Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fitness and speed are all comparative.

Yes. It's true.

There is no single definition of fit, or fast, or having endurance.

If there was one set goal to strive for, there wouldn't be anywhere else to go afterwards. And, then what would we do? Try to hold onto it as long as possible? I think most people who cycle enjoy pushing themselves towards something higher, and maybe even enjoy the suffering along the way as some sort of rite of passage on the road to a new understanding of self and the world...

Since I've started cycling regularly again I've been riding both by myself and with local groups, more or less formally. The benefit of riding by myself is that I can set my own goals and pace, but maybe my route choices are less interesting (or maybe I chicken out of the steep side of the high point?). Riding with a group is nice for the knowledge of great routes, or the challenge of keeping pace with faster riders, or the lessons one learns simply from riding behind somebody who's been cycling for 40+ years. But, often group rides end before I feel really done. And, lately I've been looking to improve my speed. I was starting to feel really good about my abilities and speed, especially up hills, with the groups I was riding with. I've been popping off the front too easily, and having to wait at hilltops too often.

And then, WHAM, it happens. My confidence bubble is burst. I ride with a much more skilled and fit cyclist. The sort with perfectly circular pedal strokes, even up hills that drag to a mere 3 miles per hour.  I get flattened, reminded that although it was long and hard the route of last weekend was NOT the steep side of the slope, and then I suddenly feel like a beached whale that somehow got hoisted onto a bicycle that I hardly know how to ride. Once upon a time I was fit and knew how to ride a bicycle. What happened to those days when I didn't get winded so easily going up the steep side of the mountain?

 Oh, right, I got sick. Even now, I am less than two years out of the hospital, having had numerous surgeries and complications including sepsis, a DVT and a PE (big clot went to my lung, it really wasn't much fun). And, after that almost the first year was a struggle even getting back to an average (for Americans, who have admittedly pitiful standards...) level of fitness and recovering from extreme nutritional deficits (and then recovering from my recovery from nutritional deficits).

When I remind myself that for being about 7 months back into truly cycling again (I'm not counting commuting as a start time), and two months of that being only on a trainer in my dining room, I think that I'm not doing so terribly after all. I'm in the frustrating position of being too slow to hang with the truly skilled and fit cyclists, yet... but, that will change. I have a goal. Distance is nice, but I will be working on my speed now as well. My resolution is to continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone to the point at which I think I'm going to fail/vomit/fall over/die (but, not really, right?) at least 3 rides a week in an effort to avoid becoming complacent and too comfortable in the same weekly ride. And hopefully I can persuade kind people to let me hang on their wheel some more while I try to keep up!

Reminder of the day from a kind person who humored my struggling up a different side of Troy Hill today: Don't touch the breaks around corners on the descents! Don't even think about it! You'll get yourself killed!

Yes, since realizing my mortality a couple of years ago, I've suddenly become a bit nervous when I can't see what's coming around the next corner on a descent.

As a sort of trade off for not being able to keep up towards the end of today's ride, I tacked on an extra 20ish solo miles up around the north part of the city, through the zoo, back down to the university area and then across to the east end, back to Lawrenceville, then south to Oakland.

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