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
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