I've also been forcing myself to eat because oftentimes I don't feel hungry. I realized this the other day, and I also realized this is what happens to me when I'm riding and racing a lot.
The last time this happened? In a previous life, probably in the mid 90s.
Finally my legs have started to fatigue a bit, responding a little slower, with a little less snap. They respond, and keep responding, but lack a bit of freshness. It's the summer doldrums, something I also last experienced fully about 15 years ago.
Talking with other riders, my situations seems sort of common. I heard talk of one rider taking all of July and August off. Another stopped riding almost altogether.
It seems that I'm balancing at the edge of form and fatigue. In one sense I'm feeling great on the bike. I can make efforts, recover before I get shelled, and keep doing it over and over and over. My sprints, although consistently 300 watts lower than my best trainings sprints, have been enough to garner me placings on a regular basis. And even when I'm tired I can rev up the engine and do a hard pull.
But my eyes feel bleary all the time, I rest when I can, and I feel a certain level of inactivity in general.
I suppose one way to summarize all this is that my team shorts are now baggy.
Yep, my lycra, skin tight shorts are now baggy.
It's kind of annoying. The whole reason to wear cycling shorts is to avoid the chafing, the rubbing. But I'm finding that when I get up off the saddle, I can feel my shorts sliding around. Wrinkles. Bagginess. Discomfort.
It really annoyed me on my long ride to Bethel. I felt like I had diapers on, not sleek racing shorts. Every time I stood up I could feel my shorts sagging, the padding dropping, the wrinkled fabric on my thighs.
A long time ago I was riding with a teammate who had worked really hard on getting fit. I noticed that his shorts grippers hung loose on his legs. The Missus and I (she was the future Missus at that point) always joked about his "baggy shorts", like, "I can't believe his shorts were baggy, he was so fit."
Well, now I'm the one with baggy shorts.
Along with bleary eyes, an underlying layer of fatigue, low appetite...
And good legs.
Yeah, don't forget about the legs.
Tuesday morning ended up an exercise in frustration. I forgot stuff. I had a dirty bike with bar tape unraveling on both ends. Even pulling into a parking spot at work ended up wrong - I'd brought my bike in the trunk so I could fix the tape and clean the drivetrain, but I backed into the spot (like I normally do).
The bushes behind the car would prevent me from pulling out my bike.
So I had to turn the car around. Frustrated, and knowing that the lot doesn't get very full, I parked kind of crooked, almost in the next spot over. I didn't care. I yanked out my bike, grabbed my stuff, and went into the store.
Luckily the day improved my mood. I bonded with the cats under the building. The white male sat outside, in the bushes, a spitting image of our Hal. Normally he's either out of sight or he's inside, and to see him in the bright daylight... it was unusual. Better yet, he was waiting for me when I emerged from under the building, peering at me intently. I fumbled with the camera (I take pictures almost daily) and managed to get a shot or three before he decided to move back a bit.
The white cat, outside. This is the closest I've gotten to him outside.I ate (forced myself), drank (okay, I was thirsty), and tried to be nice and not frown at everyone. In a nice slow period I cleaned the drivetrain and then taped the bars. Refreshing, to finish that.
Hal, inside. We figure Hal is White's son.
Hal, inside. We figure Hal is White's son.
I had planned on putting on white bars and a white saddle, because it was after Memorial Day, but I decided to stick with black. The white saddle, although lighter, had fragile rails, and I didn't want to break it in, say, the Harlem Crit. The reason for no white tape? Frankly, I forgot it in my stressed out morning.
I stood around a little before 5 pm, chomping at the bit. I normally leave at 5 for the Rent, 30 minutes early. My boss noticed me pacing and told me to leave early. I grabbed my stuff and left, after letting the Missus know that I had to go home to get my SRM (I forgot that too).
I jetted off in my blue car ("hot little car" as described by a fellow racer), carefully driving within reasonable limits (5-10 over, yes really). I made good time to I-91, and as I got ready for the fun, long sweeping entrance ramp...
Traffic was at a complete standstill.
I spent a bit of time calling the Missus, who checked the traffic. The blockage seemed to break up shortly after this entrance ramp so I stayed the course. Although initially frustrating, I fell back into my "This is the way it is" mode; this felt better than getting all stressed out.
I got to the Rent with time to spare, but I really didn't warm up much. I felt an immense weariness in my legs, and I knew that I had to do some big efforts to open up my legs.
Problem was that I really didn't want to make those efforts. So I skipped them, tooling around until the A race lined up. After all, I'll be making those efforts in the race, and mentally it's much less taxing to be have to make the efforts.
Unusually, I had more than just SOC for company. Dave and TJ also showed up, and Lance hopped in after dropping out of the B race (he entered it to warm up). Dave wanted to get some action going in the A race; I wanted to work on longer-than-sprint efforts; everyone else was along for the ride.
Our plan going into the race - Dave would attack at the gun, I'd warm up while sitting in, and when Dave got caught, I'd counter and make some longer-than-sprint efforts.
Dave attacked as soon as we got rolling, dragging, eventually, three riders with him.
For a while it looked like we'd get stuck on Phase One of our plan - the part where Dave attacks. His break ended up gaining almost half a lap on the field, and for a while I thought it'd actually go the distance.
Too many riders had missed it though, and there were others in the field looking for a good workout. The pace ratcheted up a bit, then again. And again. At some point we lost Lance - his legs were cooked from the CT Stage Race, as were a couple other CTSR veterans.
One, Ben, yelled to go around him, fearing that he'd gap me off the back. He made it to the finish though, so he was fine.
I realized you could see some of those hard miles on his legs - he resembled a ProTour rider in body fat, whereas I resemble... a crit racer.
Anyway, with the big chase of Dave's first break, I dropped back a little each time, until I was hanging on for dear life at the back.
Dave and his group started coming back. I was supposed to counter after he got caught. But I couldn't counter from the back of the field, not here, not against these guys. I made some big efforts to move up, but only succeeded in cooking myself as I tried to hit the front part of the group.
Of course, that's about when we caught Dave and the break. I was well back, too far back, and dying.
Dave actually responded to other attacks in the interim, as did SOC. TJ kept busy marking the chases. I suffered while the team waited for me to launch my counter-move.
Finally, with a three rider break dangling off the front, my legs pulled themselves together. I moved up, watching the field chase in vain.
I launched hard just before the tailwind section, using my jump to get up to a good speed as fast as possible. 30-odd seconds at 31+ mph and I tagged onto the back of the break, useless now, my legs shattered by the effort.
Okay, now for the work. I wanted to contribute to the break now, but I could barely feel my legs, numb with lactic acid. They wouldn't respond, my upper body felt numb.
Right, this is what it's like when I'm suffering.
A minute later, unable to do anything except skip my turn pulling, we got caught.
Dave and SOC promptly launched a few salvos of their own, and I receded into anonymity, sitting in the field.
A little recovered, I wanted to go again. Two guys were pretty far up the road and I knew that it'd take more than 30 seconds of effort to catch them. I wanted to launch a little less aggressively, then sit and settle into a highly uncomfortable effort. I hoped that I'd bridge up to them. I gave myself a lap of effort before I'd blow, and it seemed remotely possible to make it across the big gap before I exploded.
On the main straight, the field getting a bit wide, I went up the left side, doing a sub-maximal jump (Mr SRM tells me 950 watts, versus the 1150 I did in my bridge effort). The bell started ringing - prime lap!
One or two riders thought about responding, but this was me, the guy who is pretty useless off the front.
They let me go.
I stood a bit out of the first turn and then tried to settle down. The two riders in front looked totally out of reach, and if the field chased me, I'd be in serious trouble...
But they weren't. I kept checking, disbelieving, and it seemed they were comfortable following wheels. I stayed low, kept the power on, and...
I pedaled squares past the start/finish, a lap after I launched myself. I managed to average about 28.6 mph for the lap. I can't imagine going 32 mph in a time trial!
The field caught me, streaming by, counters going right and left. I had been thinking I could just accelerate and get back in, but the ferocity of the counters surprised me.
Luckily the field wasn't quite so gung-ho, and I managed to slot in at some point, safely grabbing a wheel.
As we hit the final five laps (I missed the 5 to go card, but saw the 4 to go), I started thinking of making a move. Maybe launch a lap to go? Maybe sit in and launch on the backstretch?
Somewhere on 2 to go I stood to accelerate and almost collapsed onto the bars - both my quads seized momentarily, throwing me forward. I had to force my legs to keep turning so I wouldn't flip over the bars.
A little disconcerted by the turn of events, I turned to someone, I think it was Dave, maybe it was just a random rider in the field, and yelled out my predicament.
"I can't sprint, I'm cramping!"
Of course, that was when I stood. Sitting was okay so I powered to the front. I rationalized it by thinking that I couldn't just sit up in the middle of the field, not on the last curve, but I could pull off cleanly on the main straight.
Doug M marked me of course, hoping maybe for another big leadout (I led him out to a win once). I waved him (and everyone else) past, wiggled my elbow, did everything I could to tell everyone that they should ride around me.
Aidan launched hard (probably because he was going to do it anyway, not because of my frantic elbow flapping); one rider bridged, but Aidan powered away to win the race. After a few seconds, everyone followed.
I rolled around, slowly, finishing just in front of the riders on their cool down lap.
The Missus, with Mrs SOC, waited by the sidelines. Dave and SOC went for some cool down laps. Me, I didn't want to pedal the bike any more than I had to, and, right then, I didn't have to pedal nothin'. So I didn't.
We hung out for a bit with some of our favorite fellow racers. One of the things that makes the Rent so much fun is the combination of the relaxed racing atmosphere, the more intimate fields (we all kinda sorta know each other, kinda), and therefore the camaraderie before and after each event.
Just before we left the venue, I picked up socks. Better late than never, I suppose. I have yet to use them, but it shouldn't be too long.