Posted by: Travis | March 26, 2009

The ‘easy’ days are the hardest.

As i’ve mentioned before, this whole concept of doing long, ‘easy’ rides is new to me. I used to think that going easy is a waste of time and when i go out to train i should always go as hard as i can. According to all the bike training gurus, i couldn’t have been more wrong.

Yesterday after work i went out for a 2 hour ‘easy’ ride. I rode about 35 miles out Canada road on easy rolling hills, It was one of the more difficult rides i’ve done recently.

On easy rides i try to limit myself to the small chanring (easy gears). I’ve found this is the best way to keep me from going too hard. Occasionally i’ll move it up to the big ring when going downhill, but for the most part i keep to the low gears, which keep me moving pretty slow. This presents a few problems:

  • One of the reasons i like riding my bike instead of running is the faster speeds. By going faster, you get to see more stuff, but you’re still outside and going slow enough that you notice things that you don’t in a car. Keeping the speed low on these rides makes things a little more boring.
  • I’m not much a competitive person, but when i swing my leg over the top tube of a bike, something happens and i become a super competitive, ego-maniacal jack ass. If i get passed by someone that i think of myself as faster than, then it’s time to shift to a bigger gear and unload on them. Likewise, if someone jumps on my wheel (gets in my slipstream) without asking if it’s okay of they jump on, or at the very least introducing themselves, it drives me nuts. Once again, i drop the hammer and push the pace until they can no longer keep up. Going slow means that i get passed by some out of shape rich guy with a gut that has no business riding that carbon race bike (as you can imagine there seems to be more of these in silicon valley than any other place in the world) every few minutes. Having to deal with that is weird and is taking some getting used to. I just have to keep telling myself that i’m on an easy day and can’t chase.
  • When you’re going hard your legs hurt and your lungs burn. You’re going fast and can focus your mind on wringing every drop of effort out of your body into going faster. Your mind doesn’t really have anywhere to wander and is completely distracted by the task at hand: go fast. You know that pain is good and will make you faster. When going slow it is significantly more difficult to keep your mind focused at the task at hand and remind yourself that this is worthwhile. Your mind is free to think about things like work, what you’re having for dinner tonight, plans for the weekend, etc. But most of all, because nothing else hurts or is uncomfortable, you realize how much your butt hurts being perched on that tiny little hard seat for hours on end. I’m not sure if going slow makes it hurt more (by pushing a smaller gear you shift your weight around much less and hardly ever stand up out of the saddle, which relieves the pressure), but you sure do notice it more.

By the end of the ride, i was mentally exhausted and ready to be home. It normally takes me 60-70 miles of ‘normal’ riding before i get to that point, but with these long, slow, easy, days my tolerance appears to be much shorter.

Is it weird that i look more forward to the gut busting, painful days willing myself up the area’s hardest climbs than the ‘easy’ days when i spend 2 hours afterwork noodling around, avoiding the hills in the small chainring?

This weekend Jenny and Rachel (who we visited in Chicago last fall) are returning the favor and coming to visit for the weekend. They actually arrived yesterday (Wednesday) and are doing their own thing up in San Francisco until Friday, when Rachel and i will take off after lunch to go hang out with them and grab dinner up there. They’ll be staying at our place for the weekend, checking out the things the Bay Area has to offer, and then flying out Monday. Rachel is training for a marathon and has to go for a 16 mile run during the weekend, so it looks like i might be able to get some training miles in as a bonus. Suh-weet! It should be a pretty awesome weekend, I’m excited.

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