Friday, August 22, 2008

Junk Miles

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.


Anonymous said...

I just love this blog!
It gives me xtra motivasjon to get out on the bike for every post I read...

Keep it up:-)

digital-strategy said...

"It’s a form of discipline that balances the enjoyment of riding against the desire to get fit without making it, well, work."

Perfect perfect perfect. This exactly captures it. This is why I enjoy reading this blog.

privateer said...

I am all for dumping the power tap and HRM.

Anonymous said...

junk miles with a few friends ... picked like its a dinner party (for their conversation, ability to be quiet in the right moments and crass in the others, and for knowing how to ride)... make for some of the best days on the bike.
we missed you and yule today.
it was a great ride regardless... so next time for sure.

something about just rolling comfortably down mulholland in the late summer light... evokes a very specific feeling. i love this time of year on the bike especially because its not yet about riding alone.


Anonymous said...

This is exactly where I'm at around this time of year. I noticed it today, and notice it every year at his time, there's that specific hour or even minute were suddenly you're just acutely aware that it's nearly Fall.

The light has a different hue to it, or hits your body at a different angle or something, and you sort of just sit back and welcome it, taking it easy and totally content with that.

I rode today with some friends, not too slow, not too fast. Stopped for coffee, grunted up the big hill, all together, and just laughed and shot the shit on the roll home.

You might feel guilty for not throwing some hard efforts into the ride if it was two months ago, but now, nearly Sept? You're done and its a relaxing feeling.

Unless you're gonna do 'cross....oh crap.... ; )

Anonymous said...

With apologies to Tim Krabbe, on hard rides the world reduces to the four inches between your front wheel and the rear wheel of your buddy, you miss your surroundings. This only matters if (1 you ride someplace scenic; and 2) you enjoy scenery. For me both, so gotta dig outta this blog 'cause: when you're in the Dolomites, remember that fact. Color me a junkie.

Unknown said...

Man, I needed this post in the worst way. I was in that sore body, flagging motivation ennui. I felt like I didn't have a hard ride in me, but I was looking at my beautiful bike and feeling guilty. I needed to invoke the spirit of the fall, and let myself begin to like the 80% days, the beer and bonfires with friends as much as the cold spring mornings' sweat on the saddle.

I'm so eagerly anticipating the golden canopy of Devil's Lake here in WI. I'll save a double century in the legs for that.

Steve Weixel said...


Arron said...

this weekend warriors march to 3000 miles if full of junk. so much junk my trunk is over flowing like violines froma flowbots tune. later.