Monday, June 6, 2011

Middle Age Mediocrity

The finish line daze of a mediocre 26 year old Cat. 3-->>>>>

<-- The chimp-like starting line gaze of a mediocre Cat. 4 Master.

I have a really good deal at work. My watch goes off at 11:30. I duck into my lab in the basement, lock the door and -like a slow motion Clark Kent coming out of the phone booth as Superman- I come back out 5 minutes later in my bike gear carrying my bike. I swing a leg over and finish putting on gloves and glasses and maybe a jacket as I spin away from my building. About 8 minutes later I'm on my interval course, a 2.25 mile loop that is dead flat and borders the military golf course next to work with no stops and, except for the occasional errant golf cart, is traffic free.

For what it's worth, I began my Build 2 phase today (which is kind of fucking ridiculous since vacation and then work are going to completely destroy all this hard work... ) and so was doing a "threshold" workout where I rode upper zone 4, lower zone 5 for 30 minutes without interruption. If that means nothing to you then let's just say I went out and made myself hurt for 30 minutes. That's "hurt" not "HURT".

So basically it's 30 minutes at a notch just slightly down from a time trial pace. I timed each lap and, on the last lap of five I didn't hold back. I felt good, though the knees were complaining slightly and I had a slightly hard time getting on top of the right gear going into the wind. But it felt good to just crank out the last 20% at a higher level. On that dead flat course making a loop, I averaged an extremely mediocre speed of 23.1 mph. Okay, granted I was on a 15 year old bike with seven speed down tube shifters and heavy wheels and no aerobar but, still...

I clearly remember the first time I broke an hour for a 40 km time trial. It was a fantastic feeling to enter that club. Sure I had teammates who were knocking on the door of 53 minutes but I was in the 59" club and I belonged to the guys who weren't just slapping on aero bars and going through the motions. I could push my body to endure the pain and suffering to propel myself at over 25 mph for over a little under an hour. And it wasn't a fluke. I broke an hour for 40 km time trials at least three times total that I can remember.

I'm certainly not unique in that I raced as a young man, gave it up, then came back. But I don't seem to have picked things up where I left off like many of the other middle-age-crisis racers I know. I'm really scratching my head over it too. The main difference between now and then is that I now train with some amount of regiment. Back then I just rode my balls off every time I swung a leg over. Bike commuting was recovery and everything else was time trialling my regular routes or trying to prove my worth on group rides or pouring every ounce of myself into training races during the week and racing races on the weekends. I never could predict when I'd have a good ride or when I'd be unable to turn over my own feet to make a wheel turn.

I'm not sure what the lesson or message is here. And don't get me wrong, I feel like I'm cheating fate or destiny or something just to find myself at my old racing weight and being able to, once again but in a much more limited way, call myself a bike racer. But the mediocrity gets a little old. Maybe I'm just like Al Bundy sitting on the sofa telling the dog about his former glory. The truth is I was a spectacularly mediocre bike racer as a young man, too. But I always figured some age and wisdom and patience would make me a better racer than that young dumb and full of plumb kid I used to be. Ah well. Youth is wasted on the young, I guess. I have a much better life than he did anyway. I wouldn't really trade. I just want to borrow his legs a few weekends a year...

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