I don’t know what it is with me, but I have major problems with recovery. I’m better with cycling than I was with running, probably because bicycles have built in intensity buffers that running shoes don’t, i.e. wheels, but this is the second time I’ve put myself into major overtraining since getting hooked on bikes in the Spring of 2015. Continue reading “Overtrained Again”
I was talking with my S.Pig this morning about bikes and things. It’s something that we love to do: just dream and gush about the new bike we tested, the new trail, the latest workout, the next race, this rider we met… We have many things in common but perhaps the greatest commonality that we share is a willingness to chase our dreams no matter how far they take us off the beaten path. Continue reading “It Can Be Yours”
Today’s practice was insanity. We rode our hill repeats loop course this morning — five loops of a ten kilometer course featuring a steep (15-17% grade) hill followed by a long, flowing, fast descent. This week I had ridden 170 kilometers leading up to practice and only forty of them were gentle. The rest were brutal hills through these beautiful mountains that I live in. I had done my best to recover, but rock climbing, trials practice and an impromptu plank competition (x2) had left me sore from top to bottom and the power necessary to climb the hill brought me well into my anaerobic zone. I was hurting.
Our theme was “each person leads one loop.” Five team mates meant five loops. The shop owner joined us this morning and watched our form and gave us all advice on posture, cadence, gears, pacing. It was real time and highly personal. I like that man more and more every time I meet him. I lead the second loop and focused hard on my breathing (exhale completely, open your chest) and my pacing. I wanted to make sure I could lead the group solidly through my entire loop even though I knew I was the weakest one on the climbs. When he came up through the ranks and rode next to me his only words were “that’s it, nice form!” I was exhilarated!
My thighs were on fire and I was sweating rivulets down my face and arms. It was dripping into my eyes and I was panting, my heart pounding as I finished the climbs of the second loop. I took a deep breath and headed into the descent quietly dreading the remaining three loops and wondering if I would even be able to complete them. The central hill is so steep that more than once I’ve gotten wobbly from exhaustion and my pace had slowed so much that I was afraid I would simply topple over. You’re pushing so hard into the pedals that even if you wanted to bail you’d be hard pressed to unweight them long enough to unclip.
We headed into the descent and this is where I seem to shine. Even though I reflexively tense up when I feel overwhelmed technically, and I find high speed descents on tight mountain passes to be very overwhelming, I have been focusing consistently on my technique. When I’m taking corners I check in with my whole body to see where I am on the bicycle: Where is my weight? Where is my focus? My hand position? Am I leaned in or upright? Do I extend my inside knee? How close does my line take me to the edge of my lane? Was I able to adjust mid turn? Could I have pedaled this corner? Braked later or lighter? In barely a month’s time I have gotten so much faster on my descents that my team mates are starting to have trouble keeping up. This is good.
And it is not just the corners that I’m taking faster. I seem to have an ability to fly on the flats that even the boys in my group don’t possess. I burn out faster than they do still, and if they try to sprint and over take me then I will most surely drop behind, but I don’t let up. I push it and I hold it. My eyes become fierce, my form light and compact. The world around me hums and blurs until there is just me and the road and perhaps the wheel I am chasing. It’s an intense and dangerous place to be in, but that is where the beast lives.
With the power of the beast I dropped frumps no less than three times today. I’m feeling very smug about it.
After pracitce Kamiya-san talked with me a bit about my form and my training and where I should put my focus. The man has incredible patience with me. He is just a spring of information and he just lets it flow whenever I ask. I love it.
Coming home I met with my neighbor, a former marine and sniper. We talked about the power of the human will. Apparently in the marines they teach their cadets that the power of will is strong enough to control the body and overcome any emotion. I don’t believe in overcoming emotions, though I know it is possible. As he was talking to me what I heard him say was
The human mind and the human heart is stronger than any circumstance you can find yourself in. If you want to be the champion hard enough, no one will be able to stop you.
As an old woman, or so the journalists who cover professional cycling would want me to believe I am, I am starting this journey at a serious disadvantage to the young’uns who have been nurtured and sculpted since puberty for their sport. Sports science would have me believe that it’s too late for me, that my body’s ability to produce power is already in decline, that my timer has run out and that I’ll never make it. But I don’t believe in science. I believe in myself. All I have to hang on to is this aching, burning desire to range free over the roads, chasing down my rivals and devouring them with the pure animalistic hunger that keeps my heart beating and my legs churning.
Today I learned that even though that may be all I have, it is really all I need.
What is this feeling? It feels like my eyes are all the way open. It feels like the world is a little crisper, a little brighter. It feels like my body is lighter and my reflexes quicker. It feels like the boundaries holding me back have suddenly gotten a whole lot less intimidating. It feels like my lungs fill with air more easily.
This feeling is apparently the feeling of not being chronically exhausted. It is the feeling of not being sleep deprived and of having eaten well for several days.
I traveled through the past week in a haze. I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did finally manage to fall asleep, I would wake up again at 5:35 in the morning. Day after day this continued. I couldn’t nap in the afternoon though my body was heavy and slow and incapable of even washing the dishes. My mind would not stop spinning. No matter what I tried it was plotting, analyzing, planning, double checking and rethinking. I tried deep breathing. I tried visualizing beautiful flowing images of bicycles racing downhill (this is my version of counting sheep). I tried progressive muscle relaxation, hot showers, midnight snacks. Nothing could get my brain to turn off, and so while my body wasted away from neglect, my mind raced on.
It’s been almost six days since I had a proper appetite, too. Perhaps it was the heat, but there was nothing I wanted to eat. My insides churned on empty and yet whatever I put in me came right back out without leaving the slightest trace of nutrients behind.
About three days ago I decided that sleep was of paramount importance to get myself out of this hole. I turned off my alarms, canceled my appointments, set the AC to plenty fucking cool, closed the shutters, whipped out my buff all purpose everything which I use for an eye mask, and laid down to meditate. I find that wrapping the buff, which is just a micro fiber neck gaiter, around my eyes will actually keep them from opening, an odd reflex that happens to me when my brain spins too fast. With my eyes locked closed, suddenly my facials muscles could relax. I consciously sent my mind to wander, encouraging it to explore images and feelings it came upon as I sank deeper into the meditative state I know to give me the most peace.
It took me several days and several tries to finally get my body out of the tail spin of insomnia I was stuck in. I would fall asleep only to wake again a few hours later. With all the patience and kindness I could muster towards myself I would get up and perform some menial task like washing the dishes or checking in on the forum I moderate. After an hour or two I would try the sleep again. Slowly I was able to extend my sleep sessions back to over four hours at a time.
This morning was the first time I woke up feeling as if I could have slept more in over a week. That means that I broke the cycle and my mind has finally relinquished its hold over my body and is allowing it to rest.
With my newfound energy I let loose! The beast returned to burn its way down the streets again today! Practice this morning was short because of the Obon holiday (Japanese festival of the dead, but without the festivities), but I was determined to get the most out of it. I stayed right on the wheel of the leader and refused to let anyone pass me. It was rough. My legs were on fire. When we got to the turnaround point I hung back for about 500 meters before I saw my opening: a short straight between two moderately tight curves, just long enough for me to hammer it and overtake the two riders in front of me. I took them on the outside which put me on the inside for the next curve, but I had the confidence I could handle the corner even without swinging out for the set up. At one point on the descent the leader tried to over take me. Mostly the return trip is downhill, but there are a few blips in the road where my comparatively weak girl legs slow me down. I saw him coming up over my shoulder and I said,
“Nope! You’re not going to pass me that easily!”
I dropped a gear and lit into the pedals with a fury. Every time I turned around they were right on my tail. Fuck it! You wanna ride me? I’ll pull you! Don’t think I’m afraid to burn it and don’t think you can have your lead without having to work for it!
This is what I’ve been looking for. This feeling of having access to my full power, this feeling of letting go and racing against the wind. I must remember this feeling for when I find myself in the hole again. This is what I should feel like. If I’m not feeling like this, it’s not my fault, it’s a sign that I need to step back and care for myself properly until this feeling returns.
See? The beast, he is good for me.