January 17, 2006

The wake up calls are loud!

Work continues on refining my training program to closely mimic my 2003 season, while I pour over old journal entries, accounts from that year's races, and even the commutes - the mileage, the intensity. After taking an unprecedented FULL WEEK OFF THE BIKE (gasp!), I was pretty much going crazy for a ride. Warm, unseasonably warm, days came and went without me on a bike -- torture. It's one thing if I'm iced in or something, but last week a couple of afternoons got near 60ºF, and I was itching for a ride. I'm still sticking to my plan, however, and I figure a week off the bike - whether I need it or not - is probably a good thing. Better to nip overtraining in the bud, BEFORE it happens (see last July's pathetic Lone Star Century ride!).

A few of the things I'm beginning to realize that nailed my coffin shut, and I'm boring you to death by putting these in print, I know -- but I HAVE to for my own reference.
Single-speed. Yes -- one speed is all you need, but not if you are trying to get faster! I got really good at riding one gear, so good that I had completely forgotten how to shift -- rather, I know *HOW* to shift, just not WHEN. Riding a bike with gears these past few trips out, I noticed that I wasn't shifting at ALL, until often it was too late -- which goes all the way back to '98, when I was first starting to figure out how to maximize my hill-climbing by keeping the RPMs constant, even if speed dropped a little. You know - spinning.
Thankfully, the fixed gear has done wonders for my spinning - but part of translating that skill onto a geared bike is timing the shifiting with the spinning. It took until the last part of last week's ride with Ort to realize that "yes", I CAN continue in one gear longer than I used to be able to, but if I truly want to flatten these hills, I need to shift a couple times - instead of grinding up the first half in a huge gear - because that's what a fixxie HAS to do. By the time I remembered "hey, I can shift!", it was too late, and my momentum was already gone.

I'm just glad that I'm figuring all this out NOW, instead of later... and it also gives me an opportunity to figure out my commuting routine. Part of successful training is consistancy, not only in diet, exercise, crosstraining and mileage increases, but in equipment. If I'm always switching bikes, positions, and methods, I'm not going to excel at any one of them. Looking back on my 2003 season, I realized that I was doing the majority of my commutes AND weekend training rides on the same bike - the orange Schwinn. The only time I'd abandon to another bike was in the nasty weather, and then I'd grab the single speed with fenders. This differs greatly from the last couple years, where I had been commuting on a single-speed, recently a fixed, and some weekends I was not touching the geared bike at all --- it was no wonder that I would finally see an opportunity to grab that geared bike, and see less-than-spectacular performances. I would forget to shift, and the non-fixed factor made it hard to keep a smooth spin and efficient power transfer on the freewheeling gearie. No WONDER my average speeds dropped.

True true -- if I STAY on the fixed, I could still train hard and have a good 2006 season, but the writing is on the wall, and I think more geared commutes are in store for 2006 - I need to get that feel back for timely shifts, and consistancy in cadence, instead of just muscling up the climbs like I've gotten used to doing.

While I've had a terrific time these last couple years, I'm been on a slow, downward slope. Beginning with the departure of the Warbird from my training scene, I lost my chase plane (so to speak), and started doing more solo rides. Even though I sitll had numbers to train with, I let them slip -- with no-one to chase and a hard work schedule, I started to play around with equipment to kep my restlessness occupied. I went through more bikes in two years than I had in the previous five, mainly from boredom. Things like weight, gears, speed and goals became less important -- but, I was still having fun! It's not like it was a total loss -- I just lost some of my competitive edge, I suppose. Am I weeping for it? No. Just wanting to get it back, and keep the fun that came with it, and the fun I've discovered the last 2 years, too.

While I've had a good run on fixed and single-speed, I recently find myself wanting more what I had previously - with the added benefit of all the other things I've discovered recently. Still, I hearken back to last year's MS-150, and a miracle of a run with Ort on the early part of day 2, where we averaged nearly 22 MPH for 30 miles, with me on the fixxie. Dang, what a RUSH --- but honestly, I don't tihnk I could have repeated that on the geared bike -- it's all trainign and exposure. Later that morning, Ort kicked things up again and started disappearing up the road, and because of the gear I was in, I was unable to chase. Hmmm... so, you see, it leans both ways. I'll figure it out. While I doubt I'll get rid of the fixxie for good, I certainly think it will see less road time this season - but the verdict is still out on that one, maybe dirt road rides or something. So far, it's a lot harder to be fast on a geared bike than it is on the fixed gear for me.
Things like drivetrain momentum, consistancy and fast spinning are just harder to master when the rear wheel isn't doing some of the work.

All I know is this Sunday on a team ride, I had a blast on the geared bike -- I was coasting down hills at high-speed, leaning into corners, bunny-hopping pavement joints and railroad tracks. It was great fun -- and I was still with a fantastic group of my favorite local riders. I can indeed have both -- but little things here and there reminded me of the work ahead -- getting outsprinted at the end of the ride by Brinehawk, having trouble bridging up to Badgerland on a climb on Pflumm, things like that. While I never stopped smiling, it certainly fired up those competitive juices again. Looking forward to this weekend already, and looking forward to the shipment of a headlight bracket so I can commute on both bikes.

This is very much a blah blah blah kind of posting --- but it's helping me voice some of this junk.
This, however, is shaping up to be very much a single-bike season.