2009 – the year of training stupid

Sometime in December 2008, I felt inspired.  I dropped almost 40 pounds from cycling during that year; I wanted to recapture my youth and do a lot of racing in 2009.  I knew I needed to still drop ‘that last 20’ and add endurance.  So, I did what worked for me in my 20’s.  I rode inside through the harsh Minnesota winter.  I rode longer and more often.  I learned the ‘political insights’ of rural America by talking those spinning around me.  If anybody really needs to know the heartbeat of America, just ask.

Once the snow and ice cleared and the temp climbed up close to freezing, I got outside and rode.  I had delusions of being semi Belgian-tough for riding in late winter days in the biting cold and miserable drizzle in the early spring. I got a new computer for heart rate and cadence that reported back crucial data that had to make me faster. I got really good at riding the really nice, really flat roads of southwest Minnesota for a really long time keeping my heart rate between a pretty tight range of 145-165.  If I dropped down to the 120-130 range, I felt I was going too slow and the brief, rolling hills weren’t enough to get me to blow up.

For all my efforts through the winter and spring, I weighed roughly the same and was marginally faster, with the only real tangible result being some semblance of endurance.   Apparently the Merckx mantra of “ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike” doesn’t work as well for semi-old, semi-fat guys looking to act 20-something again.  And it was fairly obvious that I wasn’t 21 anymore.  Despite the lack of results, I enjoyed myself immensely and couldn’t wait to get out and ride more.  Looking back, that was precisely the problem.  I was enjoying riding so much I didn’t think about how I was riding.  Others may say that the problem with training is that it takes the joy out of a recreational activity.  However, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself any less if I had introduced some performance plan to structure how I was riding.  I would have weighed less if I had taken it slower occasionally and paid attention to nutrition.  The proverbial win-win could have happened.

My lack of structure came shining through in my 2009 race campaign.  The results can be summarized as “I got dropped.”  The breakthrough finally came later in the summer when I climbed back onto a mountain bike for the first time and both saw results and enjoyed suffering through climbs, grinding, spinning, recovering.  But, after a few rides, I observed actual, tangible improvement. An epiphany in mud, if you will.

Despite my educated ways, I spent last year training stupid.  The lesson here is a series of coaching clichés: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail; If you’re not training with power, you’re not training; et al.   Unfortunately for me, the clichés are true, but this winter is on a different, much better planned path.   2010 will be a different story.  Not saying it will be Pulitzer, Nobel or even local free newspaper-worthy, but it will be different.


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