Time in the saddle. You can read dozens of articles. You can learn the physics. You can study the biology and physiology. But nothing replaces time in the saddle. Well, maybe one thing – time out of it.
This is my first dedicated “long break” from riding. Odd that. Usually people need to dedicate themselves to doing something. No, no… I need to dedicate myself to doing, well, nothing.
I had been riding 3-4 times a week for several months. Not just casual, easy-going rides, but full-on, push-the-limit rides. Each week my average distances were increasing, and when I had to ride a shorter distance, I rode faster. But I noticed that each ride started getting harder, and recovery was taking longer. Part of that was no doubt due to the ridiculously increasing temperatures of this record-breaking Summer, but I think a larger part of it was just my body hitting a plateau.
Over-training can lead to a lot of bad things, such as chronic muscle fatigue, injury, reduced performance output, mental fatigue, and more. Every once in a while, you have to take a step back. Myself, I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t improving as much as I thought I should be. I was building up the miles, and though I was going further and faster, I was also wearing down quicker. More than that: I was getting seriously pissed off about it. I felt like I was letting myself down every time I got dropped by our faster riders; or when a large hill would knock the wind out of me; or when the heat was just too much for me to take. When the thing you enjoy doing starts making you upset, it’s time to un-clip.
It’s hard not to ride, especially when you’ve made it into a habit. Every Monday, hop on the bike, ride out and meet the team. Thursday, ditto. Saturday, ditto that ditto. Throw in the occasional Tuesday or Wednesday mid-day sprints, and there ya go. To make matters worse, the first team ride I skip in a while and the temperature finally drops down into the low 90’s, the wind goes to almost nothing, and cloud cover comes in to cool the air. After riding in 100+ temps for weeks, that was just wrong.
But it’s all good. Four days in, five more to go before I do a light roll-out to get the muscles moving again. I’m curious to see how it’ll feel. I’m hoping it’ll be like when you travel. Vacation is nice and enjoyable (at least, it should be), but there’s just something about coming home and crashing on your own bed. That “Aaaaaaaahhhhh” sensation. So, I’ll try to enjoy my biking hiatus, and hope it’ll be that much more enjoyable when I next ride.