Over the course of the season I have watched numerous people increase their skill. Some have increased their general speed. Some have just gotten to be better all around riders. Me, I am a solid rider. I can bomb downhills. I can handle the level of technical trails in my area. My weaknesses...well...climbing is the worst. I have never been a climber, but I know I can work on that. I also am not good at the tight and twisty trails....like TK Lawless or Maybury offer. Maybe it is just my mass, I am not able to hold speed in the tight corners and flow into the next corner.
But I got off topic a bit. Early this year I rode with some people out on Barry Roubaix. It was rough on them. But the last time I rode with with one rider, I could tell he was stronger. I also know that I just didn't put the work in this year. On another ride we did Kal-Haven. I was dropped by a rider that never should have dropped me. I caught him, but it took me 70 miles. Again, he put more work in than I did...but I still didn't like the outcome.
Tuesday I had the chance to ride at Fort Custer. I headed out and just rode my pace. While I was slow, it did feel good to just ride and not worry about anybody else. No concerns that I was holding someone up. No concerns that I was ruining a ride for someone. Just trail. Roots and rocks and dirt. But my mind kept wandering to those that got stronger this year while I faded. This year sucked. There are multiple reasons why it just sucked, and none that need to revisit. But this year is fading into obscurity again....time...it feels....is passing by at an alarming rate. Soon the green will give way to reds and yellows before the ugly landscape of fall rolls in. Then there will be a blanket of snow and this damn cycle will start over again....
I will find myself stuck on the indoor trainer....hammering away with a monotonous drone of rubber against steel. But I will do it....because the only thing that will change my training is a fat bike. unfortunately, that doesn't really seem to be in the cards. I just need to find the motivation to throw my leg over the bike any chance I can get. Keep plugging away. Try to come out in the spring stronger than I did this year....and make my presence known....before I just fade to black....
This post is copied from my friend Scott Wycoff. He is a fellow cyclist. Parent. Taxpayer. Human. He posted this a while ago and I stumbled across it again. I wanted to share this because he brings a different perspective for non-cyclists and cyclists alike. Please take the time to read. Please share his thoughts if you agree.
From Scott Wycoff via facebook:
Ok. I want to talk to my non-cycling people... I want you to think back to when you were a child. To when you got your first bicycle, the happiness of having a shiny new bike. The pride you felt in learning to ride without training wheels, it was like a right of passage to becoming 'big kid'. Bombing around the neighborhood with friends, the hours of just cruising around. Building a sketchy ramp out of a cinder block and a piece of plywood. Sure, you crashed, you scraped knees, and even broke bones. But you still got back on it, because it was your bike, your ambassador of freedom. THAT is why I still ride. Cycling brings all of those feelings back to me. I now have a whole new group of friends to bomb around with. So, the bike is more expensive, the clothes are different, my banana seat is replaced by a paper thin piece of carbon. But the feeling I get is the same. During a stressful week, I can get out and ride. I can forget all the crap in life that weighs me down, it's freedom. It's a time to let it go, get some fresh air. I've seen the sun rise in Death Valley from a bike seat. I've ridden in sub zero weather, without a soul around. Unique experiences all brought to me through the joy of cycling. How many of you love to experience once in a lifetime things? What if it meant dying? Is that fair? That's what cycling has become. I am getting a source of happiness taken away against my will. You are doing that. You refuse to pay attention behind the wheel. You refuse to move over, give some space, and wait for a second until i is safe for everyone to continue on heir way. How many of you have bought bikes for your kids, because you wanted them to feel those same feelings? To see your children experience that pride from riding all by themselves. It's great! So what happens? Somewhere along the way, you all decided that riding a bike as an adult is a reason for them to die. Why? Because I am on the road? Because I'm in your way? Are any of these a reason to kill me? If there is someone in the grocery store that is front of you, in your way, do you ram your cart into the back of there legs until they get out of the way? Do you haphazardly crash into them? If there is someone with a cart coming toward you and you want to go around the cart in front of you, do you squeeze through, risking crashing into everyone? Do you sideswipe the cart in front of you, run them into the produce stand? If everyone in the supermarket behaved the way they do on the road, the grocery store would be a deathmatch. So why would you do this on the road with human lives at stake? I've heard all of the excuses that people give, why they can justify their actions on the road. There is NO excuse to kill someone. Why do we all teach our children that the bike is a source of wonder and joy, if we at some point are going to flip a switch and decide at some point they deserve to die for riding? Stop hating cyclists!! Ultimately, I feel, the problem is a lack of education. On all sides. The public at large do not know the law and what a pedestrian's rights are on the road. You see me and friend riding side by side, and you think it's us being assholes. It's actually lawful AND makes us more visible. Motorcycles get hit all the time because people say they don't see them. So cyclists try to make themselves more visible. Many cyclists, or people on bikes, do not do lawful things on the road. I get it. I see cyclists blow through a stop sign, so that means all cyclists don't obey the law? How many times have we all seen someone do something dumb on the road? Do you judge all, on the part of the few? So why do cyclists? Care should be taken on the part of the party that can inflict the most damage. If someone has a conceal and carry permit they don't walk around pointing their gun at everyone. They know, that it will get them shot, killed or arrested. So they act in a responsible manner. We've seen the nutcase carrying an AR-15 around a Walmart, because "he has permits, and the right under the constitution". Just because he can, doesn't mean he should. Same on the road. Just because you can run someone over, doesn't mean you should. I want to understand the hate you feel and how that justifies killing someone.
My season has been all over the map. I barely rode the first half of the year. Then I decided to dust off the bike and throw my hat back into the ring for some races in the second half. That alone has been quite the roller coaster of events. I have finished DFL in my last 3 races and the fourth race back was a DNF. This was after a 3rd and a 2nd. So.....I got curious. There are some factors that come into play for sure....and I thought I would put them down on the internet for history....or to waste time....or for those actually interested. Here goes...
Sweat Shaker was my first race of 2016. I had a solid race...but started with a DFL and I was almost 25 minutes behind the leader.
Treetops was brutal. I did take a solid 3rd place.....out of 3 racers. I was a solid 1:16:03 behind the winner and was actually lapped at the start of my 3rd lap of 4. ugh. So another DFL.
TK Lawless was a bit better. I did muster a 2nd place out of 3. I raced Sport Open because there is no Clyde class in the NIMBA Series. So I raced against people that could be mid to back of the pack Expert racers. I was a respectable 29:45 behind the winner.
Big M was awful for me. I got a DNF, but on that one lap that I did finish I was already 20:41 behind the eventual winner.
Glacial Hills was better. While I still mustered a DFL, by over 37 minutes) I was actually feeling pretty good at this event.
Maybury TT was brutal with the humidity. Add that on top of the local guys destroying me and I got crushed by over 20 minutes and ended DFL again.
Addison Oaks was my last race. While I still took last place I felt pretty good about my race. Then I realized that I was 30 minutes behind the leader and I started to look into things a bit closer.
So, with the short reviews above.....here are my finishes
Big picture, a Second, Third, and three top 10 finishes can be chalked up a solid season. But that isn't the point because all but one race was DFL. Still, a DFL is greater than sitting on the couch.
I dug a little deeper and looked at my average speeds at each event. Here are the speeds by race from fastest to slowest:
1. Addison Oaks
2. Glacial Hills
3. Maybury TT
4. Sweat Shaker
5. Big M
6. TK Lawless
There are a few things about this that surprise me and a few that don't.
#7 Treetops. This being my slowest race wasn't shocking due to the amount of climbing.
#6 TK Lawless. This was a bit of a surprise because the course is flatter. It is however very twisty. It had also rained the night before the race and the course was slick.
#5 Big M. Again, not really surprise due to the climbing. But I was surprised that it was faster than the Lawless race.
#4 Sweat Shaker. Pretty solid to land right in the middle. I love the course and it suits my riding style. This being the first race, I believe it landed right where it should have.
#3 Maybury TT. If the humidity was lower I would have expected this to be higher in the order. Still, another course suited to my style of riding. Probably slower due to some tighter areas.
#2 Glacial Hills. This is the most surprising of the group. This was not a flat course. Yet I managed to pull my 2nd fastest average speed (at a race) here. I did love the course and it was a lot of fun to ride. Just shocked that it landed as #2
#1 Addison Oaks. No surprise here at all. Flatter and wide open course. I loved riding here again and I was comfortable for most of the race.
An item of note as well is that my average speeds were going up the more I raced. Meaning, I was getting stronger every day and have the data to prove it. There is more to all of this....studying numbers and boring people to death. I like the numbers. I like to see what is happening....I like to see if things make sense. I like to see if there is improvement. It isn't for everyone, but without some data to go off I don't know how I would improve.
Knowing this was a "flat" course was helpful in my decision to make another trek across the state. Up early Sunday morning I headed towards Martin to meet Mark. Then we headed to Kalamazoo to meet up with Jay and Byrne. From there, it was a long haul to Addison Oaks in Lenoard, MI. This trip I was a passenger as Jay offered to drive.
After nearly 3 hours we arrived. We headed to registration and started our prep. Greg and his family drove over as well. We had a solid club presence for a race on the East Side. After checking out the finish area we headed out for a warm up. Temps were in the 70's and the day was just beautiful. Then it was time to go.
I lined up and watched Byrne, Greg, and Jay take off before waiting for the Clyde class to line up. Looked like another solid group of 8 guys. 3, 2, 1....gone. I was 7th going across the start area and into the singletrack. Then the trail ticks upward with the first climb of the day. As I rounded the first bend the leaders were gone. I could still see 4th thru 7th as I rounded another bend. By the 3rd bend I was alone. By the top of the climb the fat bike class was bearing down on me already. All I could do was just let them by and not hinder their races.
The miles ticked by. I love Addison. The trail is flowy. It has some rock gardens, bridges, roots, gnarly downhills and a few punchy climbs. The first lap I was doing alright. My heartrate was through the roof so I had no choice but to back off and just ride my pace. Second lap I was suffering. I was pretty confident that my plan of a solo attack of the back was working because I had not seen another ride in miles. I reached the pavement section in the middle and started to feel a bit better. But I reached the climb called "The Wall" and wasn't able to clear it. There were some guys cheering there and one looked at me and asks "OH CRAMPS?? CRAMPS??" To which I just smiled and said "nope, just a fat slow guy". We laughed, then I cried a little. But moving on....
The last part of the lap after The Wall is pretty fast and fun. I started feeling really good at that point and was able to close down the gap on a guy that started ahead of me. Sure he was in the 70+ age group but he was stomping my ass into the ground. I took a gel on the paved section and we pushed the pace towards the finish. I finished and was happy it was over. 8th place. Behind the leaders by a solid 30 minutes. Slow. Oh well. I tried and it was a fun course.
A closer look at my lap times led to this:
Lap 1 41:02
Lap 2 44:12
Lap 3 42:10
(winning times were in the low 30's....)
Overall, I classify that as a win. For one, consistent lap times are what I strive for. Minus the sluggish second lap I felt pretty good the other laps. But taking over 2 minutes out of my second lap during the third lap is my shining moment. It was just a fun course and I was comfortable the last lap, clearing all of the climbs and finishing strong. Gives me momentum and confidence for my next race.
After the race I drank something new. As I use Infinte during the races I thought I would try a recovery drink when I made my last order. This one below you can add to water, milk, or any other liquid I guess. I just added it to water...and it was delicious. No funky aftertaste and it tasted like Chocolate milk...which is my normal go to after a long ride or race. I can tell you that today I feel fantastic. So give this a try...it isn't cheap....but it works.
Amazing how fast the downward spiral can arrive. One minute I am taking a solid and earned 2nd place.....the next.... I am taking a DNF and feeling like I never want to ride again. To describe my last 4 races as an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement.
This past Sunday I was ready to throw in the towel. Done. No more races. Because while I love to ride, I don't like feeling miserable while I am riding. To make things worse....toss in the face that I was feeling miserable during a race...while getting crushed....and the mind starts spinning out of control. I have experienced this spiral in my last three races. Not so much at Glacial Hills, but surely at the Big M race (where I bailed after 1 lap) and then again Sunday at Maybury. Done. Mentally being done is harder than physically being done. If you are physically done you can convince yourself to keep pedaling. You can focus on the positives and just keep the drive to get across that finish line. If you mentally check out.....you suffer more. The more you suffer and the more you struggle the worse it gets until you find yourself talking about picking up yard darts and corn hole as your favorite sport.
At Big M, I physically felt awful. I was making the grind up a long climb and my legs just quit. I mentally could not tell them to "shut up" or to "just keep spinning" because mentally I wasn't really there. So when my legs left on vacation, my mind was on the next flight. I was so checked out that I was ready to bail about 3 miles in. Maybe sooner. Normally I have the ability to block that out...ride past the legs quitting....and end up finishing the race. At the TK Lawless race I felt good. No doubt. That race went well. At Big M I didn't feel great....and the race ended with a DNF. Mentally, I checked out...so physically I had to be done.
At Glacial Hills I was doing alright at the start. As a mental boost I was able to keep riders in sight on the initial climb. That boost kept me going for the most part, but I do remember getting that "checked out" feeling about 7 miles in. Then I reached the end of the first lap and mentally I was doing better. The hills still hurt, but I was able to power up more of them and I was able to keep going the entire race. Mental win.
At Maybury it was humid...and mentally....I was already fading. Then less than a few miles in and the train of guys passing....mentally I started to question everything again. The course at Maybury isn't hard. It is a solid course. But when you start to check out....the course is instantly harder. I know I had some lingering thoughts about KC's crash. But I did my best to squash those thoughts because they can actually cause a crash. I just finished. Crushed by a field of stronger riders...but blaming myself. Why....well....here is the truth.....it is my fault.
Mentally I may be checking out....but there is a reason I am checking out. Last year I was a stronger rider. I weighed less. I was mentally tough. I am still that person, but I am heavier and haven't put as many miles in so I am not as strong. Weaker+heaver= lower mental toughness. These things are all part of the same equation. The variable....is me. That old adage of "I am my own worst enemy" or "i see my enemy every time I look in the mirror" holds true. I am truly my own worst enemy. I started to think about what I ate before each of these last 4 races. Eating clean before TK I felt good. Eating not clean before Big M and Maybury. Huge difference in how I felt on the bike. Hands down, I don't take very good care of myself. I know I need to. I know how to. I know what I need to do to be healthy. I am not really content with being a DFL finisher and getting crushed by people I used to compete with.
I either invest in myself....or I just race to finish.