Monday, May 4, 2009

Expanding the Capacity to Suffer

Tough training weekend on the bike. 188 miles and about 15,00 vertical feet. All in all, I handled the volume well. The climbing certainly expanded that area of my training but I think I got the biggest expansion from riding through Saturday's conditions. The ride was almost entirely in the rain. The ride started at 8:00 and literally it started raining at 7:57. Moderate rain for the first 10 miles (enough to feel the rain puddle inside your shoes from it running down your legs into them). We started the first climb at about mile 12 or so. Nothing to bad and actually I was looking forward to the climb to warm up. We lined up in the middle of the pack at the start....A big mistake. My HR wasn't even close to zone 1 until this climb (wasted time in my mind). We passed about 100 or more riders on this first climb. As we started to get to the top the rain really started coming down. I'm talking the really big drops which actually hurt when they hit. Water was gushing down the road surface like a river. Riders started to turn around in droves at this point as the decent down the other side was a steep one and there was a lot of nervous energy in the air. I started to push harder to keep my HR up to produce more heat to fight off the shivering. My skin looked like a lizard it had so many goose bumps on it. Once at the top the rain was still pouring down. We started coming down and it got really cold (55 degrees). Without pedaling my body temperature started to plummet and I started shaking uncontrollably. I was pulling as hard as I could on my brakes just to get enough grip on the wet rims to keep the speeds under 30 mph. My shaking was leading to "speed wobbles" on my bike where the bike shakes side to side. I couldn't help it. I thought for sure I was going to crash an any time. The decent took about 15 mins or so I guess. I didn't time it but it seemed to last forever. About 2/3 through the decent my upper body started to cramp up. My arms and chest just got tighter and tighter. Now I really thought I was going to go down.

Finally the road flattened out and there were EMT and police cars all over the place helping riders. Chris and I decided we couldn't stop because we would never get going again and decided to push hard for the next 10 miles to get produce some heat. We pushed pretty hard, zone 2 and some zone 3 for the next 20 or so minutes, passing tons of riders. It was a catch 22 situation, the faster you rode the more body heat you produced, but the more the rain and air cooled you down. I tried to stay in my aerobars and much as I could to shield my upper body from the rain and to try to use the heat my body was producing. It stated to work. Everything was warming up except the tips of my index fingers. I still couldn't feel them and wouldn't be able to for about another hour or so. We stopped at the 30 mile rest stop to get some food and refill bottles. A cup of coffee really would have hit the spot :)

The last climb of the day, Lookout Mtn. was the toughest of the weekend. The final 1/3 mile is a 20% grade, with the entire climb of 1200 ft coming over just about 2 miles or so.

As I said the climbing was good, but the mental toughness I got from suffering through the weather conditions will be worth it's weight in gold come race time. You see racing for me is all about "he who can suffer the most wins". It isn't natural to handle the suffering. You have to train yourself to do it. Once a co-worker asked me if my legs were burning when I went on my 5-6 hour bike rides. Seemed like a strange question to me, but I answered politely, yes they are on fire the entire time (in my mind I was thinking, what would be the point if they weren't...just wasting time). Long rides are all about training the body how to handle the suffering, although there a different levels of suffering and the long bike days are the least intense, but none the less still a lot of suffering. Oh, by the way you still have to run a marathon when you are done suffering on the bike, so you better manage that too :)

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