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