Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Covering Distance

Last week I did two 100 mile rides several days apart. The first I rode on my own bike, with my camera, stopping along the way. That was really nice. The second I did on an unfamiliar demo bike, riding the course straight through except for a lunch stop. That was really nice too. The rides didn't take all day and they didn't wipe me out, allowing me to work before and after. Had time been no object, I felt as if I could have kept going.

To me, it is this private moment of realisation that "I have it in me" to do this kind of distance, casually - that feels like an accomplishment. More so than, say, an official brevet finish. It is not that I don't value organised events and their objective measures of performance. It's more that when doing an event, I already know that I can do it; I would not attempt it otherwise with all the logistics involved. In that sense, it feels not unlike taking a test based on material I've already learned. It's the learning itself that's thrilling. That "A-ha!" moment. Doing well on the test? It's nice, and often necessary. But it's not the same as the learning itself.

Maybe this line of thinking just means that I am hopelessly non-competitive. Or maybe it is simply not a good analogy. In fact almost certainly not. But there's a grain of something in it, somewhere.

Covering new distance, covering new material. And along the way that feeling of having truly grasped, understood, internalised something new - something that had previously seemed unattainable.

54 comments:

  1. "I felt as if I could have kept going."

    That is a profound realization, and it frees you up to dream large. Suddenly, your bike becomes a tool to cover almost any distance. It's truly liberating and exhilarating.

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    1. I agree; that was a special moment when I realized that the limitations of my imagination and assumptions were much greater then the limitations of my body.

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    2. You have to be careful about that Heine Guy, a Zealot. Get you into all sorts of trouble if you let him...

      Spindizzy

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  2. PBP 2015... Just saying.

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    1. That is the perfect ride for Velouria. With the bland scenery, she won't be tempted to use her camera and stands a good chance of finishing!

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    2. Sounds delightful, but I think I'll pass : )

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    3. Oh, it's two years away. That's plenty of time to drink deeply of the rando Flavor Aid and start to think that nothing could be finer than a nice short 1200k loop. On a fixie.

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    4. Well maybe I could use that ride to test ride the onion bike.

      But really I would much prefer to do a bland, crowded 1200 loop starting from home. Sadly, even if they bring BMB back, I hear it is disgustingly scenic.

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  3. "But it's not the same as the learning itself."

    The body learning process quiets the mind.


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  4. I don't bicycle as far as you (just transportation cyclist) but am a runner and have similar thoughts with marathon training/running. I run many long runs alone, on my own, with my own thoughts. It gave me the understanding I could do a full official marathon so going into it wasn't a matter of "if" but more so "how well".

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  5. How nice this is to read while remembering your first, "accidental" century! You've come a long, long way, and thank you for sharing it with us!

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  6. That's actually pretty impressive. Not many people (me included) could ride so far. You're a better athlete than you think.

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  7. So fitting seeing you bloom so robustly in this springtime from the wee seedling of 2009. So rewarding witnessing your almost tremulous self confidence in physical capacity amended by skills, strength and stamina development. So enriching sharing in your success that lifts us all. Congratulations and thank you! Jim Duncan

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  8. My sentiments exactly! Going forward, instead attempting to explain to people how I feel about racing/competing/organized events, I will just refer them to this post. After all, one cannot improve on perfection!

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  9. Wow, you are now 'superwoman!!' Two one hundred mile rides in the same week! Being able to work before and after each ride! Amazing! I gather it's not so much about riding the bike as much as where the bike takes you....Also, how does hubby fit into your new riding activities? I remember earlier posts about sharing rides and experiences. Is that dynamic still there?

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    1. When I started the blog, my husband's work schedule allowed him to ride with me. As of two years ago that changed, and we hardly get to ride together anymore. Sad, but such is life. He is very supportive of my riding activities though, thinks it's great.

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    2. He's a gem!

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  10. You appear to have a nice relaxed approach to "covering distance." I'm afraid I sometimes suffer from riding for the sake of...future riding. In other words, putting on miles to do some event or other, which may in itself simply be "preparation" for doing another, future, event. It's not that I don't enjoy rides in the moment, but for me, there is a certain "tyranny of cycling"--the fitter you are the more fun it is to ride, the more you ride, the fitter you get, and so you need to keep up the rides to get that feeling of that turbo boost fitness. I think that's one reason I eventually stopped racing. But I've recently discovered gran fondos, which brings all that tyranny back. I realize I'm not explaining this all that well; I just wish it didn't take such a big time investment to get to the point where you can knock out 120 miles without much trouble and at close to your full potential (though c'mon, you took a little nap, no?) Anyway, looking forward to doing a few long rides in preparation for D2R2 this year!

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    1. I used to feel the same way. It got to the point where it felt like I had to cycle for a minimum of four or five hours each time out in order to maintain my level of fitness and enjoyment, and soon it was clearly not worth while, besides becoming VERY expensive. I could, instead, run forty minuets a day and still have a life with my wife and kids. Transportation cycling is different. It's cheap and pleasant and while it still takes up a couple hours a day it's a much happier balance and that's what it's all about, isn't it? I profoundly admire folks who pedal 10K or more on their bikes each year. Fabulous!

      Oh yes, and it's still impressive watching people enter the cycling world, and within a short period of time, move up the ranks and travel with seasoned veterans of the sport. There are couple in my town who got their first bikes a couple years ago and now race Cat. 2!! They've covered a bit of distance, too!

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    2. I've never been much good at doing stuff I don't enjoy. So if rides become a chore or a bore or a pain, that would be the end of it.

      That is not to say I don't feel as if I am "putting in the work" when I ride in preparation for a potentially difficult event. And unlike some people, I have no problem with the word training. But I guess training and fun are not incompatible for me.

      Which D2R2 route are you doing?

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    3. Oh, did not see you asked a question. I'll be doing the 180k, assuming I can get some decent rides in between now and then. And lest I've given the wrong impression, I never "don't enjoy" being on a bicycle, for whatever reason. It is never a chore or a pain to be on a bike, never--even when it's painful! I'm just acknowledging that I like to be in good shape for my recreational riding, and that can take a lot of time and effort, which might be in short supply depending on what's going on in your life--such as being 53 years old with a 3-year-old.

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  11. are you going to talk about your experience with the demo bike?

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  12. I dreamed of joining the rando crowd when I moved to Seattle. Two years after being hit head-on 53 miles into a 62 mile ride, I finally realize that the PTSD has killed my love of cycling. I only had one bicycle with drop bars, and she's getting VO upright bars because I no longer enjoy riding with drops. I was hit out in a very rural area where the traffic is almost nonexistant. I can't relax in traffic and I can't relax out of it. I still really want to do hundred mile rides. I just want to do them at a leisurely pace. I'm strictly transportation riding these days.

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    1. transportation riding is still riding (and perhaps a step back to a rando?), and PTSD can be a good thing, mine (I had a serious tumble too)makes me nudge the brakes when I hit 30 on a downhill - lack of PTSD, or anxiety, can be lethal

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    2. Wow, I just realized that I said that PTSD killed my love of cycling. I meant ROAD cycling. Yes, I am still a cyclist. I just won't be joining the rando scene.

      I'm a bit jealous because I WANT to do 100 mile rides. I just doubt that I'll find anyone to do them at 12-14mph. I never did love trying to get there as fast as I could. I just want to keep riding.

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  13. Is there something weird if you want to ride 100 miles in a group, and not care what "place" you finish?
    The world of bicycling is fraught with competitive people, God deliver us from them!

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    1. Competitiveness can be done in a friendly spirit. It's very satisfying for some (especially those blessed with advantageous genes.) Now bringing God into it, that's where you start to have real problems.

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    2. Now you are ready to do a double century in the fall!

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    3. What I don't get is why people have to tell other people what is and isn't a sport.

      Randos are self-competitive, racing that and against others.

      You could make the argument that 100 miles is some kind of overly-proud accomplishment - we've certainly seen it written here many times.

      I used to purposefully route my rides to come in under 100 miles particularly when more and more people asked if I'd hit it. Really enjoyed that.

      Cat 6-inf the like-minded is a fun way to break up a commute/ride or grocery run. Its about the spirit of play which, once lost, you are done for.


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    4. The human body by design naturally wants to stay in motion.

      Being able to ride long distance day in day out is not really that big a deal. One of the first thing I noticed when riding some of the popular ACA tour routes is how many of the others out there are pretty much the opposite of what one would consider an athlete. In fact, many are well beyond middle aged. In the U.S. anyway a surprising number are rather large. Once you learn how to keep hydrated and your calorie count right, the rest falls into place.

      Riding distance at speed is another thing altogether.

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    5. ^M
      I certainly mis-spoke. God deliver ME from competitive riders.

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  14. Hold on a minute. A big fraction of your blog documents your very methodical search for the perfect frame, fork, tires, saddle, bags, pedals, clothes, cleats, food, training techniques, and training partners to compete in long distance bike riding events. The suggestion here is that you would have reached the same conclusions by doing a bunch of jumping jacks and then, on a whim, riding a rusty old craigslist rockhopper across the State. That just flushes all those previous posts right down the toilet. What’s up next for you? Wool underpants and an interview in the Rivendell Reader?

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    1. Hey now. I've been wearing wool underpants for years. Ibex Balance Briefs, highly recommended. Not under cycling shorts though, but otherwise - bliss.

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  15. Hmmm, is this the first sign of creeping Ennui? Cycling Satiety?

    Are you the kind of person that, having learned a lot about something interesting, you find it isn't so interesting anymore?

    Having mastered, say, fencing, to the point you have some confidence in your ability to snatch antennae off handy BMWs when threatened on the street, you decide you want to pursue acquiring the power to just stun attackers with a determined squint? If so, maybe your cycling days are numbered and we'll soon be following your new blog, "Lovely Urban Transportational Dog Sulky". It could happen. You might be about done with all this bike bullshit.

    Nah, probly not...

    Spindizzy

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    1. That blogspot URL is taken. By me.

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    2. I must be doing it wrong if you got the ennui impression. I am actually embarrassingly happy and can't wait to get on the bike again. It's not even the miles in of themselves, but the independence. My handling skills are much better this summer than ever before, and I can navigate complex route all on my own now. Sky is the limit. Where shall I ride next?

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    3. No, you absolutely do not give off anything like boredom or ennui. You do give off the vibe of someone who dives into the things that interest them in a remarkable way, a way that seems to be able to pull lots of people along for the ride.

      Spindizzy

      Give the dog sulky thing some thought though, OK? Now I have to go write a report on what I did over the weekend for Social Studies, UGH.

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  16. A full SR series isn't actually all that long if you think about it in terms of 100 and 200 Km chunks... just sayin'.

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  17. Two centuries in one week? You're a better man than I am.

    WRT "Doing well on the test? It's nice, and often necessary. But it's not the same as the learning itself." No, it's not; but it's equally important: the value of doing anything the second, third,... nth time, is in the repeatability, validating that the first time wasn't a fluke.

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  18. "when doing an event, I already know that I can do it; I would not attempt it otherwise with all the logistics involved..."

    What do you mean by this exactly?

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    1. Since brevets are self-supported, the logistics of not finishing are pretty tedious. Basically a spousal/friend rescue or an expensive taxi to the nearest train station.

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  19. The wave of endorphins that can hit toward the end of a century or 200K ride, especially the first time you experience it, is an "a-ha" moment. When it hits and your legs keep spinning madly even though they ought to feel like lead, you can't help feeling giddy (and guilty if you happen to glide by another rider who is struggling.) At its best, the feeling turns you into Ernie Banks, saying "let's play two."

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  20. The logic of the You Can/Must Ride Farther Crowd astounds me.

    Why must one do this - club membership? Legitimacy? Real rider status?

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    1. I read it as not too different from when people encouraged me to race after I did 2 paceline rides. Egging each other on to take it to the next level and such.

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    2. Yeah me too but I wasn't one of them.

      Next level stuff... the social/competitive nature of egging one on is what it is but it's precisely why we have drugs in sport, even in junior high.





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    3. Agree Jim,


      The logic process of the You Can/Must Ride Farther Crowd made the definition of "cyclist" to mean one must ride faster, ride farther, and be better than the next.

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    4. Maybe I'm just lucky. I've never run into any cyclists who have imposed on me their definition of cyclist, one way or the other. In any case, I've always just ridden the way I've wanted to ride, and not worried much about what's motivating the next guy.

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    5. No one has ever told me what kind of goals I should have either.

      Cultivating opinion in a popular blog will lead to all kinds of randomness, as we have seen.

      I'll admit to pushing for everyone to be better cyclists, that's it.

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  21. Btw, I think the above photo is quite nice but strangely the bike seems to distract rather than add or somehow seems bothersome....disconnected...Still, nice image of what one might find, alone, on a bike!

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  22. Endorphins are nice.

    Now get some sleep. Get lots of rest. And eat well. And sleep.

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  23. I get lots of endorphins from a 6 mile run, which I can do in a lot less time than it takes me to ride 100 miles. But running is hard on the knees for a lot of people.

    100 miles or 60 miles or whatever it is that pushes you and gets you to where you want to be is good distance to cycle. I appreciate that a 50 or 60 mile ride from Cambridge will get me to places that look like rural Vermont, only the hills aren't as high, or steep. So a 60 mile ride is a good goal for me. But 100 miles is a nice idea.

    In any case, pushing your body to a place that it can handle is worth it, always.

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  24. so if covering distance comfortably on a steel frame is your goal. Would you go with say a gunnar or compass bike with low trail. Or is there something else in that price range you'd recommend? We are close to the same fitness level and would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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