made considerable progress on the bike as far as endurance and handling skills. But what I found most rewarding was having gotten to the point where long and strenuous rides over challenging terrain began to feel normal, with the physical aspects of the riding itself fading into the background and the adventures the riding was enabling taking over. Having gotten a taste of this made it clear how much I valued and wanted it.

This made the start of this season all the more frustrating. Not riding takes its toll, we all know that. And the only fix is to start riding again - it will come back quicker than the previous year. We all know that too. But even experienced cyclists can feel deflated when, having emerged out of hibernation, they find themselves exhausted and with a sore butt after a ridiculously short ride. In response to a post earlier this week, I've heard from several local riders telling me just that. Strong, experienced guys who do hilly Centuries on gravel for fun, frustrated that they've lost their cycling mojo after a bad winter.

So here is something to cheer you up: A true story. I got my groove back after just 3 - count them, 3 - rides, and you can too!

The Damage...
Okay, I will try to be honest here. Between the snow and the weeks of being sick and the snow again, I had not been on a roadbike for close to 2 months, not counting a handful of sporadic short rides. I had also gained about 15lb in "winter weight." So that was my starting point.

The First Ride...
I rode a cyclocross bike with mixed terrain tires. I rode solo, for just 25 miles with a 15 minute break in the middle. It was an extremely cold and windy day, making me feel even more sluggish than I already did. By the end of the ride I was tired, and the next morning I felt shockingly bad. The muscles in my legs hurt, my arms hurt, my abdominal muscles hurt, my butt was sore, the works. Hard to believe that this was the same body that did all that cool stuff last year. Discouraged and in a bad mood afterward, I knitted furiously to dull the pain.

The Second Ride...
The very next day, I aimed to repeat the 25 mile route and again went solo. I had a hard time on this ride, because my butt was still sore from the day before. Again, it was cold and windy. After the ride I felt tired and achy again. In the evening, I tried not to dwell on how out of shape I was, knitting instead.

The Rest Day...
The following day I rode my city bike around town as usual, but not my roadbike. I was still a little tired from the previous two rides, but my butt was finally recovering.

The Third Ride...
This time I had plans to ride with Emily "Fixed Gear Randonneuse" O'Brien. I warned Emily about my sorry state, but she was undeterred, and so we set off. For the first few miles I was out of breath, struggling to hold a conversation while riding at a reasonable pace, so much so that I questioned the wisdom of continuing. Then we headed uphill, and I braced myself for the painful struggle. Oddly it never came. I wasn't fast, but I had low gears and the hill was okay. Then came the downhill, and some more riding, and some miles later - boom! I remember when it happened: We were passing the Air Base, and just like that, I could tell: I got my groove back. The sluggishness, the cobwebs, gone. The achiness gone. Between riding with Emily and on my own, it was a 40 mile day. Today I rode again, and the groove is indeed back: I feel like my old self again. And, as a bonus, I have a new skirt for Spring.

Without a doubt, I need more time in the saddle before a 100 mile ride, or even a non-stop 100K. But it's attainable.

Three rides to get into the swing of things after the winter we've had ain't bad at all. Cheer up, New Englanders and let's ride!

35 comments:

  1. Your post is so reassuring to me right now. I made the mistake of riding on a day I shouldn't have last December and took a bad fall. I have rotator cuff and labral tear repair surgery coming up this next wednesday and am facing 2 months off my beloved bicycles (all three of them). It's good to hear that the pain of getting back on after I'm allowed might not be too horrible.

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  2. Wow some serious knit-pouting going on, but at least you finally wrote about riding your bike.

    You seem to be one of those people who gain power and energy from good company. I get that too, but must rely on an IV drip of coffee as a supplement. Doctor's orders.

    Yikes 15lbs. I feel obese at 5lbs. over riding weight. No wonder New Zealand wool's futures prices have plummeted.

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  3. Timely post. I did my longest ride this year today. we don't have the severe winters here that you see elsewhere, so I've commuted the 6-7 miles to work over the winter and my wife and I have done several short rides. The first weekend in March I picked up my new tourer and we did a 20 mile ride near Windamere and were knackered. We planned to do a longer ride the next day but cut it short.

    Today I went out with some friends who are doing the Liege-Bastogne-Liege sportif in a few weeks and wanted to get some long rides in. I warned them that I wasn't going well and would probably peel off at some point. But we managed a decent ride, 50 miles for me, nearer 65 for them.

    My arse, legs and shoulders all ache but I feel better for it. Going to see if I can do a few more long rides in the next week, while the weather is still cold but dry

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    1. "Liege-Bastogne-Liege sportif"

      Nice.

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    2. Not the full route, although you can do that, just 160K.

      Last year they did Paris Roubaix. Unfortunately they weren't allowed to finish on the track, but they did do all of the cobbled sections I think. Next year Tour of Flanders

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    3. Finishing in the drome would've been its just reward, like lion fighting in the Colosseum... the outcome would be about the same.

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  4. Groovy skirt and groovy post!
    See you out there!

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  5. super! looks like youll be ready for the rsc AND the ner populaires :D

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    1. Really, what is with all these rides all of a sudden?!

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  6. I like how you're now using the term 'season' with regard to cycling :)

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  7. What helmet do you wear? The white and blue looks lovely!

    Oh and thanks for the motivation! Three rides doesn't sound so bad, although I have a feeling it will take me longer than that!

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    1. It's a Lazer something or other, but the colours are non-standard; the blue part is a Ride Studio Cafe club logo. If you're local, you can buy these from them.

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  8. You wanna know what I think it was? Emily! She's like a Mojo restorer/supercharger! It's SO obvious. Can you ask her if I can ride with her? I'll bring pickles, or coffee, crystal meth, whatever she wants, cuz I'm totally generating a weak pressure diffrential so far this season(I suck)...

    Spindizzy

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  9. Thank you for being so honest about your weight. I struggle with this every winter. Skiing and trying to stay active doesn't help. And every spring losing those extra pounds take just a little longer than the year before, doesn't it. We are none of us getting any younger!

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    1. I know tons of women who experience this type of seasonal fluctuation, to the point where they have different clothing sizes for winter vs sumer. From a medical POV, I understand that as long as the change happens gradually (over several months in each direction), this isn't a bad thing and fairly normal for females who live in cold climates. Fattening up for the winter sort of thing.

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  10. I just want to let you know that I really enjoy the knitting content!

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  11. You have caused me to reflect on my winter's riding and state of cycling condition. First of all, I have the distinct advantage of living in a virtually ice free zone, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I ride with a seniors group where, short of 70, I am one of the younger riders. We ride two days a week unless it is pouring rain at the start time. Our goals are modest; 3 hours, with a 20 minute coffee break, around 30 kilometres. I also volunteer at an inner-city high school with an Inter-generational bicycle maintenance club. It's 32 km. round trip from home. The other day I made the 'mistake' of riding home with this fellow who leads the Mid-Island Velo Assoc., probably around my age but a lean old English racer fanatic on a modern carbon fibre machine, vs. my 30 year old Colnago with panniers. Pride caused me to not go as slowly as I would alone. Like you I am looking forward to some calorie burning riding this spring. I love the seasonal nature of cycling. Thanks for the good post.

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  12. When you refer to a non stop 100 K do you mean a race?

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    1. No, I just mean straight through without stops for lunch or coffee. Specifically, I was referring to an upcoming brevet (see here).

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  13. Ah, the layoff doldrums and re-entry blues. It only gets worse as you age (just turned 58) -- your recovery time is greater -- which gives you motivation to keep active. Fortunately I am able to ride year 'round, and even short rides (as my 12 mile r/t detour route to PO and grocery store), particularly with loads or on a fixed gear, or on a loaded fixed gear, gives you more work for your time.

    My own problem is self induced, or at least self-excacerbated. layoffs due to riding too hard -- every ride a time trial; a bad idea especially when you start out in a 75" gear up a steep grade or against a strong wind. But I am very gradually, over the years, accomodating myself to a "natural" pace -- interesting: riding fixed promotes this, I think, because it forces you, at least after you get habituated to it, into the habit of pacing yourself. I just need to apply the principle more consistently.

    Grant Petersen's Just Ride outlook is a very good one, tho' I don't agree with everything he says. After all, it's not "training" or "mandatory" or otherwise some sort of weird, secular morality; it's supposed to be fun, dammit!

    Spring is here in ABQ, NM -- beautiful, 70s and, fer crying out loud, modest winds. The winds will pick up though ....

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    1. "re-entry blues" - haven't heard that one before!

      I will be starting to ride fixed again very soon, you are so right about the pacing.

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  14. When it's snowing and blowing outside, I get on an indoor rower. Rowing makes the transition to cycling in the spring a bit easier. Be forewarned, rowing can be just as addictive as cycling.

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  15. Glad to hear it! And happy the weather is finally turning around for the better. I got in my first ride today (modest distance by your standards), and I felt good. I bought a trainer over the holidays and rode that through the winter -- helped a lot. That first ride of the year is interesting -- seeing how things on the roads and trails have changed. For example, the Gatorade machine along the trail is now gone (bad), but a sidewalk has been installed at the busiest intersection I cross (good).

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  16. So, for this upcoming 100K ride what bike will you use? I've lost tract of your stable...Both your bikes and the ones you have on loan.

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  17. Many thanks for the honesty and the inspiration Velouria. I've run out of excuses and I just need to get back out on the road to shed the winter weight and get my confidence back!

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  18. Dear Velouria

    I have read your blog for some time and I love it. Thanks. Glad for you, that you found your good feelings within 3 rides. It proves your talent.
    I am from Switzerland and this winter was quite hard and long, too (and its still during). Despite of this, I rode every weekenend 1 ride of 40-50 km. This is my only sport and if I dont do it I am missing it. So I have not the problem of restart.

    My target is to do PBP 2015 (for the second time) and I really hope, you will be there too. You have the passion for cycling and thats the main part. The other points are in my opinion:
    - like to cycle in night and not need much sleep
    - to be able to suck the wheels of the frontdriver for hours and hours without loosing concentration (and ofc doing a reasonable part of leading work yourself,too)
    - not be afraid of the rain
    - trust in the material (saddle) and catering (no experiments).

    If this works, PBP can be made without an extra-terrest effort, but with a lot of fun on the road in a great international athmoshphere and a fantastic feeling after the finish line (and feeling much younger than 47, I was in 2011!).


    Hope to give you some motivation by this message, nothing is impossible, you can do it!

    (and I would love to read here your reports of your preparations and then ofc your riding report of PBP 2015!!

    All the best and kind regards

    Christian


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    1. Thanks Christian,

      At the risk of disappointing you, I very much doubt that PBP 2015 is in the cards! I think the problem is not so much that I don't believe I can train for it, but that it's not the kinds of event I am interested in. Fly to France with my bike only to cycle through the beautiful countryside non-stop with over 1000 other people and then return?.. I would rather do a tour, alone or with a few friends, mapping my own route and stopping to explore along the way. I understand and respect the sense of accomplishment people get from PBP and other super-randonnees, but that kind of riding is not a goal for me.

      What I am more interested in, is getting to the point where I can easily ride around 100 miles a day, for several days in a row, with energy still left over to take photos and explore. I hope this summer I will get there.

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    2. Dear Velouria

      thanks for your answer. Ofc I accept 100% your attidude. Btw: Funny, that you mention exactly the same arguments as my wife! (she has been a talented triathlete competitor, so she could do it, but its not a target for her, at least she gives me a mental support for my participation, which is easier to organize, because I live only 5h away from Paris)

      I wish you many beautiful 100 miles rides this year, enjoy cycling as you want to do it, that's the main part!

      Kind regards and once more thanks for your beautiful blog

      Christian

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  19. The spring season, for me, is slightly different than yours and getting back into the 'swing of things' means adjusting to the surprising changes after bicycling throughout the winter. First, there are ten times the amount of cyclists, pedestrians, and pleasure automobiles out on the roads and paths that I've got accept and deal with and then there's the warming temps which means smart wool tights with jeans and boots no longer work, nor do just jeans. So it's finding, again, good warm weather cycling clothes. Also, I find myself stopping much more. Whether to simple soak up the warmth and watch people, or explore some off the beaten trail place to draw or paint. Changes are good!

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  20. A slightly different subject, but my memory remembers many of your earlier posts involving you and your husband enjoying cycling together and learning new things....Is that dynamic the same?

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    1. His job hours changed some time after year 2 of the blog; we rarely get to ride together unfortunately.

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  21. Timely post indeed!
    The winter in KC last year was the warmest and driest I can remember. I had set a mileage goal for the year and I started keeping track of daily miles, avg.s, etc. This years winter was much more on point with several large snow storms and colder temperatures. I just ck'ed my log from last year, 1st qtr. miles were 1088, 1st qtr. miles in 2013, 702. The legs are starting to come around, slowly....

    Keep on truckin,
    dave in KC

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