Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sleeping In

We cyclists, we’re not much different from watches at times. Macro cycles, micro cycles, they function just like the different gears of a mechanism. From rest days and rest weeks to big efforts and big weeks, everything we do is writ both large and small.

That’s why after months of rest days and the odd rest week, it’s time for recovery on a grand scale. The mission is to convince your body that Saturday doesn’t have to be equated with abject suffering. Sure, it’s our favorite way to spend the day and if we ran like a 1970s-era V8 our aerobic systems would be leaned on to deliver the way water runs from a faucet, but the fact is, the odd recovery week has done nothing to sway our slowly developed understanding that weekend days are big payments, like writing the check for your mortgage two days of every seven.

Would you have it any other way? Wait, don’t answer.

And so the season winds down. The races, centuries and epic rides all begin to trail off. Why? Because the organizers know us better than ourselves. They know that our taste for the strong stuff falls off just like our interest in shots of Vodka before last call.

Inevitably there comes that weekend day when the alarm goes off and you think better of getting up. Maybe you even realized the night before that you had no taste for the routine and turned the alarm off.

In college I knew a guy who on a tour of a maple sugar house took a tiny taste of maple syrup. His mouth lit up as if it were atomic. And so he took cup after cup after sweet cup. In a single day, maple syrup went from the greatest thing he’d ever tasted to—on the ride home—a feeling that only comes when your body betrays you. He doesn’t eat pancakes much, but when he does, it’s butter only.

Perhaps that’s what we mean by too much of a good thing.

Years of following the course of the season have taught us a thing or two. Youthful excess demarcated burnout and overtraining. Work and family have given us tastes of deprivation to counter the pendulum. Yin to Yang.

Yet for all our attempts at balance, Labor Day arrives with an ironic twist. Who doesn’t want to ride on the holiday, yet how often does anyone really want to go hard that day? East Coasters used to finish their road season with a stage race over Labor Day weekend, a flash of glory like saving the biggest fireworks for the end of the show.

It’s easy to feel guilty the first time you hit the alarm and roll over. There’s plenty you might be missing out on: friends, great roads, the last of the killer weather. And yet, somewhere in the recesses of your brain we all discern a message: We’ve had enough. As our parents used to say: Give it a rest.

And even after rising, there are stories enough to fill a bed with second thoughts of riders who were up only long enough to decide a nap was in order.

It might seem upon waking to have been more sleep than truly necessary, but who hasn’t exchanged one excess for another? After all, is there anything more PRO than knowing when to get more rest?


EBrown said...

Great, great post. I couldn't relate more.

Anonymous said...

What terrible timing for me.

I rolled over and hit snooze this very morning, muttering something about "no more intervals" and "maybe I'll go this afternoon" though the first cross race of the season is this weekend.

I got up and sat down to my guilty cup of "I should be riding" tea, and open BKW to find this. Now I am feeling both guilty AND excused. What a combo.

Mike said...

Just keep telling yourself "recovery is the most important part of training"

Great post BKW

Jon said...

Even though I feel this way now, I know that soon I'll be relegated to riding on the rollers for a few months--I know I'll regret less riding outside now.

Anonymous said...

Love the post - so many of us are feeling like that lately, including me. But, stupidly, I just registered for the Portsmouth crit - which is the day after a century I'm doing. Will look forward to recovere, er, Monday...

Velomann said...

What? I thought it was all training for cross. The season is just beginning!

sprider said...

Wow, that is soo how I felt this week, but I rode anyway. Thanks for validating.

Anonymous said...

East Coasters STILL finish with the stage race: best part of the year.