Shake Off The Demons

alligator 9-2012.01It’s Wednesday early and Surprise I just got off the bike cause that’s what I do. Day break is still early here on Florida’s west cost in July and so It’s wise to get out there before the heat, humidity, and best of all the traffic. Nary a car in site nor a bike path for that matter. You guessed it I’m out on Piper Rd which features the Bull Pen and the Double Diamond Bridge Loop. The sound track of my mind has been stuck on the tune Land Down Under by Men At Work for awhile now. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve registered for the Hincapie Gran Fondo. It takes place in those South Carolina North Carolina mountains in late October and last year Cadel Evens was one of the pro riders. How cool would that be! To ride with the man from a land down under!

I’m by no means able to get ready for this. There is absolutely nothing in this part of the world to climb, nothing. If you don’t believe me just look at the Strava Widget up there on the right. But I’ll be there, reservations made, and yes less than an hour into it I’ll be thinkin’ “who’s brilliant idea was this!” The ride is 80 miles long with greater than 8000 feet of climb. I rode and survived 6 Gap located in those Georgia mountains just north and east of Atlanta back in 2013. It’s 100 miles with 11000 + feet of climb and so The Hincapie is about 80% of that except for the grade, it’s steeper. I’m expecting to see the Garmin go into AUTOPAUSE when it gets to about 18%.

But I’ll do what I can to prepare. I’ll switch to my compact crank and stay active and healthy to accomplish this feat of strength. I plan to train some with the 5 AM fit lads and lasses and hope to spend some time riding rollers in Virginia and those steep but short climb ups in Pennsylvania this summer while vacationing. But it won’t be nearly enough to prepare me for the riggers of the Appalachians. In the meantime………………

water bottle 1Reading up on the subject has been very insightful. It’s all about power to weight. I don’t have a power meter but Strava estimates my watts somehow and so I’ll use that to do the math. Want to increase your power loose some weight. Okay, but for me there’s a tipping point, the point where I’m too light and I loose power.  I bounce around between 150 and 155 all the time without noticing any change. It’s below 150 that I don’t feel as strong and so 150 is going to be my target weight for the mountains.

You can always  lighten up the bike, RIGHT! Nothing is more expensive than shedding bike weight. My TCR is 17 pounds with pedals and has a short wheel base, perfect for the mountains. Add me at say 150 making my combined weight something like 167. Oh and add 5 or so pounds for water bottles and other things such as air, tube and what not lets make it 172 lbs. The photo here is one of my bigger water bottles. It weighs in about 2 pounds. I have smaller ones when full weigh 1.5 pounds so there ya go. Use the smaller bottles. There are SAG stops all along the way and so to carry only one bottle would reduce my combined weight by over 1%. (Pretty sure reducing the amount of water is NOT the way to go).

bike in a treeNothing I’ve read supports training on the heavy bike. Max watts is max watts,  period. It would be better to train on the bike you plan to ride. Okay, but  I’m telling myself that if I spend more time on my heavy bike (20 pounds) I’ll shed about 3 pounds at show time. If believing something helps, placebo effect, I’ll take it. That plus less water gets me close to loosing 2%.

You can forget about aero for climbing. The forces of gravity on the accent laugh at aero and on those scary as hell descent I’ll need to find ways to slow down while staying off the brakes. Make my body larger and air braking by opening up my legs. Gotta feather the brakes to keep them from over heating.

Keep That Cadence Up 

Riding at a higher cadence when explained the following way is helpful. From Cycling Performance Tips:
Think about this. If you ride up the hill in two minutes at 60 rpm, you’ve divided the total work into 120 pieces (consider each revolution of your pedals as a unit of work). But if you spin at 90, there would be 180. As you’ve done the same elevation gain, but now broken it into smaller bits, there will be less work (and strain on the knees) with each revolution. (And if you do have knee problems, take a break and stand during hills – which will change the biomechanics and give your knees a break).

oliOkay so mechanical and physical accounted for. What about the mental prep. Can I control the lizard brain, the primal part of the grey matter that reacts and controls emotions such as fear. This needs to be managed. What I’ve come to understand is that one needs to realize what they’re getting themselves into, anticipate, and  accept it. For example the best way to overcome the fear of getting dropped by a group when cycling is to go and get dropped. I have plenty of experience with getting dropped and so I have no fear. Riding in the mountains not so much, insufficient data.  Like I’ve already mentioned there’s nothing around here to climb but I know and accept that it’s going to be painful and I’m going to suffer and struggle for hours.

Sports psychologist Steve Smith writes about letting  his robot do the job. His robot? That’s what Smith calls the cerebral cortex, the part of the human brain that provides a calming focus in situations fraught with anxiety. “The robot is logical. The robot plans. The robot understands. The robot stays cool,” Smith said last week in a presentation at Westmont College. “The robot tells the limbic lizard to be quiet.” He explained the process with three words: anticipation, acceptance, and attention.
Anticipate that it will be difficult.
Acceptance of physical and emotional discomfort makes it more bearable.
Attention: “Give the robot something to do, and the limbic lizard goes quiet.” He suggested the runners might focus their attention on an external object, like the tag on a shirt, or, better yet, a relevant internal stimulus, like one’s breathing, the rhythm of inhaling and exhaling.(“Quieting The Limbic Lizard”. written by John Zant).

FOCUS ON THE EXTERNAL! WOW! That plays right into my wheelhouse! My brain is a storehouse for 60 + years of music and I really have no way of knowing what this sound track will play next sometimes. Songs just pop up from deep inside at will. Sometime it gets stuck in a groove for days. This will be my external focus and  strength. I’m sooooo excited!

It’s been a rough coupla weeks out there on the bike. It’s hotter’n hell leaving me wasted at times. Florida’s summer sun is a bad mama jamma. I’ll have no problems staying at 150. I may have to eat even more than I already do to maintain. I broke a spoke, shredded a tire and almost went down hard in a paceline crash. I say almost because even though I fell I landed softly. Not so much for others. No special talent on my part just more time to react, I was near the back. In the blink of an eye friends were hurt and bikes were broken. Their reaction to the mayhem was heroic. Those with lesser injuries, abrasions, forgot their own problems and went to work helping others who were in big trouble, collapsed lung , broken ribs, separated shoulder, broken shoulder, concussions. The logical brain took over. 911 and loved ones were called and they responded. The sheriff and the ambulance arrived quickly but not before a medic just passing by stopped to help. Thankfully one of our rides regulars is an EMT. Crisis continues to bring out the best reactions in people. The healing continues.

Bike wrecks are hard on the body and the brain. The limbic brain becomes louder and control is needed. Even though I escaped physically unharmed when the line collapsed mentally I found myself being cautious maybe even tentative, less aggressive. Now, 2 weeks later I think my focus is sharper, spider senses more acute. Sounds logical if you ask me but again I escaped without a hair outta place. Everyone involved is going to deal with it in their own way. Shaking off the demons is a very personal journey.

Every bike wreck I’ve been in going back to 9 years old is a vivid memory and has been a teachable moment. At 9 it was that loose gravel is slippery and keeping the front end straight while drifting the back is how it’s done.  At age 11 it was don’t cross the center line. That was a tough one.  Going over the handlebars around age 40 taught me to make sure you tighten things up when working on the cockpit. On and on it goes. This last one I’m still processing. Don’t ride paceline? Nope! Anticipate and accept that every time I get on the bike there is risk? I learned that many years ago. A few things come to mind already. Not everyone wears Road ID and I don’t have everyone’s contact info in my phone. I need to work on that.  Continue to work out as many of the bugs as I can ahead of time by choosing safe routes and doing regular bike checks. We were riding east into the suns intense glare when this wreck occurred and so hopefully I’ll remember this and communicate to the group to take it down a notch when visibility is compromised. Something tells me I will. Hopefully we’ll  all get back together soon and talk things over.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *