Essay: On the Summer Epiphany
Months ago I highlighted the concept of looking in the opposite direction for an answer. What I mean is, continue to try a locked door will do no good; I now think of the farthest place from my problem for a solution. On today’s ride I found myself falling for the old adage of trying harder. What I admitted to myself was rather refreshing and honest.
To step away from the competitive side of cycling is not easy. The obvious hard part is the sudden lack of structure. Not feeling a ride today? Not going out is actually an option. Training rides suddenly lack punch as well as purpose. Why do I need to sprint until lunch starts coming back up? I don’t. So I won’t.
With that comes the unseen transition. I have watched as regular ride distances continue to drone downward. Along with second-guessing those training sprints, I second-guess the century rides. While we’re at it, I second-guess any ride in the ninety-degree category. The unseen transition appears when friends want to go for a spirited group ride; longish distance with town sign sprints and the legs want to do neither. All that was not considered in the days when retirement sounded so appealing.
I rode today categorizing the apps and manuals I was going to throw myself into (soon, definitely soon) to get back the ol’ firepower. Maybe I would add my old training plans from a decade ago into the soup because I nearly convinced myself I could hop back into the regimen when I had fewer things to obsess over. I used to salivate over a crit’s final sprint because I already knew I was going to be involved. Now one single Strava segment a few miles into the ride could unhitch me from a group. Which app would I use to remedy that?
I caught myself trying to add one more training journal to my ‘comeback’ when I realized I needed to do one important admission: Instead of referring to myself as a slow retired racer, I needed to admit I was out of shape. It was said out loud mid-ride. There I typed it out, too. I am nothing compared to my form many years ago. My next idea was to be ok with the admission, for it could prove beneficial.
Over the past few months life off the bike has influenced the lack of time on it. I have a new flash race bike but had to come back from nagging back pain. I migrated many of my rides to Zwift, structured rides at first before aimlessly zipping around Watopia with no plan and really no challenge. I convinced myself cruising along Downtown at 25 miles per hour and only doing 100 watts was realistic and suitable for my maintenance phase of physical stature. I should have ridden those rides with bowls of ice cream while high-fiving myself for being awesome.
There was a belief in relief when walking away from the racing life. It looked so cozy to see neighbors in hammocks while I got on the bike and hammered for hours. Now I hammer for one hour and find a new struggle: being satisfied with the efforts within the ride. And I don’t have two trees to accommodate a hammock. Since retiring from racing my bike has accumulated more electronics than ever and I am not going any faster.
I made a goal of where to go with the relief to have admitted I was out of shape. There could be an onslaught to restore fitness, there could be ridiculous determination, but I concluded the next step of the process. What do I want to do with the bike? When I figure that out I will return to the beginning and consider what can be done. There were some anticipated issues with ending racing and unforeseen hurdles.
The last half of my ride was surprisingly enjoyable when I let the question purposely linger over me, unsolved. That will be for the next ride and the subsequent rides afterward. I am in no rush to find the answer, only the desire to rush through a ride at an enjoyable pace. The ride’s second half was less about being frustrated with pace. Already I am thinking differently.