Friday, August 22, 2008
Even if your training isn’t regulated with Swiss train precision, chances are you ride some base miles in the early season, do something approximating intervals in the spring and whenever the mood strikes you, really, really hard efforts once you start to feel fit, and recovery rides any time you can talk yourself (and your friends) into it. It’s a form of discipline that balances the enjoyment of riding against the desire to get fit without making it, well, work.
Any sort of periodized training plan, aside from being PRO, suggests an understanding of junk miles. Junk miles are the purgatory of the cycling world: Neither hard enough to be true training that will result in the coveted faster you … and not slow enough to allow you to gain any recovery at all. For most of us, the concept of junk miles was a little difficult to grasp at first. Worse yet, even when we thought we understood it, our bodies were usually slow to follow. I was lucky to have a friend who was a Cat. II to my Cat. Nothing.
“When I say easy, I mean easy,” he would say to me. My body understood “easy” the way a cat understands “heel.”
Ultimately, what we learn is that riding is a binary system. When you go hard, you go really hard, whether a three-minute interval, a full-on sprint or the half-hour climb. And when you go easy, it’s really easy. Frankly, it reminds me of a dog I had. When he was on he had the energy of a top-fuel dragster on Red Bull and anger. And when he was resting he slept the sleep of a bank vault, only with his tongue hanging out.
But there comes a point in the season when you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Wins, upgrade points, epic rides, by late summer only the most dedicated riders still have unfinished business. The resulting mix is a once-a-year bouillabaisse of sustained fitness, great weather and waning motivation. So what is there to do?
Junk miles. Let’s hear it for going out and riding 80 percent with friends. Putting in an attack hard enough to send a message, but not so hard to leave you (or them) crippled for the rest of the afternoon. Let’s hear it for turning off the wattage meter, leaving the heart rate monitor at home and riding your priciest wheels after work. Going someplace pretty just for a change of scene.
Sometimes, pretty hard is just right.