Monday is usually one of my favorite days — after a long weekend, it is a relief to get back into an organized schedule. On top of this, I take a course on endurance prescription. As you can guess, I get to spend almost three full hours completely nerding out on all things that are happening in your body and what can be influenced during running, swimming, biking and the combination of all three. I’m pretty sure I drooled a little bit when the professor casually threw in a technique video of Chris Lieto while we talked about cycling economy.
Usually when I am sitting in class for long periods of time I start to get the shakes in my legs. My brain is focused and alert, but my legs get jumpy. I distinctly remember last week wanting with almost every slow twitch fiber in my body to get out of that seat and start practicing what we were learning. Discussing the programming methods with a class of strength and conditioning students is difficult. Especially when you are trying to convince them, “no, endurance sports are cleaning up the drug issues; yes, we still do a lot of LSD,” — d’oh!
The opportunity to play with my newfound skills came the next morning at 6:30 a.m. With a 35 percent chance of rain and the scientific guess that “hey guys, there might be some wind,” a couple friends (yes Joey, Cailin, and Brian this is your shoutout) rode to our stomping grounds of Key Biscayne. Six miles from campus is a loop on the shores of Biscayne Bay. This is the hub of the Miami triathlon and cycling community. At any given time out there, people will be swimming in the bay, running the paths or trails on Virginia Key or riding countless circles of a windy circuit in pursuit of a Cuban coffee. On this particular morning, the Key was deserted. Riding out we were protected from wind by the trees and buildings, but as soon as we hit the first causeway, we knew there would be trouble. In Miami there is no such thing as elevation. While most places have rolling hills, we have bridges. You go up, you go down, rinse and repeat. The first time over the bridge we realized that someone was going down, most likely into traffic, if we attempted that multiple times. There was no tempting the fate halfway through the season. Continuing our ride along the loop, I began to get into my own head.
Where were these glorious techniques and workouts I had learned about in class? My feet felt permanently ballerina toed, my shoulders were hunched, maybe I should do a 20-second rep to straighten out. I remember going over the specific metabolic processes that were making my legs feel like I was riding a steel bike. Unfortunately, knowing exactly the response of the slow oxidative energy system doesn’t necessarily help you turn the cranks.
As we came to the end of the loop and began to approach the bridge on the way home, the sky turned dark and ominous. The wind shifted yet again, this time with a full-on headwind right at the base of the bridge. I outwardly cursed in a most unladylike manor. As four of us pushed onward, my thoughts weren’t even about reaching the top. My thoughts were centered on why I was there. I was tired, I was in pain, and some freshman was about to beat me to the top of my bridge. After spending hours sitting in class ready to get out and ride, here I was cursing my decision to wake up that morning.
As most stories go, once you reach the top of the climb, you feel like you accomplished something, and are able to fly down the other side breaking sound barriers along the way. Unfortunately we ventured down the bridge at 15 mph praying to stay vertical.
Then the torrential downpour followed us the 6 miles back home, stopping just in time for the sun to come out and allow us to walk inside. Yet as I decided between showering before class or wiping down my bike, the ride suddenly didn’t seem so bad. Sure it was kind of windy, and I had grit in my teeth, and some driver going up the bridge most likely thought I was insane as he spotted the rain clouds rolling in — but who cares, I finished the ride!
What I’ve finally realized is that all of the good rides I have are due to the rough ones. Every physical aspect that I learned about in class is also dependent on whether my mind decides to give up or continue. If I didn’t hate myself a little bit last Tuesday, would I have been able to get through my race this weekend? Would I have been able to wait to get to the finish line last year in Tempe before passing out from dehydration? A good ride is fun, but a bad ride is just as important.