I frequently ride with people who are stronger then I am. This doesn't mean I am a weak rider. I am just not as strong as the others in my group. There are all sorts of reasons for this. Some are younger. Many of them have been riding for a lot longer then I. And, others have more time, or more dedication, to train during the week.
For the most part, this isn’t a big deal. I can hold my own and we have ended many, many rides together with the only difference being I am perhaps more fatigued, which I can live with. However, over the last two years I have slipped into a bad habit that is making it an issue. Some of my fellow cyclists ride hard on Saturday and some on Sunday. I’ve been doing both and it is wearing me out.
I vowed to change that this year and this weekend provided the perfect opportunity to test my resolve.
On Saturday, I rode with Team Revolution presented by Fitness Journal. There were six of us setting out for a social ride at our B pace. I knew immediately that I was the weakest link in this group and it would be interesting to see if they stuck to the plan. Plus, I had gone over the route with Coach Tim and had a plan for riding specific intervals on the small hills we would cover.
The smart riding began before we started rolling when I announced my plans for the hills. This means they knew I would drop behind as I worked on my drills but I would catch up on the descents. It worked perfectly! I was never that far behind them over the top and I never felt the need to over exert myself to keep up.
After some nice rolling hills at a pleasant pace with lots of chit-chat and laughter, we hit a road where I knew a paceline would form. So, what’s the smart move for the weakest link at this juncture? That’s right. I took the front, started the paceline, and controlled the pace. The secret here is to set a pace you can maintain without killing yourself that is hopefully fast enough for your stronger friends. If you succeed, they will enjoy the pull and not feel compelled to come around and lift the pace. It was another smart move that worked out great.
The rest of Saturday’s ride was more of a social affair that offered a few last opportunities for pacelines and hill intervals. When it was all said and done, I got in a beautiful 52-mile ride that left me feeling perfectly exhausted. Now, the next smart decision for this weekend would be to ensure Sunday’s ride focused on active recovery versus pushing the pace yet again.
As I sat around drinking coffee with three other friends on Sunday morning, I knew that once again I was the weakest link and there was a good chance this ride would not be as social as it was billed. Soon, we are off at brisk pace and immediately my heart rate is higher then it should be for a recovery ride. I should be in zone L2 and instead I am pushing an L4. I spent the first have of the ride fighting an internal battle with myself. Should I go hard to stay with them, repeating my mistakes of the past two years, or should I let them go?
Finally, I made the smart decision for me and let them go. Then, something amazing happened. My heart rate came down over 10 beats even though I was pushing the same pace. I was much more relaxed and really began to enjoy the ride. I’m not a doctor, but I think that internal battle was stressing me out and once it was removed the stress went away with it and left me to enjoy spending time on the bike.
Was it worth it? You betcha! As I sit here typing this blog I am feeling fresh, relaxed and I am very much looking forward to Coach Tim’s SPINN Fitness class tomorrow night. And, wasn’t that the purpose in the first place?