There’s no question that my training is more effective when I do it alone. Who does intervals in a group? Doesn’t work. And my schedule for the last, um, five months or so has been ridiculously unpredictable and unforgiving. So I ride solo most of the time, and I’m getting fit again, fo’ sho. I’m closing in on my preferred “race weight”, and able to push down real damn hard on the pedals for longer than I’d think a skinny dork like me could (or should); but my rides have been conspicuously lacking in a heretofore unidentified, but no less essential nutrient: contact with other humans.
It was helpful, as I was peaking last year and my training involved something Nathaniel calls “tapering” (whatever that is—sounds vaguely scatological to me), to avoid the Tuesday and Wednesday night World Championship rides that meet up at the town Park & Ride lot to head out into the hills, rain or shine, for a couple of hours of non-competitive, yet step-on-your-neck competition. I could always get suckered into going way too hard to keep up with the “A Group” (our local training rides are divided into two, sometimes three (A, B, C) groups). I’d tell myself as I rolled out that I’d ride at my own pace tonight, then Ruiz (substitute your own local Cat 1 Sensei) would invariably light it up on the hardest hill to avoid falling asleep, and I’d chase. Two hours later, I would have ridden 90% of the ride above the red line. Then by July I was totally cooked—over-trained. OK, so lesson learned: group rides are for checking your legs and practicing pacelining and sprints and attacks and shit. Fine. But this Tuesday I remembered the other, more fundamental thing group rides are for: mental and spiritual health.
We spend a lot of time in our own heads, especially those of us in so-called “creative industries”. Cycling, and training at a rigorous level, although certainly meditative and centering in much the same way that, say, yoga or masturbation (I’m told there’s a difference) can be, doesn’t really do much to force us out of our own noggin. Group rides penetrate that membrane of self-obsession on several, very constructive fronts. Hearing about a teammate’s renovation of his bathroom, or another’s recent trip to Majorca, or another’s daughter’s recent lacrosse exploits, pulls us through that seemingly-solid, yet permeable film of our own bullshit into the lives of others, whom we always assume are just like us. The intelligence community calls this “mirroring”, and it is a super dangerous stupor for nation-states to lapse into. It results in fomentation of wars and stuff. Mirroring is that lazy, provincial assumption that others think the way you think, merely because you lack the contextual or creative qualifying and possibly contradictory input to challenge your redneck assumptions. And we all do it. Especially you and people who look just like you. I hate you fuckers. You know who you are.
So this Tuesday we weren’t even 15 minutes into this chatty, spinny ride, when my pal Geno flatted. Two people I HATE being with when they flat are Andy Ruiz and Mr. Gene Primomo, if only because I know they will get all angry and fighty and want to chase back to the group with murderous rage. And that’s precisely what happened this time. Gene was calm as he fixed the blowout, then another rider and I volunteered to shepherd him back to the group, which meant climbing the steep, pitchy, and locally notorious AT&T climb at warp speed. I’m sure Gene knew we’d catch a few stragglers but I bet he never imagined we would catch back up to the front of the A group. That was a load of work, baby. I was ready to chomp some Gu Chomps and sit up and catch my breath to get back to the conversation I was having about shower enclosures, and had already visualized my compression socks and beer (there’s an under-developed marketing mash-up if I ever heard of one) on the other side of this nonsense. But noooo. Gene was still in “El Carnivore” mode, and rode right up to the front to push the pace. Seriously? I’m thinking, “dude, if we rode like this in races, we wouldn’t be such poseurs”.
Although I will show up for these rides somewhat judiciously this summer—since I seem to lack the self-control not to ride above my level when prompted to stomp—I look forward to catching up with my brothers and sisters as the sun sets at least once a week for the next few months. I may even see a few of them at the races. And maybe Gene and I can perform our pre-choreographed move at Willmington-Whiteface and the Saranac Crit in a couple of weeks. Without the flat tire. @Geno: you owe me, motherf*&!er.
By: Danny Goodwin May 27