Burnout and Interval Training

Happy Christmas week!  I hope that all of you are enjoying your respective holidays and partaking in as much holiday food and drink you can endure.  Last week was memorable in a number of ways, including, but not limited to quality time with family, eating/drinking/cooking/baking/repeat, and burnout.  Ah yes, it was inevitable: too much alone time on the bike equals burnout.  I wasn’t riding my bike with friends and I was trying to adhere to my dang training schedule all by myself.  I had a chat with my SAT last week, who reminded me (again and again) how imperative it was to ride WITH OTHER PEOPLE.  He suggested that I take the rest of the week off in order to clear my head and take advantage of the time with our visiting family, then reassess how I feel about riding.  Well, since I’m not totally stubborn (insert SAT’s rollicking laughter), I took that advice and merrily went about enjoying the rest of the week bike-free.

Yesterday, I felt rested enough and fresh enough mentally to restart my training regime with two friends.  We went on a nice ride together (37 miles, to be exact) and I came back home refreshed and….smiling.  Shocking, isn’t it?  Today, those same friends and I did some interval training.  What is that?  Basically, interval training can be described as short periods of work followed by rest.  The main aim is to improve speed and cardiovascular fitness.  We followed a route that consisted of 10 short climbs; we started by coasting down the first hill, then climbed up the next one as quickly as we could….then we coasted down the next hill, then climbed up the next hill as fast as we could….and so on and so forth.  Here is what that looked like:

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Since today was a cold and windy day, the hill sprints were very effective in warming us up.  Once in a while during those hill sprints, I imagined my SAT chirping encouragement to me.  I’m still not sure if that inspired me or annoyed me.

SAT

Tomorrow will be my rest day, mainly because I have plans to go hiking with some friends.  Have a safe New Year’s celebration and see you in ’15!

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This sums it ALL up.

My SAT and I went for a ride today.  We rode almost 50 miles.  Quote of the day and perhaps, of this entire training experiment:

SAT: It’s a dream come true to ride my bike with you!

Me: Funny how we have such different perspectives on the same activity.

—~~~End quote~~~—

Rain, rain, rain

The past week has been gray, cloudy, and rainy.  If I were typing this from the Pacific Northwest, that statement would mean nothing, as most days would be gray, cloudy, and rainy.  However, I live in the desert and I am accustomed to enjoying dry, sunny days and being the envy of my friends and family around the country.  It is not surprising, then, that I have felt lethargic, fat, and old this week. My cycling has been less-than-inspired and I would rather do almost anything than get my butt on my bike.  I suppose I can try to see this as a life lesson: perseverance will lead to success in whatever endeavour I choose  to pursue.  Case in point: I just tested for my first degree black belt in taekwondo this weekend and am pretty proud of that accomplishment.  That took three years of consistent effort and energy, despite how I felt on any given day.  Now I can enjoy the fact that I’ve attained a certain level of competency in that martial art.

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(Some days, I think I would enjoy cycling more if I could punch it.)

Eye on the prize, even though I don’t always enjoy the process.  On a brighter note, raising my handlebars a wee bit has greatly helped my sore neck and shoulders.  I still have soreness in those areas, but it’s definitely more manageable and does not occur in the first hour of riding.  I may have to get a shorter stem and get my handlebars raised even more, but for now, I’ll continue observing my body while I ride my bike with this new measurement in place.

Thoughts

I’m approaching the end of my third week of training and I’m currently wondering if I can actually do this.  Some days have been easy to get on that bike and pedal, while other days have proven to be more difficult.  I still don’t LOVE riding my bike, although I like the IDEA of doing something as big as a double century.  (I do enjoy the massive amounts of food I can eat without guilt!)  One factor that is leeching out any joy in riding my bike is the neck and shoulder pain I am constantly experiencing.  Typically, I feel pain about an hour into any ride.  I’ve been stretching on and off the bike and starting to research solutions; so far, the most obvious solution is to figure out if my bike fits me correctly.  My SAT and I will probably get me to a professional bike fitter in order to see if I am correctly aligned and pedaling efficiently.  If I feel pain an hour into a ride, I can’t imagine what I’d feel like after 15, 16, or 17 hours (my projected time for completing a double century).

That is a painful thought.  So….let me think about something more fun.  I was going to post another “Throwback Thursday” article yesterday, but got distracted by work and other stuff.  Better late than never, right?  A handful of years ago, my SAT and I were in London and when I researched online for things to do, I found a bike tour company that seemed fun.  I booked our bikes and we enjoyed a really cool tour of the main tourist attractions while getting a bit of exercise.  It was fun to see the tour buses get caught up in traffic while we rode around obstacles and accessed places the buses couldn’t go because of their size.  🙂  The bikes we rode were these big, cushy cruisers and since our route was pretty flat, the biking was easy.  It’s funny for me to think back on my past and recall more bike moments than I remember having!

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(Photo 1: me on my bike.  Photo 2: trying to run through the wall to get to Platform 9 3/4 in order to catch the train to Hogwarts and see Harry Potter!)

Throwback Thursday

Since it is Thursday, I thought I’d post a few pictures of bikes from my past in honor of “Throwback Thursday” (a.k.a., #tbt on the internet!).  During our long ride in Yuma last weekend, my SAT and I were sharing stories of our first bikes and describing those wondrous pieces of machinery that got us around in style in our respective formative years.  The first bike I owned was a pretty nifty blue BMX that I rode everywhere (I know this because my bike sported “BMX” on the frame).  I didn’t go fast, but oh, the independence that I flaunted whilst pedalling that blue BMX!

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(Blurry, but it gets the point across.  I think I was about 6 years old here.)

I graduated to a white, girls’ bike that accommodated my growing height and girth.  Perhaps not as cool as my BMX, the white bike more than did its job in getting me from point A to point B.  I remember being quite fond of the front reflector, for some strange reason (maybe because I have a penchant for shiny things?).

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(I had no sense of style back then.  Please excuse that!  I think I’m 8-9 years old here.)

When I turned 10, my big birthday gift was a 10-speed Raleigh.  I can’t find any pictures of it, either online or in my photo albums, but rest assured that I was darn proud of it and rode that adult bike like the big kid I was.  I had that bike for years.  My first real adult bike was one my mom gave me; she had a CCM (Canadian low-end brand) ladies’ mountain bike that she sort of-kind of-not really learned to ride.  She eventually got fed up with her lack of skills, so she gave it to me.  Again, I can’t find a photo of that bike, but here is a similar one from the Canadian Tire website (current retail price is $199.99 CDN):

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(The above is a photo I took with my phone of the website.  I don’t have the technological know-how to do anything fancier than that.)

My first “nice” bike was a 1996 Norco “Tango” (Canadian brand) and according to bikepedia.com, it weighed 25.1 pounds/11.4 kg.  It felt pretty light at the time!  I had the 15″ frame (smallest one), which fit me really well, and rode that bike to (grad) school for many years. Click on this link for all the specifications.

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(Going to class!)

There you go.  That is my bike history.  It was a fun little jaunt down memory lane and it’s amazing to see how far bike technology has come over my lifetime!  Readers: what bike stories do you have?

Food, glorious food

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Four things make biking difficult for me: 1) Wind advisory headwind.  2) Extended  climbing.  3) Not eating enough food.  4) Gray, cloudy, overcast days.  I recently experienced 1 and 2 in my little bike tour a couple of weekends ago and lived to tell the tale.  Today, I was a victim of 3 and 4.  The only thing I ate was my normal breakfast (oatmeal with raisins and soy milk).  Many trainers, including my SAT, can not emphasize the importance of eating often and enough before, during, and after a ride.  I thought that I could get away with not eating more this morning because I wasn’t planning on a big ride (only 15 miles today).  Halfway into the ride, I was starting to feel slow, fat, and lethargic.  Overcast days don’t sit well with me; living in the desert has certainly spoiled me with sunny days almost every day!  I’ve noticed that cloudy days dampen my mood and lower my energy.  In any case, I felt “blah” and was very happy to arrive home (and eat something!).

I think I need to revamp my food intake.