With the dark and cold, most of my riding has taken the form of biking to work and back each day. This is a round trip of about 20 miles when I go the direct route, which I almost never do during the summer, and always do lately.
I figured, though, that while this amount of riding wouldn’t keep me in race condition, it would at least help me maintain a good base level of fitness.
Last Saturday, I found out I was wrong.
Oh, Now I Remember
Around 1:00pm, for the first time in more than a month — maybe more than two months — I got out on a three hour ride. I had meant to get out around noon, but I spent about an hour tweaking my bike, fine-tuning what I was going to wear, washing my glasses, and in general stalling. For some reason, I was having a little trouble getting motivated. A ride just didn’t sound like all that much fun.
It was only when I finally quit puttering around and started riding that I figured out what my problem was. I hadn’t wanted to go riding because I had been riding so long in the dark, with a heavy bike and heavily-loaded messenger bag (gotta carry more clothes during the winter), with several layers of bike clothes on, that I had begun to think that’s what riding a bike feels like.
It sounds obvious in retrospect, but with no fenders, no light setup, no bag, and just tights, a long-sleeved jersey and a windbreaker shell, biking sure feels a lot different. For the first time in quite a while, I wasn’t using my bike just as a vehicle. I was using it for fun.
It was nice to just be out on a ride.
No Pressure, No Plan
With no races in the immediate future, I had no real target for how long I would ride, or how far, or at what pace. I didn’t have a watch. I didn’t have a speedometer. I was just riding along.
I’d ride for a while on one road, and then — when I saw another road that looked like it had a bike lane or good wide shoulder — I’d turn and continue on. It wasn’t really exploring. It was more like meandering. But as I rode along, I did in fact start making connections. “Oh, you can get to this route by connecting along this street? Well, that’s interesting.” I think if I did more wandering like this, I maybe wouldn’t feel lost so often in this area I’ve now lived in for close to two years.
Each time I stopped, I’d try to do a trackstand. Nope, still no good at it.
Carb Boom: Preliminary Thumbs-Up
A few weeks ago, back when I was talking (and talking and talking) about energy gels, Niki of TucsonTriGirls said that I needed to try Carb Boom, her sponsoring gel. She sent me a nice sampler pack, and during the ride I tried the banana-peach pack. I don’t yet know how well Carb Boom works over the long haul, but I will say this: it was the best-tasting gel I have ever had. You can tell — both from the flavor and the texture of the gel — they use real fruit.
A Farewell to Fitness
By the time I got home, I was fully cooked. Yes, a three-hour, easy-level workout fried me. After a nice long shower to warm up my hands, nose, chest and feet, I dressed in sweats, with no intention of leaving the house again that day.
So as I laid on the floor, or the couch, or whatever other surface I could find that had some level of lay-down-ability, I wondered to myself:
- Have I really completely lost all my fitness in such a short time? I mean, I worked and worked and worked on it. And it’s not like I’ve stopped riding or anything. Three hours on the bike — especially three hours the way I was riding — shouldn’t wipe me out. But it did.
- Could it be that I just had a slow day? I mean, one of my kids has a cold. Maybe I’m coming down with something. No, that’s not it. I feel fine. I’m just slow.
- Maybe it’s because of the fixed gear bike. Riding a fixed gear bike requires a consistency of effort that you don’t get on a bike with a freewheel. You’re always working on the flats, are working harder on the climbs, and even have to work on the downhill. So maybe that’s part of why I’m tired. But it’s not the whole thing.
- Is this what it means to be working on “base fitness?” Maybe for the winter, this is exactly how I should be. I mean, at least I was able to go out and do a three-hour ride on a fixed gear bike in the middle of December. Maybe I should be happy with how I rode today. Or — more likely — I’m just a big puddle of goo that lost several months’ of fitness in a few short weeks.
Which of these is true? I don’t know. Probably some combo of all of them. Or maybe it’s none of them.
Am I the only one who’s watching his fitness go down the drain this time of year? Please, please tell me I’m not.
I’m begging you.
Bonus Blogging Excellence
In his Top 5 list today, Bob talks about how I cracked someone’s noggin during one of the rare times I tried a team sport. It’s a must-read, and is dead-on accurate, as near as I can tell. Click here.