Tuesday, March 28, 2006

No Talent

I should clear something up, lest anyone reading this blog get the wrong impression about me. I have no talent for cycling. Sure, I can ride over 100 miles without much trouble, and I can often hang with the faster riders on a club ride. I even like to think that I have occasional moments of greatness, even if they are rare. Although, truthfully, those moments are not really so great when considered in the company of serious road racers and ultra-marathoners. Talent in this context equates to natural genetic advantage, of which, I have little or none. I suppose that I've always known this, but never had any reason to consciously acknowledge it. While riding on Sunday, however, I had an epiphany, of sorts, that forced this issue into my conscious thought.

The ride was my default weekend ride, from the George Washington Bridge to Bear Mountain and back. I was looking forward to my first post-camp long ride. I was hoping to see some noticeable improvement. As it turned out, the few things that I noticed suggested anything but improvement.

First, about 20 miles into the ride, my right knee started to hurt. I made some saddle adjustments (raised and moved forward) that helped a bit. I guess I'm still getting the Rivendell fit issues worked out. I also took some Advil, which also helped. Up until this year, I never had knee problems. Now they are becoming a regular event.

Secondly, about 20 miles later, half way up Bear Mountain, I started coughing. I was already spinning as easily as I could (which was not really that easy given the 6-7% grade) to try and keep the pressure off of my knee, yet started coughing anyway. The cough is another new problem this year.

Third, by the time I reached the top of the mountain, I was about 30 minutes behind my riding partner. David always drops me on the climb up to the top, but I usually get there abut 20 minutes behind him. So, after a month of training, I lost 10 minutes. The worse part of it was that I was breathing hard most of the way up, so I could not even convince myself that I was in better shape -- just injured. I was bummed about it, but mostly ignored it and thought about other things. Maybe I would feel better on the second half of the ride.

That brings us to the final straw... The last climb of the ride is a two mile 4-5% grade at the New York/New Jersey border -- starting at about the 70 mile mark of the loop. It was here that I had my mini-epiphany. As usual, David dropped me at the beginning of the climb. For a few seconds, I considered going after him, but realized that this would be bad for my knee. Afterall, I need to be disciplined to stay healthy for the long tours. At the same time, however, I realized that even if I was willing to sacrifice the knee, the cough and the anaerobic heart rate would prevent me from catching him anyway.

So, even though I had a solid jump on my training, and David had only ridden 6 miles since our last trip to Bear Mountain 2 months ago, I was no closer to catching him than I was last season. This was when the reality of my natural talent was pushed into my conscience thought. And it stayed there.

Thankfully, most of the goals that I have set for myself do not require excessive talent. To accomplish my goals for the year, I mostly just need to be well-prepared, disciplined, slightly masochistic, unemployed, and a little crazy. I think I have those mostly covered.

I took the day off on Monday to recover my knee. Today, I took a short easy spin around the neighborhood -- again, mostly testing out some equipment adjustments. The knee felt OK. But, then again, it always does for short rides...


Photos on Bear Mountain...

  • A shot of the Bear Mountain Bridge as seen near the top of the mountain

  • View to the north from near the top of the mountain

  • Looking back from the top

  • Looks like the ride back might be cold and wet

  • Playing with color saturation

  • Sunday Ride Summary:

    Route: George Washington Bridge to Bear Mountain Loop
    Distance: 85 miles
    Speed (avg/max): ?? mph / ?? mph
    Riding Time: 6 hours 35 minutes
    Total Time: 8 hours 01 minutes
    Power (avg/max) ??? watts / ??? watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: ???
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): ??? bpm / 190 bpm / ??? bpm

    Tuesday Ride Summary:

    Route: Neighborhood Ramble
    Distance: 13 miles
    Speed (avg/max): 13.1 mph / 24 mph
    Riding Time: 0 hours 58 minutes
    Total Time: 0 hours 58 minutes
    Power (avg/max) ??? watts / ??? watts
    Calories Measured at Wheel: ???
    Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 101 bpm / 155 bpm / 133 bpm

    Miles this Year: 1763