May 2, 2006

The rain fell, like so many hopes.

The term “epic” is so often mentioned at the end of a long ride. Especially hilly rides usually get this overused moniker, and those that simply drag out for hours on end, with flats, mechanicals, and general woe tend to get the tag, too. “Epic” – I’ve only had a couple REAL epic rides – as this is generally a term that I hear SO much, that I tend to be particularly careful when applying it to anything.

The 2nd day of the 2001 MS-150 was borderline “epic”.
Day three of Ride the Rockies 2002 was “epic”.
The 2003 300K that I DNF’d was absolutely “EPIC”.

The 2006 400K would have been epic, had I completed it.

Last season, and if you read anything on the old webpage, you’d know, was epic in the sense that I had a TON of mileage, and burned-out completely no less than three times. The evil opposite of that is true this year – and looking back at the average speeds and weekend activities, it’s true. I’m epically UNDER-trained now, due to my gun-shyness for OVER-training.

This clown can’t win. Is this the same person that rode so well in 2003? Is this the former KCCC bronze medalist? Is this the guy that brought Reliable Automotive two consecutive gold medals in the KCCC Team Time Trail at Shawnee Mission Park? UNDER TRAINED???

Yup. And 20 lbs heavier, to boot.

You heard it from my lips first: the Dude is slippin’.

So laid out and burnt out was I that sometime back in December or January I decided that I was going to ride LESS in 2006. Less is more, right? Well – not 80% less, apparently. Less, as it turns out, is LESS if it’s the wrong KIND of “less”. What I should have been doing was (and boring as this is gonna get, one has to remember that this blog has a certain kind of self-therapy factor – let this be a lesson to you all) practicing more FOCUS, instead of just simply doing LESS. The only saving grace: there is a LOT of 2006 left.

The first 200K of the year saw a return to gears, and the beginnings of a new philosophy. As suspected, that ride was not a record-breaker – the only records broken were the temperatures that day. Slogging along in “no-man’s land” heart rate zone, I finished the day without any major hardships.

The second 200K went roughly the same way. Not chasing anyone down, I managed to finish only slightly in-step with previous years attempts at the same course up northwest of Liberty. Not bad… but not really too good, either, considering the plans I had laid.

Medical reasons in the family kept me home for the 300K – and I have zero qualms about it – but a month later it was clear that I should have made that mileage up SOMEWHERE. Instead, a hearty Cidermill ride saw me taking in more calories that I probably burned – not stressing too much, I again didn’t ride too slow, and didn’t ride too fast. Mo improvements, no desire TO improve. Nice and cozy, I stayed exactly as fast and as slow as before. I had a nicer bicycle under me, however.

The 400K loomed. I was “READY”, I thought… and then the forecast changed, dramatically. It was the evil opposite of the typical winter-time forecast in Kansas City…

“It’s gonna snow THREE FEET!!!” they’d proclaim, days in advance on TV – the teasers would have us all guessing about our doom, and the lines at the grocery store would lengthen in anticipation of “the storm of the decade”…..

Seventy-two hours later, a dusting – which would melt away completely in the following 12 hours.

This time, the tables were turned…

“ a beautiful week in store, and an even BETTER weekend,” they boasted, channel to channel. That was Monday…Tuesday, the same.
Wednesday, suddenly, and quietly, a 30% chance of rain snuck into the forecast… then it was 50% -- then,

“holy mackerel it’s going to RAIN UNTIL YOU DIE! THIS WEEKEND! Tune in at ten, OR ELSE!!!”


For once, however, I was calm, collected, and PREPARED. If I give myself nothing else this season, thus far, I have been PREPARED, boy.

Fenders – FULL fenders, with flaps, even. An excellent, and field-proven rain jacket. Wool gloves and cap. Plastic baggies for EVERYTHING, a good seat-bag – but not TOO big. Spare batteries, because the taillights were gonna be on ALL day this time. The lessons of all the previous ill equipped debacles of the past were finally all lock-safe in my preparatory vault, and I was putting it all to practice. I was at ease, steady – and in a sick way almost looking forward to nearly 21 hours and 252 miles in the heaviest rainfall the area had seen in months.

It was not to be.

Somewhere in the vault of preparedness was missing a key ingredient called FITNESS, second only to the coriander, the cumin, nay!… the freaking kosher salt of the randonneuring recipe: endurance. DEEEE-UUUUHHHH!!!

That, and maybe an obsessive-compulsive alarm setting exercise.

Cutting to the chase, I was good for only about 200K – all of it solo, trying desperately to catch up to the hearty group that was nearly an hour ahead of me on the road at one point. Holy crud – even with my “brutally efficient” fixed gear arrangement, I was brutally, pathetically, mind-bogglingly SLOW. Even the weather improved dramatically after the first hour and a half or so, but it was no magic bullet. The glory that was to be another shining example of my fabled “less is more” programme was dead in a ditch somewhere, sucking on the remains of a gel packet from last season.

I slogged over hill and dale – past the Lake and Dale – and over the river, past the woods, past someone’s grandmother’s house, no doubt and into Linn County, Kansas… all the while wondering where that magic “push” was. I even broke down and used Sustained Energy for this ride, to give myself an “edge” – thank goodness. That edge was probably the only consistently good thing happening, and if not for that steady stream of good calories entering my craw, I’d certainly had cashed it in at Spring Hill.

Ahhhh…Spring Hill…it’s only like 4,000 miles behind me now.

A gigantic hill or two later (somehow much steeper than I’d remembered them), I was decending into Linn Valley, approaching the Marias Des LaCygne River, and the Casey’s there. I stopped. For at least an hour.

Self-check… wow. And I mean WOW.

Press on, man… things might improve…


Able to step outside myself and assess, instead of complaining to no-one and wondering how I could get a ride home, I took account of the situation. I was BEAT. I was wishing I could coast. The “push” wasn’t there – and there was a good chance that it wasn’t going to show up. The pack I had been trying to catch was LONG gone. Probably already to Butler. At least.

Was this worth it?

Uh, no. Not this time. As I pedaled along, the big reservoir at the power plant humming in the backdrop, I dug deep, and found nothing but the wisdom to recognize futility.

I stopped and put both feet down for a moment, checked my six, then made a careful U-turn, and headed back for the Casey’s in La Cygne. From there, it was a long slog that got progressively worse and worse – not painful, simply draining. Eventually, I made it home – not back to Grandview, but just straight home. There was no way I was passing by 199th and Ridgeview, and NOT turning north. Not today. Each hill was gargantuan – and it was a different feeling than last year – not the spikey heart-rate, lethargic, near-bonk over-trained feeling – but a simply not-having-it feeling. It felt like 1998 again.

I was D O N E.

I won’t go into much detail this time on equipment, or strategy, because today, it was all me. I had the desire, and was fully prepared GEAR-wise – but the fitness and endurance is simply not there yet. The byproduct of a season turned bad LAST year has swung the pendulum of training the OTHER way, and I see the results as clearly as the sun – which finally came out today – as I write this.

Gears, no gears – it doesn’t matter – just be prepared 100%. Never take for granted the ride, the distance, the terrain… whether you have done it before or not. A good friend said once, “you could fall down and do 300K”… but so far this year I’ve just been falling down.

Rather… perhaps the falling down came late last year… and I simply haven’t yet stood back up.

Once again, there is a LOT of 2006 left, and I know exactly what I need to do.

Yes – the goals will have to be altered slightly – maybe.
I know I have them up on Bike Journal, and no --- I’m not going to modify them just yet.

I’ve done two 200Ks… and I’m quite certain there are other 300 and 400K rides I can do, later in the season – same with the 600K, perhaps.

For now, I start the routine: the successful template of years past, with a careful gauge on over-training – but a working knowledge that “less” can sometimes be worse than “too much”.

A few days later, I’ve looked back on this – and have learned.
Time, once again, to move forward.

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