Friday, May 02, 2008

Six hours of May Day

Date: May 1
Mileage: 94.3
May mileage: 94.3
Temperature: 43

Today was an amazing day. The first time I've felt strong on a bike in more than a month.

I've been fighting off a slump since late March. I haven't blathered about it too much on my bike blog, because, frankly, it had me a little bit worried. I wasn't injured or sick. I had just lost all of my edge. Everything that made me feel good and strong at the end of a day rather than trashed had faded. I was worried the edge was gone for good. It all started the day I rode an unintentional but effortless century on March 20. I felt so great that I set out the next day with Geoff and rode a 50-miler on the Pugsley. That was the day I blew up. Limped home from that ride, confused about why I felt so terrible. I didn't feel even close to 100 percent a week later, and about week after that I took a forced break from the bike, several days at least. But each day away, I just felt tired and irritated. When I started biking again, I was as bad as ever. I kept up my mileage because of habit, hope, and because it was a way to spend time with Geoff when he was amping up his own bike training. Luckily I wasn't training for anything because most of those rides I was just striving to survive them, rarely pushing very hard, although I was giving all I had to give.

Why the big slump? I never knew for sure. It definitely wasn't that century, although that may have been the proverbial straw. Geoff thinks it was a belated reaction to the Ultrasport and all of the preparation that led up to it, of which I never gave myself much recovery time, mentally or physically. It seemed unlikely to me that I was experiencing a physical blowup that long after the fact. I thought it was entirely mental. But that didn't explain why I was so grumpy when I took my self-imposed bike break, or why, even on the days I was excited about a ride and determined to push a certain limit, I couldn't coax my body to go anywhere near it.

In the past two weeks I had become more accustomed to the somewhat weakened version of myself. I got more excited about bike commuting and other bike-related goals that weren't necessarily competitive. But I did want to do this 24-hour race at the end of June. I wanted to do it as well as I could. So I planned this eight-week loose training regimen that was to begin Monday. I wheedled my way out of the first two days, and today was to be my first weekly long ride (I like to start at six hours, work my way incrementally to 10 or 11, and then pull back.)

The trails are still slush-covered. It was going to have to be a road ride. But I don't currently have a working road bike (well, I guess I have a three-speed. But none of them are speeds I like.) Anyway, I took the Karate Monkey. I figured it would be slow, but six hours is six hours. I headed north with a light east wind at my side. I noticed that, like yesterday morning, I felt pretty strong out of the gate. I didn't think it would last long. The day wasn't particularly enthralling - mostly overcast and drab. But, surprisingly, it was one of those days in which I felt better and better as I went. I didn't stop much so I didn't take many pictures. I just rode at my comfortable pace, and hit the end of the road before the three-hour mark had passed, took my short snack break (had to hurry because the recently thawed fall mosquitoes were out in full force), and turned around.

It would have totally come in under six hours - I probably could have even done a spur to make it a century - except for the wind turned south and kicked up a harsh 20 mph headwind for the last 10 miles home. I think I ended at about 6:05. About a 15.5 mph overall average, including two short breaks. I know it's not impressive for pavement, but for me, riding the big bike and its fat knobby tires, after a monthlong slump ... I'll take it.

Maybe I'm back? I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


  1. 15.5 mph average on a *mountain bike*????

    I'd say that's pretty good.

    Lots of folks (including me) probably would have a hard time averaging that mph on a road bike for 6 hours.

    I know you love to ride and hike, but you should take a few days off to chill out and recover.

    That way you can write more blog posts:-)

  2. hmmm....sounds like you have been over training. The ultrasport took more out of you than you realize? Overtraining can definitely cause mental and physical symptoms.

  3. Your body will recover in stages, both physically and emotionally. You need to listen to it and take time to heal. Your training sounds almost like that of a pro cyclist -- without the chef or massage therapist:)

  4. Sounds like a good run Jill, Go hard then easy for a few days, then hard again.

    More sunshine often helps!

    Keep Going!

  5. I agree - you may have been overdoing it to some degree for a long time without adequate time to fully recover. Also, take a look at the nutrition side. Are you getting enough quality essential oils and proteins? A short rest and some pampering might do you some good. :)

  6. Hey Jill,

    You might check out this wierd Nubrella for those heavy rain commutes..

  7. Slumps will happen and you just need to roll with them. It's just the body saying that it needs time to sort itself out. Go and do something else that you enjoy and come back in a while. If you obsess about them, the stress will just drag them out.

    Once the slump is over, you'll be back up in no time.

  8. If you step away and look at your year (not just the last or next few weeks) consider when during the year you planned your break. Have you had a break? Did you plan a break? You can't go 24/7/360 and expect to either maintain a high level of performance OR peak at any time. With that kind of approach you'll never get much above the standard you ride all the time.

    The old training addage "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got" applies. It does not mention a break as part of your yearly program but most high performance endurace athletes include a break somewhere in the year. Itis a normal element of a plan that relies on periodization.

    Because your A level event falls at a non-traditional time of year, your 'break would logically come sometime shortly after or even as late as now. But of course longer days, fairer conditions make you want to get out and hammer. Find a way to deal with the contradiction.

    Yr Pal DrCodfish

  9. Make sure you are allowing yourself plenty of time to rest and recover. Training in itself doesn't make you stronger...recovery from training is what makes you stronger.

    Keep in mind that commuting will also take its toll. I can't remember how far your commute is, but bear in mind that it becomes a sort of two-a-day mini training sessions and can add to difficulty in recovery.

    Peace out!

  10. You really should be glad to have such a recovery. I am still getting my legs back after ultrasport. Just last week I've finally been able to ride on snow again.

  11. Right on, drcodfish. I remember something a professional dancer once told me. We were talking about injuries and dancers. I commented that dancers always seemed to be nursing injuries. He said, "Yeah, that's true. But the real truth is that dancers injury themselves."
    Hmmmm. Be smart. Eat well. Really allow your body to recover. Stop driving yourself so hard you can't really do those things.

  12. I have no idea who you are really but there is something that rings of ego and self-worth related to accomplishments. I hope I'm not entirely correct. Maybe what you reveal is goals set and goals achieved. I know it suks to feel bad on a bicycle when you're used to feeling good but there is much worse in life. Accept my apologies for writing something that was based on a fragment of information. PS...My hat's off to your accomplishments thus far.

  13. have you seen this?


Feedback is always appreciated!