A couple of years ago training outdoors was never an issue because I was a runner. A runner can, for the most part make it out for a run in almost any climate. Winter training as a runner consisted of long runs in the snow, frozen eyelashes, and numb fingers. Still, I enjoyed winter running more than most other seasons. I have always enjoyed seeing people out training or exercising in some fashion. Usually most people come out of the woodwork once spring rolls around. The winter for myself was a time of solace independence. A time when the majority of people would be inside by the fire place wrapped up in a blanket. A lot of my time running back in New York was spent at night. I would run a few miles over to the local park and make my way to the lake. It was a small lake and usually by January it was frozen over. Once I arrived, I would stare at the reflections of the lamp posts on the lake. It was a nice time to reflect and even become relaxed in the cold temperatures. I still miss those winter running days and nights.
Training in Colorado has been going very well. My power numbers and heart rate zones are at or above what I expected. I’ve even had to scale back a few times in my training so I wouldn’t over-reach. The weather here on the front-range is everything I imagined it to be. Temps in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. You couldn’t ask for better winter training. There will be a week of warm sunshine weather, and then a brief period of winter’s roar.
The past few weekends have been spent doing group rides which start about twenty minutes from my house. It’s a nice Warmup through Chatfield State Park before I get to the parking area where everyone meets. The Saturday group ride has a title called The Hour of Power or more recently Wadsworth Worlds. The first time I rode the Saturday group ride it started at 10:00 A.M. On the weekends I like to get an early start to my training because I’m usually riding upwards of three hours. I don’t mind the cold too much, and being from the Northeast made me realize cyclists in the Rockies and on the front range are quite spoiled with warm February temperatures. The first time I did this Saturday ride I was hurting quite bad. I didn’t know the loop, how fast it would be, and after a month of no riding it was common to be suffering. After my first weekend experience a bunch of guys decided to start a different group at 9 A.M. This was great news for me. I thought to myself even if it’s slower I could sit on the front and get my interval work done for the day. Turns out rumor must have spread around because lots of “faster” guys seemed to show up. For the next few weekends I got more used to the loop, when people attack, and when breakaways actually stick. There are specific points when it makes sense to attacks and other strips of pavement where you are better off sitting in. The first “sprint” of the ride is half way to the top of the arrowhead golf course. The road leading to the golf course is a gradual climb so it leaves your legs a little tired before the actual sprint starts. I haven’t been challenged much during this sprint because it suits me well. Long gradual climb with a very steep finish. One specific rider who usually beats me is a 16 year old junior. I hope he gets to ride at the pro tour level.
This past Saturday the weather called for 55 and sunny skies. I had a feeling it would be a big group and it sure was. I would say there were upwards of 60 guys. Leading up to the arrowhead golf course I sat on the “juniors” wheel and when he made his move there were only a few who could follow. A quarter-mile from the finish the group was thinned down to three. We soon caught two guys who went off the front a bit early. Coming into the sprint I made a short quick move on the right side and gave it everything I had up the short steep pitch. Still, it wasn’t enough and the junior passed me at the line. I have come to the realization it was not a matter of effort or power which resulted me in getting passed. I believe it was my mental state. Although it was a brief split-second gesture, I turned my head to see if he was on my wheel. Once I realized he was right behind me I panicked and lost my concentration. Right then and there is when I got passed. Right then and there is when I lost my mental focus.
Group rides are a training training tool for one’s fitness, but it also allows us to resolve some of our cognitive more intimate issues. Once our mind starts to wander or break away from the goal at hand we are left with a less fluid forward motion. It’s important for all of us to remember how important our psychological state can be during the “heat-of-the-moment”. In cycling you need to be a rational chess master of yourself, teammates, and competition. If we take the time to find confidence and power within our selves we can achieve a courage most will never solicit. In a sense our bodies are here to shield us from our most internal and true secrets. Life in terms of competition has taught us to train our bodies to perfection. This is only the battle, it does not win us the war. Throughout life we seek to satisfy a fire that burns within. We create depictions of what we want ourselves to look like, dress, and act. But, the hardest most difficult part of all is seeking out the true inner being inside of us all. In relation to training one must find a balance between mind and body conditioning. A question I find myself asking from time to time is, “Are you happy?” Happy in the sense of life, training, and any other situation. What this question does is open doors to more complicated questions. What are these questions? Where are the answers? How does this effect me? Ask yourself and you might fancy a new meditative state. Many times in life we are presented through the media, papers, friends, and family about what’s not working in the world. It’s important when in competition to focus on what IS working and how we can use this form of positive power to enrich our lives and the lives of others.
~The Epic Ride ~
Each day out on the bicycle is a new adventure. Whether for training, pure pleasure, or spending time with a significant other, cycling can bring about changes in one’s self. Cycling can also show us how far the human body can be pushed, how we can create new and higher limits for ourselves which we never though possible. It’s as if without trying these obstacles are brought about at certain times, usually when we do not expect them. These situations are the closest idea to what I believe represents perfection. The idea of perfection is quite simplistic. In my mind perfection is when a person is faced onerous tasks which require one’s true colors to be drawn. I’m still not sure if this personal excursion is the pinnacle of perfection or the most epic story, but it has made me face adversity.
When one is faced with such tribulation, a great story can arise.
Sunday’s have been spent doing smaller group rides. Usually only 10-20 people show up Sunday mornings near Chatfield Park to ride. I assume most others are on team rides, sleeping in, or doing other activities.
~There Is Never Nothing Going On~
About a dozen of us headed up Deer Creek Canyon at 9AM. The weather was in the mid 40’s and sunny. When the temps are above freezing and you are climbing in Colorado it tends to heat up your body quite fast. Coming down is another story as you fight to keep warm and loose. We hit the first few turns up the canyon and right away there was ice all over the road. The black ice should have been a red flag to turn around but of course being the cyclists we are our egotistical personalities take over and there is no turning back. We rode on. After making the left turn which takes you up to high grade road it started to lightly snow on us and the road became a covered white blanket. I stopped on the side of the road with a few others as we discussed to either keep going or turn around. Turning around seemed like the best option but because of all the black ice behind us we were stuck. Descending on black ice is never a fun undertaking. The sun was out, so we thought it was just a slight change in weather. Still, we kept going. More black ice, more snow. About half turned around but a few of us thought it would be deadly trying to descend the icy canyon. We thought if we made it to the top of high grade (8,500ft) we could ride down Route 285 which is a higher car traffic road. Bad idea!
The tough switch-back section was a dream. Sunny with no snow or ice. Then, after the switchbacks more black ice and snow. It was a nervous time, I won’t lie. But, because we were climbing we could stay upright without getting too scared. The rest of the way up wasn’t so bad as it’s pretty much exposed to sunlight. When we got the schoolhouse rest stop one of the guys got a flat. It was still sunny out but then out of nowhere these big black clouds filled the sky. Then boom! Snow, wind, sleet, rain, and hail. All at once! It was a nightmare. I didn’t have my winter cycling gloves. My hands were sweating from the climb and I was frozen to the core. I called Maija but she was running. So we made our way back down stopping every few minutes to warm our hands up. After about a half hour we were past the switchbacks and the road was dry again. At this point there was only three of us left. The two other cyclists went ahead and I was left alone to take my time plummeting the mountain. Then, without notice I was on my backside sliding down a piece of black ice. I picked my bike up and started down road again. My back was tight, hamstring tight, clothes wet, and hands soaked. Now I was in bad shape.
My teeth started to chatter and I felt my body start to shake. I stopped again to retrieve my cellphone. No use there as half way into phoning Maija, my battery died. A few more swear words and I was back in the saddle and cold to the core. A little more ways down the road I saw a cyclist going up the canyon. I stopped him and asked if I could use his cellphone. Unfortunately there was no service on this part of the canyon and since there was no one else around I proceeded back up the mountain with the gentleman to find cell phone service. Although a nice guy, he told me “I’m in the middle of my high-intensity workout, I hope that’s OK”. “Sure” I said. I was not going to plead with the guy to ride slow since he was doing me a favor. Normally I can climb well but riding back up the mountain was the last thing on my mind. Each pedal stroke made my legs ache even more, and my breathing became more labored. The only two positive results of acceding was warming up a bit and getting a chance to phone Maija for a ride home. We made it half way up the switchbacks and he said he would make a call to Maija as soon as he got service again. I thanked him and again started to descend. This time it was not so bad as the road was 90% dried up. I slowly made my way down the canyon and once I got to the flat section I saw a blue car drive past. It was Maija! She has just finished her run at Deer Creek Canyon Park and had received a few calls from the cyclist. I threw the bike in the car, warmed my feet on the dashboard as Maija drove me home. I felt more appreciative of the weather in the mountains. Mountain weather is anything but consistent and it helped me to prepare better the next time around.
~Sunday Was An Epic Day~