Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The PROgram

For most riders I know, the season begins with the sluggish pace of an early morning. Those first rides are spent as if we were wiping the sleep from our eyes. We pile on the base miles and our bleary legs gradually stir.

So too, does our seriousness for the sport. As if jolted by a shot of caffeine, we realize that dessert must, well, we must at least cut back. Maybe that second beer or glass of wine isn’t quite so necessary. We can’t miss any days this week if we’re going to be fit in time for the rendezvous. We’re on the PROgram.

The PROgram is a system, a coordinated effort that begins with a mindset of seriousness that only others who willingly sacrifice life’s pleasures may understand. We recognize that achievement is the result of nothing so much as hard work, that the existentialists got it right when they realized, as Bruce Cockburn sang, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.”

And so the PROgram is a siege. It is undertaken with full knowledge that no matter how much we want the result now, no force of will “can alter time, speed up the harvest or …” nevermind. It’s not happening today; there will be no new you is six weeks.

We speak of the life as monastic; it has much in common with religion, for it does require daily devotion. The PROgram instills in us a set of values, guides us in our actions, differentiates between the good miles and the junk miles and creates an arc to each day, week and month. There is a similarity to the circular nature of our routines and many prayer cycles. And like the religious, as we see the benefits, we become more devout.

Beyond the base miles, we move through that first build phase and toward the first tests. It’s midterm all over again, but this time, we look forward to it. We seek the results, but they are little more than a treat, a dessert at the end of a good meal. We say the PROgram is only a method, a system, but the fact is while we think of it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, to suggest that we only pursue the program for the form is to imply that we’d really rather not suffer. And if that were the case, we wouldn’t tell the stories of miles spent in misery, the utter horror we feel if we realize we’re not closing a gap, the amount of lactic burn to which we willingly subject ourselves. If we didn’t love the suffering, the very endeavor of the training, we’d have given up long ago.

There is no mistaking the way form satisfies. But the best lessons we learn come in those moments when the outcome isn’t certain. They come in the day’s great challenge when we muster, moments that may have occurred kilometers before the ending. Sitting up in triumph isn’t the victory. Living the PROgram is the victory.


Photo courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me, the second beer after the ride is the victory.

no coasting said...

This is why BKW is such a classic.

But a question for the experianced riders out there...at last nights track racing, I was dead. Good long ride Sunday in a bit of heat, may have took more out of me than I thought. With more racing expected this weekend, how would you recover, lots of easy spinning on commutes to/from work, or completely off the bike?

Anonymous said...

Recovery?? Bump a few lines of the white stuff - works like a charm at the velodrome. Recovery is for the weak.

devin said...

i believe in what you say i can't wait for the next day of more miles and racing good or bad it is all part of the package.

Padraig said...

No coasting: The heat is a thief in your safe deposit box. You won't know what's gone until you check.

Fluids, fluids, fluids.

Anonymous said...

South of the equator we are just heading into a long cold winter on the PROgram.....Spring will be all the better for it but the tug of a pint and a warm pub is strong!

Bolivar said...

padraig,

that is exactly what I long for, the pleasure of pain. you really hit it. my PROgram has been delayed due to injury and I am jonesin' for the sweat in the eyes, the white crust down my face, digging deeper the longer the ride goes up, pushing yourself to your edge and carrying on regardless of how easy it is to quit making you stronger for those moments when needed.

josh said...

so true, so true

Charlie said...

Best post ever, In my past life I had Vince Lombardi, now I have BKW.

Anonymous said...

who's the second cyclist pictured? looks a bit bloody, no? what's the story of this pic?

Frenchy aka Bike Boy said...

To the Non Believers: The people who question your sanity due to the devotion you have for your passion and need to cycle.
I find disdain within myself for those who are not believers in the PROgram: They DO NOT understand our need to punish, and deny ourselves in order to worship correctly at the alter of pain. I find them to be with out the proper perspective. There is a line that defines and seperates those from the believers to the non believers.

Long live the PROgram and the worshipers of the infinite draft!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:02 has misunderstood the phrase "junk miles"

Doesn't anyone still follow the CONI manual?, a crazed italian screaming incomprehensible instructions from the sun roof of wheezing Fiat. Checking the gear chart against the phase on the moon, waxing moon equals 44x16.
Hiring hounds to chase you up the 15% grades. Ahh, the good old days they're gone forever.

Scott G.

Garnet said...

When I'm just warming up at mile 5, and my lungs are rousing uncomfortably, I wonder why I even got on the bike. By mile forty, when my calves are screaming their way uphill, I feel like a damned king. The pain is beautiful. There are few things better. I can't wait to get back on the bike.

Great picture, too. Talk about intensity!

Garnet said...

And am I right in thinking the bloody guy is Luis Ocana?

Anonymous said...

If you're following the PROgram you will experience many different kinds of suffering. Maybe the worst is suffering through a mediocre ride. I was having one of those on Tuesday. At mile 55 my senses were dull and my average speed was pathetic. The prospect of this being my slowest 100 miler in years seemed like a certainty because of the upcoming hills and a 20 mile finish, mostly uphill, straight into a stiff headwind. But I pulled myself together, got my average up to my minimum standard with 17 miles to go and then "completely and utterly" hammered into that headwind, holding the average and loving every bit of the best kind of suffering it took to transform the day into "a good job of work."

Anonymous said...

"...and then "completely and utterly" hammered into that headwind..."

Aha, clever use of quotes to pre-empt criticism from the cliche police. Judging from some of the grammar/word usage-related comments I've seen on this blog, I get the sense that not a few of the readers are journalists or writers.

For example, a commenter (Michiko Kakutani?) once referred to one of my posts as "strained and cliched." I think that person was upset because I used the word "inexorable," and they interpreted that to mean that I was aiming for great literary heights.

Even I once chastised bikesgonewild for his (?) unique use of ellipses ... then I felt like a jerk when he responded with real class ... sorry about that...

So is my theory correct, are many of you journalists/writers?

Fletcher

bikesgonewild said...

...that is indeed luis ocana, in the '69 TdF which he ultimately abandoned...but despite the blood, notice the forced look of focus in his eyes...then read the eyes of his team-mate...two different men & two different adapt-ions to the pain...

...no problem, fletcher...a leopard doesn't change his spots & i undoubtedly shan't change my dots...as an aside, i can guarantee you i have less formal education than pretty much anyone, ever on this site but i do enjoy the english language & i certainly enjoy crafting & 'smithing it's terms in my own forge...

...padraig draws interesting parallels here, in relating cycling to religion, devotion & the monastic lifestyle...all very apropos...
...in that vein & at the risk of offending anyone, i recall, as a young man, riding back into our little town, fatigued, crusted in road grime, salt stained w/ the sun & the wind behind me like those focused miles & hours in the saddle...screaming down that last 50moh descent & surging along the final run into downtown, my heart & my brain singing out "I FEEL LIKE GOD ON A BICYCLE"...
...oh my, such a perfect blend of the visceral & the ethereal...

...& now, a year from 60 & having survived a quintuple by-pass for hereditary reasons, PRO is about form, about being smooth, relaxed & powerful on the bike...for me, it's not about matching others, it's about enjoying personal victories & the wind in my face...PRO is about being alive, to know what few could ever comprehend...

Anonymous said...

Fletcher, There might be a few real writers posting here but I don't consider myself one of them. But editing for a large website was once my forte.
My training diary can sometimes help keep the brain from getting stale if I take the time to craft something more than just numbers but most of the entries aren't literary gems. My post was a reasonably accurate expression of my day on the bike.

Padraig said...

Full points to BGW for picking Ocana in '69. Pierce has been shooting the Tour longer than any other native-English speaker. He's got plenty of stories to tell.

suitcaseofcourage said...

Great post and timely inspiration for me as I've been off the wagon a bit while going through a busy time at work (why is it that longer the hours, the more junk food we have?!). So thanks for the reminder to get back to my training - as soon as I have that last brownie . . .