I’ve had a couple experiences that has led me to think about how important training is and what exactly makes an athlete perform at his/her best. I’m not comparing athletes to each other, each of us has what we were dealt, just what one person does to be at optimal form. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not sure that training is the answer.
I know I’ve been riding bikes at a pretty high level since puberty. And I am one of the few guys that has really never taken any time off. So, I’m not the norm in athletics. But, I’m not sure that has anything to do with my observations.
Okay, here is the deal. I’ve been riding, at least feel like, I’ve been riding pretty good so far this year. I’ve got normal issues, but in general, I’m pretty happy with how it is going. I’ve been riding more miles than I have in recent history and it seems to be paying off, so far. But I was wondering if it really is the miles or something else.
On Tuesday, Bill and I went out for a 4 hour ride. It was pretty hot for the first 3 hours, I felt like I was falling apart, then a front came through and it got downright cold. I went from feeling shitty to pretty great in just a matter of minutes. Obviously the cold air was “better” for me than the hot temperature.
When I got home, I felt good about the day. Missed the front, good mileage, life was pretty good. I’ve been using a foam roller and stretching some before and after riding this year. I haven’t done any sit-ups or pushups for maybe a month and a half. I knew Wednesday was supposed to be crummy, so I thought it would be a good time to get back into the routine. I usually do somewhere around 25 pushups and 50-75 sit-ups, depending on how much I struggle to get to those numbers.
I start doing pushups and blow through 25 and keep going. I got to 50 and thought I should stop because I’d be sore the next day. I easily could have done another 25, maybe 50. Then the same thing with the sit-ups. I get to 50 effortlessly. So I keep going and stopped at 100, just because of the soreness issue. I’m not sure how many I could have done, but my stomach muscle wasn’t fatiguing the least.
I definitely wasn’t trained for doing either of those exercises. If anything, I should have been bad and should have woken up yesterday sore. But I didn’t feel a thing.
Four winters ago I spent 2 full months off my bike. For 60 days I only rode 3 miles once, just to get somewhere. So, I was as untrained for cycling as I’ve been in 40 years. Plus, I’d been spending somewhere between 12-18 hours a day doing hard, manual labor. I went down to Austin to start up riding again in the beginning of February. I rode for two weeks, maybe 600-700 miles.
I flew out to the East coast to ride with this group of guys, but they had thrown themselves, or really, the wind had thrown them on the ground and two of them broke their collarbones, so I was there for nothing. It was super windy and I put my bike together at the hotel and thought I’d go out for a ride, try to find some sheltered road.
The temperature was in the lower 50’s and I started out against a super strong cross headwind. I kept looking down at my computer and it said I was going over 20 mph. And I felt awesome. I started riding a little harder, but nothing crazy hard and kept it at around 23-24 mph. This was riding into a 35 mph wind. I rode 27.5 miles out and decided I’d better turn around before it got dark. I was flying back. Coasting over 30, pedalling easy at 35. I had to put on my wind jacket because I was getting cold from the lack of exertion and was still going a little less than 40 without hardly trying. When I got back to the hotel, I had a 26 mph average speed for the ride. The fastest training ride I’d ever done and I wasn’t close to blown. Maybe the best day I’ve ever had on a bike. And I’d ridden two weeks out of the previous 8.
I have no explanation for the two examples above. I, of course, think a certain amount of training and the ability to learn how to do a sport efficiently, is very important. But after you get to that level, I think it is having good blood or something that makes an individual perform at their best. I think that when everything is chemically correct in one’s body, that is the time you can have those extraordinary experiences. And I don’t think that you can train that, I think that it just happens. And hopefully it happens when it is important to you.