You want me to tell you you’re the best, that you’re gonna win? Sorry, I got nothing.
You want the truth: here it is. There are people who are better. Faster. Stronger. Hell, they even look cooler. That ain’t mean. That’s life. But their success does not diminish you. Their speed does not make you slow. Their strength does NOT make you weak. Their win DOES NOT equate to your loss.
You. That’s it; beginning to end. You want to be better? BE better. You want to get faster? GET faster. It hurts? Push harder. You’re done? Do it again! Leave it all on the road. Tear. Yourself. Apart! For there is NO tomorrow. There is NO woulda/shoulda/coulda. There is only NOW. And now will not come again.
Sweat. Break. Bleed. And be better for it. There is only one opponent. One competitor. There is no one else. They don’t matter. It’s you. It’s only you.
You are what you are. Now go become what you want to be.
First and foremost, there is no one thing that holds true for everyone. No magic bullet. No “perfect practice.” The only way to learn what works for you is to try it.
Want beats need.
Your mindset towards training can be as important as the training itself. Don’t think of it as “I need to do my intervals.” Think of it as “I want to do my intervals.” Don’t think of it as “I can’t eat that cheesecake.” Instead, think “I don’t want to eat that cheesecake.” (Okay, that last one might be extremely difficult). When you associate words of choice rather than words of requirement with an action, those actions are taken (or not) with a more positive attitude, yielding better results.
“Cycle” also means “repeat.”
It’s the name of what we do. We cycle – we repeat what we do over, and over, and over. That’s how we get better.
The more you do it, the less special it is (I’m talking about focused training, of course). Whatever you start to focus on will show significant increases at first, but will eventually level off. However, it’s the minute increases at the top of this flattening arc of improvement that will set you apart from the field.
Food is fuel.
Remy’s dad in “Ratatouille” said it best: “Food is fuel. You get picky ’bout what you put in the tank, and your engine’s gonna die.” I don’t mean that you can eat Twinkies all day and go climb the Alps d’Huez. But you also don’t have to eat kale chips and deprive yourself of a cookie once in a while.
You are not your results.
It’s only too easy to get caught up in the end-game: complete a century; do a sub-5; podium. Cyclists are nothing if not obsessive. If you train for months and don’t make your goal, what then? Was all that training wasted? No. There are all sorts of reasons for not making a goal. As thousands have said before me, shit happens. You could be perfectly placed one moment for the sprint, and the next you’re spit out the back. You can get 90 miles into your century, and suddenly you’re out of gas and cramping. Don’t let the achievement – or not – of your goals define who you are.
Rule #5 is more of a guideline.
You can’t be bad ass all the time. You are not made weaker by saying, “I’m not riding today.” You choose, and should never feel bad about choosing. Riding is a luxury, something to be enjoyed. If it becomes a hardship or requirement, then seriously, what’s the point?
“Ride the damn bike.” Whether you’re new to cycling, or a multi-century-per-day monster, doesn’t matter. You want to get better? RTDB. You want to go faster? RTDB. You can’t afford expensive gear – doesn’t matter, RTDB. You think you might be dropped? RTDB. If you add saddle time, you’ll improve. That’s it. No fancy intervals or meal plans or ultra-pricey gear. Just ride.
When it’s windy out, I try to train anyway. And in Tulsa, we know all sorts of wind: breezy, gusty, OMFGsy, etc. If you don’t train in the wind out in the Midwest, you might as well not ride your bike.
By now, most of you have ridden in a group ride, or a mass start tour ride. Your skills have improved, you’ve got thousands of miles under your belt, and your speed is starting to really climb. So, you want to jump into a race. But what is it like within that peloton? How does it differ from a group or tour ride? What should you look out for?
The more you know going into that peloton, the safer you – and everyone else – will be.
When I first wanted to dabble in racing, I was given exactly zero advice. In fact, the only thing I was told was, “Hey, you should race.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming my teammates at the time. I didn’t ask a lot of questions. At the same time, not much was volunteered. It’s just how it is.
That doesn’t work for me, though. I’m a planner. The more I think and know and analyze going into a situation, the more comfortable I feel. But what I found was that those who are racing tend to speak in racing terminology, to others who have already raced.
So, for those tour riders who have been speeding up and enjoy competition (and a lack of elbow room), I’m going to go over some of the things that I know now that I did not know before I started racing. Think of it like an IFAQ – Infrequently Asked Questions – for getting into racing.
If you picked up a wheel, could you mistake it for a bike? Probably not. But you know it’s a part of the bike. What about the handle bars? The saddle? The tires? Any individual piece will tell you something of the bike, but you can’t call any of them the a bike without the rest of them. The entity of the bike is – as with many things in life – more than the sum of it’s parts.
Our brains work the exact same way. No one neuron contains a memory. You can’t just pull out a single brain cell and say, “Yep, that’s Friday, 7:15 PM, when I ate that steak.” That neuron contains only a piece of the information. A very small piece. Through it and the thousands of others surrounding it, we start getting a sense of the idea, and in turn the idea itself. Every memory, every thought, is an aggregate of many smaller pieces that on their own don’t mean much.
Whereas most of my posts focus on casual riding, I’ve been doing a good amount of racing in the past year, so I’d like to cover a racing topic. More specifically, I’ve been doing a lot of criteriums (fast, short-course races), that contain breaks, chases, and – more often than not – failures of chases to catch breaks. These events got me thinking:
How long would you have to work to chase down a break?
How hard would you have to work to chase down a break?
At what point does it become unfeasible to chase down a break?
Forget the bike. Forget the gear, the road, the nutrition. Forget everything but you. Stand there and take a good, hard look. There are some truths you’re going to have to face. You are you – no one else. You are only as strong as you are. You’re only as fast, as well trained as you. This is important, because everything – everything starts there. With you.
There are two sides to this ancient Greek aphorism (an inscription from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi). In one sense, it’s a warning: to know your limits, be humble, and avoid boasting. In the case for the Temple of Apollo, it could be taken as a reminder to walk humbly in the presence of gods. On the other side, it means that the opinions of others account for nothing – that you must know who you are, no matter what others say or do.
How you’ve managed to stick around for this much reading is beyond me, but kudos! In the last part of this series, we went over the common mistakes with caloric burn rates and caloric replenishment, as well as the upper-limits of replenishment. In this final segment of this series we’ll deal with the caloric deficits inherent to cycling, and some post-ride scarfing that – when done right – can help make up for it.
So… notice a problem here with the numbers we’ve seen over the last few posts? Let me give an example:
Average glycogen reserves: ~2,100 Calories
Yesterday I did a ride in which I burned 734 Cal/hr
I ingested about 150 Cal/hr (really, I should do MUCH better than this)
Calories available after processing: 135 Cal/hr
Hourly caloric deficit: 599 Cal/hr
Total ride time: 2 hours
Total caloric deficit: 1,198
Now, for a 2 hour ride, that’s okay. I have more than enough glycogen stores that I shouldn’t bonk (assuming I start replenishing right after the ride), and in fact I didn’t bonk, even with my low ingestion rate. But if I were to extend this to a four hour event, that caloric deficit is would’ve been huge – 2,396 Calories. Even with having eaten 600 Calories over those four hours, my tank is definitely on empty, and I probably started feeling that approaching wall around the 3:30 mark if not sooner. Had I eaten twice as many Calories, I would’ve been at a deficit of 1,856, which my glycogen stores should be able to just about cover, meaning I’d have been getting worn down but most likely wouldn’t have bonked.