April 17, 2016

The lab is open

After being lazy for the winter I'm looking past the horizon and focusing on how to approach things on the bike now that I'm "back".  Each passing year brings more challenges against staying healthy and fit - and it has become very apparent and important to me to finally put an end to my cyclic yo-yo approach to dieting and fitness.  The time has come to get fit, live cleanly and consistently, and then enjoy those benefits instead of always feeling as if I'm working to get them back each spring.

A big part of this, specifically for this blog, involves the approach toward cycling.  After a few great rides this last week I've clearly retained my love for it.  Motivationally-speaking, I really don't have a ton of interest in watching a lot of professional racing, however - my choice of role model has changed quite a lot since the whole "Lance thing", and I'd rather watch baseball, lately.  When I do gravitate toward cycling, I prefer the old catalog ... call it, the LeMond years and prior.  Motivation, regardless, still comes in film form - mostly documentary, but with the same general themes of overcoming odds, perseverance, and the acceptance of failure as a positive teaching tool instead of a reason to crawl inside oneself.  Things like "Charge" on the interesting world of the first competitive electric GP motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT (one of my favorite motorsports events), and a terrific film on The Barkley Marathons.  These tales of overcoming make me want to leap from the couch and get to work, and the stories and lessons translate to work, school, sport, parenting, and optimizing my thoughts toward becoming the best version of myself possible. 

To the meat of things.  Going back to my very first journal entry circa 1998 when Warbird and I began the march toward an MS-150 goal the themes toward preparation remain consistent; yet, there is a recurring theme.  I know how to GET somewhere... staying there, however, remains elusive.  There is a part of me that handles goals - regardless of their context - as a finite journey which requires an end.  Once arriving at that end I have simply stopped working.  Recognizing this and understanding that my larger overall journey will NOT end until my body physically gives out, becomes a pivotal theme with which I must remain in touch, while shorter temporary goals will become simple milestones to be achieved all the while.  Continuing to start and stop entirely only creates the personal animosity and frustration which ultimately yields self-destructive behaviors and backsliding, and consequently creates more obstacles when the realizations finally arrive to set things right.  Quite simply, I will never be finished attempting to maintain a healthy weight, I will never be finished trying to be a good father & husband, employee, mechanic, guitarist, trail-runner, fabricator, etc., etc., etc.  I will never be finished trying to be the best I can be:  these things are not mountaintops to reach, they are endless pathways to walk - and enjoy.  There should be no drudgery here - I've been looking at things with the wrong set of eyes.

Looking at cycling, my approach will fall back to what used to work.  The return to heady days of reckless abandon on the bike may not be entirely justified here, but, examining what had worked in the past is certainly worth investigating.  What I used to do involved riding fast right up until the point where I couldn't anymore.  At the time my goals weren't rando-oriented at all, but were focused on ultra-racing.  Faced with a very unforgiving clock (compared to rando) my original approach to riding brevets was easy:  just GO.  Yet, when ultra began to take a backseat to rando, my tactics didn't seem to represent terribly smart riding, so I began to conserve...but, then, I never ended up speeding up toward the middle, nor the end.  I've observed these two opposing approaches to have an end result which winds up roughly the same:  I end up limping to the finish.  On one end, the cause was sheer exhaustion from pushing tempo all day, the other simply exhaustion from being in the saddle for so long.  

However, while I'm seeing practically no difference in finishing speed, I find a definite change in ride TONE when comparing one approach to the other.  In the former case I'd be finished sooner and with a better overall average, and I'd feel happier... and, most importantly, I'd begin to see physical gains from having pushed myself.  Compounding my frustration has been the latter slow-n-steady approach, which has done nothing other than increase my caloric efficiency - making it harder to manage weight off the bike, and creating the frustrated feeling that I've finished slower than I could have, should have, or used to.  Part of my approach, then, will involve just GOING, instead of conserving and waiting for the right time to go faster...which never comes.  

Further, my old approach tended to demonstrate my point of exhaustion in each ride would begin to occur later and later each ride... and, eventually, one year on the 300k route, I actually ended up finishing strong, before sundown, and with a personal best for that route.  So, for whatever all THAT analysis is worth, that's what I hope to put into practice with my randonneuring again:  pretend (or not) that I'm preparing for ultra-racing.  If it leads to that, terrific, but in whatever case I should begin to see my goals come back into focus.  I'm calling it my Dark Helmet approach:  "we're always preparing.  Why are we always preparing?  Just go!"  

You went over my helmet??

Somewhere between smelling too many roses and snapping photos, and hammering along heads-down and too focused to enjoy anything lay the "butter zone" where I would like to be.  Now, enough talk ... time to Leroy Jenkins this crap already.

I've signed up for the Pirate Cycling League's Gravel-Worlds event in August, to put some fire under my backside.  At 150 miles, it's no Dirty Kanza, and it's not really long enough to be called an "ultra" - but, it's a challenge.  I need a challenge.  I need a scary, improbable, out-of-character challenge to get jump-started - and this looks perfect.  Should be a blast!  I don't see a winner's jersey in my future... (well, not with THAT attitude, certainly) ...but, if nothing else it will provide a nice change of scenery and texture, justify the gravel bike I bought this time last year, and definitely get me stoked for personal improvement.  

Clinical trials are over, the laboratory is open, and it's time to see if this latest experiment will pay off. 

Screw that.  It's time to MAKE this experiment pay off.  
Been there - done that = can be done again.  The challenge will be staying there.

Game on.

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