Monday, March 06, 2006

No Simple Highway

Over on the SIR list, one of this year's new riders wrote:

"Alright, the rookie has another question. This one might seem a little ridiculous but how do I get faster? In my "training plan" I am suppossed to ride brisk on Wednesdays."

(She actually wrote more than this, but I edited for space. If you are interested, the full post is here.)

This is my reply:

OK this is the second time you've asked about getting faster and at least the second time you've expressed anxiety about sticking to your training plan. My question to you is this: Was your training plan handed to you on stone tablets or did a voice from a burning bush set forth exactly how much thou shall and shall not ride?

Only you can really know if you are training or slacking. I know people who have ridden a full series where their longest non-brevet ride has been 30 miles. I know a guy who rode PBP while sick as a dog, subsisting on soda crackers and flat Sprite. I also know many folks who've quit brevets and many others who've stuck it out.

Most DNFs come not from a lack of speed but a lack of conviction. If you think you're not prepared, the odds are much greater that doubt will overwhelm you. Nobody KNOWS they can ride a given brevet on a given day. We think we can. We ride the brevets to find out if we are right.

My advice is this: Think less about training and more about preparation. Miles don't count as much as knowing what your body does on those miles. A perfectly tuned racecar doesn't go anywhere without gas in the engine and air in the tires. Do you know how to fuel your engine? Do you know how to fix flats? Do you know how your bike handles in the rain? Do you know what it's like to ride at night? Most importantly do you have a flexible mind, can you deal with that which you didn't anticipate?

I can tell you this: your brevets will probably not go as planned. They might, but that's not the way to bet. Be ready to make new plans and execute those.

You seem to be freaking out that your training isn't meeting some plan. Get past that freak out. Adapt. Make new plans. That's what you'll need to do on the road anyway.

A disproportionate number of randonneurs are fans of the Grateful Dead. I have no idea why that is but I think I'm right about this. I also think Robert Hunter was right when he wrote:

"There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone."


"If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home."

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


Keasty said...

Good advice Kent. We may be asking for some free stuff when we reach Miami on 15 March and collect our new Bike Friday tandem. Cheers,

Amy said...

Yep another Grateful Dead fan among the rando crowd. I often compare rando rides to the quote from the Dead Song - Box of Rain.
Such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.
That's how I feel on Rando events - hey thats a cool place I want to go back there again. So maybe a weekend jaunt to see the place again is in order.

Kris said...

another Dead fan here in the brevet riders!

Cellarrat said...

Could it be that most lond distance riders seem to be a bit older mabe thats why they are into the Dead? Planning on getting into the Rando thing next year...Sometime when I ride I get into this dreamy state of mind and I really like u-2's song In God's Country, Just seems to fit.


Desert sky
Dream beneath a desert sky
The rivers run but soon run dry
We need new dreams tonight

Desert rose
Dreamed I saw a desert rose
Dress torn in ribbons and in bows
Like a siren she calls to me

Sleep comes like a drug
In God's Country
Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God's Country

Set me alight
We'll punch a hole right through the night
Everyday the dreamers die
To see what's on the other side

She is liberty
And she comes to rescue me
Hope, faith, her vanity
The greatest gift is gold

Sleep comes like a drug
In God's Country
Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God's Country

Naked flame
She stands with a naked flame
I stand with the sons of Cain
Burned by the fire of love
Burned by the fire of love

Anonymous said...

I agree that so much of finishing a
ride is mental. One thing that
isn't clear from the questioner
is what is her goal? Not only
does she have to get past the freak
out stage, she has to get past the
concept of one finishing time is
good and another is bad. Does she
just want to finish, or does she
need to have a sub X:00 time?

On my last brevet there was a club
member riding that is usually
faster than I am. She didn't have
the best day that day, because she
had flatted twice before the 10 mile
mark, then later in the day missed
the control and found herself 10 miles down the road before she
realized something was amiss. Her
overall time was longer than mine was but with all that I still think
her time was 'better' than mine in
the most meaningful way. She dealt
with the stuff that came up on the
ride, and didn't quit and today
doesn't feel bad about the overall
time listed on the results page.

As for commenting on specific training, I can relate my own
experiences. I now have a commute
that is 35 miles total each day.
Earlier though it was about 11 miles
a day, and that was about the time
I began to ride double centuries.
I can't follow any prescribed
training plan, even to this day,
because I have a 40hour a week job
and on weekends the need for a certain amount of 'face' time at
home. So I fit things in when I can,
like racking up even the flat
miles that commuting gives me.
I realize that to ride with the speedy guys I'll have to do something different, but I'll content myself with going the distance, and not doing a 'time'.

rob hawks

luis said...

Hi Kent,

I'd like your permission to translate parts of this post and the other one about brevets into Portuguese. I plan to post them on my blog and in the local cycling group (PoABikers). I think that they will be appreciated by the Audax crowd here in Brazil.


Kent Peterson said...

Hey Luis,

Go right ahead and translate or quote. Anything I post to my blog can be copied, translated,
or whatever. Just provide a link or a note back to the original