So you did all the required winter work: weights, 2×20s (3×20s when you felt extra frisky), some intervals. Now the ice is melting and the leash is long. You ride outside, the dry, cold crisp air pushes the stale, basement-generated sputum out in chunks, ridding yourself of the extra weight that months of dark, semi-activity took residence in your system. You swear off beer, or at least the stout varieties, and you watch yourself get leaner, the outdoor skills coming back. It’s invigorating and the sensations give you the solid feedback of that old friend who may be coming to stay, what is her name again? She is as beautiful as she is fickle, hard to get and difficult to maintain. Oh yes – Sweet Lady Fitness. Good form that manifests itself in seemingly endless matches to burn, you go for townlines, sneak attacks, many accelerations that reward you with quick recovery for even more accelerations. You have so many fireworks that you could light a Def Leppard concert, so much so your friends have to ride deep rimmed hoops just to keep up with your glorious promise of speed.
First training race rolls around, the pack is nearly full and it hurts, the voice in your head brandishes its fist at you, yelling “you should have done more kettlebell exercises damnit!”. You glance your vicinities and your fellow racers have ghastlier faces, maybe they should have done more kettlebell exercises; the pace is up and it stays up, coincidence or not every time you look at your computer you see 50km/h, you go in a few moves and marvel afterwards that the average speed hovered 45km/h. Wow. Exhilarating.
April-May races come and the Joe Racer in you couldn’t be happier, morale is high, you feel impervious to cold and rain (or cold rain), you look forward to the tingling that embrocation provides. Racing feels awesome, everything is new again and your relationship with Fitness is going really well. You celebrate your good riding with your favorite IPAs, mid-week training races are fast, and you get to do many of them. The spark is there, you’re enjoying everything and life becomes an endless smooth-paved road on its way to beautiful escapism. Nothing can hold you back, and you figure out that your cruising gear is 53×17, which you spin effortlessly everywhere.
Or at least that’s what you think.
After the mass of spring road races, the central nervous system goes a bit stale, tiredness sets in and some of your most frolicsome friends begin to hurt you on rides. Progress doesn’t come in leaps anymore; rather, they inch incrementally, but you’re either too stuffed to go and eke out that extra few seconds/watts out of your intervals or just plain don’t really feel like it. What’s going on? You’re a bit drained, but you keep plugging along, adding a few more IPAs after rides, skipping a few midweek races. Before you know it, your legs feel bloated and that 53×17 combo comes out in squares, as a matter of fact this gear ratio seems like the stupidest thing to churn when you’re not that fresh. You sense the overall excitement is an octave lower, noticing that on the weeknight training races your buddies are less willing to chase that breakaway (you go!, no, you go!, I went last time damnit, etc), and that the matches aren’t that plenty after all. You shake the legs, your mind wanders, you curse yourself you’re out of your favorite brew, then SHIT!, you narrowly escape a crash because you were not paying attention.
Welcome to Plateau Nation, you rode yourself raw, down to the nub. The matches are hard to find, the ones available are wet, and you don’t really care to dry them up. It happens to most of us, by mid-season I’d wonder if the airlines lost my suitcase of courage somewhere, though I always knew it’d eventually turn up. But let’s extrapolate a bit here; plateaus happen on most facets of our lives. Which human has never gotten rotten bored of say, his or her job? Or the house cat, that decides to loudly sing DO-RE-MEOW the moment the baby is finally asleep? Or your companion, who sometimes seems to favor playing the role of “no dice, chief” to everything you suggest or want to do; See what I mean? And the cycle goes back to where it began, us resorting to the little things that offer solace, peace, excitement, whatever it is that fills that pang of nothingness. Sometimes too much play, or too much work can overload the system causing imbalances, heart-palpitations, headaches, physical malaises that require you to drop everything and pay attention to the inner gearings of your engine. So go play curling, take the lady out, learn to fly fish, pull weeds out of the lawn, cook gnocchi from scratch or build that model airplane you’ve been meaning to; whatever therapy that’ll help assembling you back together. When you least expect, you’ll be salivating to be back in action; little ring will turn into big ring, and your best friend – Fitness – will be back, smiling and daring you to dry your matches and light up that 53×17 again. So how about you get your butt in the saddle and let’s ride down this plateau? There’s a townline on the way with your name on it.