I don’t bother lubing my chain or pumping tires, even though I’m headed to a race. I might pour a beer in my water bottle and bungee the cooler bag to the rear rack. I’ll probably wear cargo shorts and stuff a bag of chips in the pocket. I won’t even bother pinning a number. I’ll find a nice spot in the grass, preferably next to a friend with a dog, sit my butt down and try to remember its name. For some reason I’m bad at remembering the names of my friends pets. Tonight I’ll have a conversation with cycling friends that consists of more than shouting “hole” and “gravel” between deep breaths and beeping heart rate monitors. Tonight’s one of my favorite bike race nights of the year. It’s the Ault Park Criterium before I race Mohican on Saturday. Tonight I get to ring the cowbell and shout “C’mon” to my teammates. I should be excited, but resting before a big race weaves my worrisome thoughts into a stress basket.
It’s the opposite of ADD. I get this way when something big is on the horizon. It’s an intense focus. It’s the reason I cried at my own wedding and get the nervous gags before big races. I don’t like it, but it’s the way I am, man on a mission. I don’t think I’ve blogged in two weeks, since our vacation to Sedona, which I haven’t written a word about. I’m nervous about the Mohican 100, so much so that I’ve put the blinders on. The grass is cut, the bike clean. The seat bag is even packed. All that’s left is to clean the house and pack the duffel. It’s so ridiculous that I wonder if I should put my helmet and shoes in the bag tonight so I don’t forget. Oh yeah, sunscreen. I’m starting to have a hard time falling asleep, which is precisely the reason I need to chill out. Recovery weeks shouldn’t have a stress level.
To many times, as athletic types, we get too wrapped up in competition, watt-o-meters, and why this stupid scale won’t register a number below 159. For me, nothing sucks the fun out of bike riding than turning it into a spreadsheet and graphs. Runners talk about pace. Cyclists gush over watts. I see the value in it, however there’s also value in the view at the Ault Park Overlook. There’s a reason I cherish the photos of riding with friends more than the plastic trophies and medals in the man-cave. Sure I like to win races, but my favorite moments at bike races revolve around beef jerky, whiskey in a flask and lots of cowbell. I look forward to those moments just as much as the big “A” race circled on my training calendar. Coincidentally, they happen together.
|My Best Mohican Ever 18th Place|
There comes a time in every training program when there’s nothing you can do to get any faster than to sit your butt down and enjoy the sport from the other side of the caution tape. With the Mohican 100 on Saturday, tonight’s my night. It’s good to be a spectator. It’s better to be a spectator with a cowbell, beer and bag of chips. It reminds me of why I got into bikes in the first place. It’s fun. It’s beautiful. It’s a spectacle. It’s good times with friends. It’s better than watching Snookie get in a car wreck with an Italian police car…or at least pretty close.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the numbers and schedules. Try this once. On your next Zone 1 easy ride or recovery day neighborhood walk, head to the bleachers of the baseball diamond at your neighborhood park and watch the game. Yeah. Instead of taking a “rest” day, go watch total strangers play ball. Whether its kid’s soccer or the local bar softball league, you’ll find a reason to cheer. Grab the fishing rod out of the rafters, walk to the Little Miami River and cast till the sun sets. When was the last time you sat on a park bench? Believe me, it is an activity.
A few weeks ago I filled a travel mug with coffee, grabbed the cowbell and walked from my house to cheer on the runners in Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon. Training for the Mohican 100, I did a long ride the day before. My day was wide open, what might appear as a “rest” day in your training program. I was out there on Riverside Drive for two hours. Instead of a drive-by wave, I actually had a conversation with my neighbor Reggie. I met some nice people that are turning an old boat repair shop into a Pilates studio. It got me to thinking how ridiculous it is to write the word “rest” on a calendar.