Friday, November 06, 2009

My Three Coaches

I often say that I don't train, I practice, but I've been thinking lately (mostly on long, wet, dark rides in the rain) that I guess I do train in my own way. I mostly don't think of myself as an athlete but when I ride brevets, race from San Francisco to Portland, ride to Minnesota or race the Great Divide, people tell me that these are athletic feats and ask me all kinds of questions about training and diet and coaches.

It seems to me that whatever abilities that I have when it comes to riding a bicycle for long distance have been honed over the years by three coaches. In this long-overdue blog post, I'll introduce you to them.

The coach whose been with me the longest is Coach No-Car. I've been with Coach No-Car since 1987. A lot of folks, when they learn about Coach No-Car think he's some kind of harsh task master, and while he is the coach that gets me out there when My Free Will Just Ain't Willin', he's also the coach who has taught me the most. Coach No-Car taught me how to dress for all conditions, how to ride in the rain and the dark, and generally get around safely in a world filled with big fast-moving, death boxes.

My favorite coach is probably Coach Long-Commute. Coach Long-Commute reminds me every day how fortunate I am to live and ride in this lovely part of the world. My daily three hour tour is the result of some smart choices I've made and even on the dampest days, the trip is interesting. Today, for example, the sky in Issaquah was the color of a funeral and the rain was pretty much a vertical river. But by the time I'd cleared the eastern slope of Cougar Mountain, I could see a patch of blue sky over Seattle and by now my jacket is damn near dry. Coach Long-Commute is gives me the mileage base on which I build my other adventures. Thirty-seven miles per day, five days per week adds up to thousands of miles in a year but more importantly, it makes 100 mile days basically easy. If I can ride 37 miles and work a full day, of course I can ride a century or more on my days off.

Coach One-Gear is the crazy old man of my coaching team. Coach One-Gear is a philosopher, something akin to a Zen Master. Coach One-Gear is the voice in my head saying "you don't need to downshift" when a hill looms up ahead and then I crest something like Irving street in Seattle I think that Henri Desgrange was right, it is better to triumph by the strength of my muscles than the artifice of a derailleur. Of course, I'm more Tao than Zen and now things run behind and now they run ahead, so sometimes I'm single speeding and sometimes I'm fixing. I've even been known to shift now and then but the bikes I stick with, the ones that see me through the best adventures seem all to loose their shifty bits somewhere along the way. It is not, as I explained once to my friend Brad, that I hate the gears, it's that they make me soft. Coach One-Gear keeps me honest and keeps me spinning down the trail.

There are other coaches, of course, like Coach I-Wonder-Where-That-Road-Goes? but Coaches No-Car, Long-Commute and One-Gear are the ones who keep me rolling every day.

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