Pushing The Limits Of What You Consider Normal
This past weekend was a brutal one. With multiple weeks in succession of being out of town, I was itching for a ride in the worst way so there wasn’t anything that was going to keep me off the bike on Saturday and Sunday if I could help it. Sometimes you just need rides and this weekend was one of those weekends. This sequence of stories from the weekend does have a point as you will see by the wrap-up at the bottom so bear through my pain as we take something valuable out of this adventure!
The Blistering Cold Road Ride In The Rain
Saturday started off with a road ride with a couple of friends. While we knew the temps were going to be down in the 30′s, what we were not expecting was the rain that we woke up to. I swear one of these days I am just going to quit this whole online thing and become a weatherman because all they have to do is guess, be wrong and get paid really well for it. I had already laid out my riding clothes the evening before so I knew as long as I got my gear together, on and took a few pedal strokes, I would be on the bike at least so there was no turning back. I was right and started off down the road with cars kicking up 30 degree dirty water in my face. It was awesome.
Four of us headed out and got in about 45 miles before the rain and cold started to create that numb pain that you can only get on a bike. Ever get that feeling that you need to sit and defrost in your living room because a hot shower would just hurt too much? That was my experience on Saturday and after 20 minutes of sitting in dry clothes petting the dogs…I cleaned up and took stock of what we just accomplished. It is not everyday that you suit up for a rain ride for 45 miles in temps in the 30′s. That was a new one for me and it stretched my abilities even though the ride wasn’t that long. Conditions just take a toll after awhile…
The Mountain Bike Ride That Caused Me To See Things
To keep with the insanity for the weekend, another group of 4 of us decided it was a good idea to hit 30 miles of some of the hardest trail in Georgia on Sunday. Thinking it would be a good idea to put in a later start time with the hope that the temperature would rise some, we opted for 10am. We were wrong about the temperatures but that was probably a good thing as the ground was frozen instead of muddy. With about 50 layers of riding clothes on, we headed up the first climb ready (so we thought) for what was in store.
The trail of the day was Snake Creek. Known for its rock gardens, this trail is a ridge ride full of steep up and downs within some of the rockiest trail in Georgia. On tap for the day was an out and back on the hardest 15 miles of the trail. After picking our way through the first 15 miles of the day, we arrived to the radio towers half frozen when the reality of the situation set in (for me at least)…we are only 1/2 way through the day and we are already 2:45 in. It’s ok though…I had to go find my ego somewhere around mile 12 anyway. I dropped it.
Luckily, gravity played more of a roll coming back and many of the rock gardens that we had to climb got the added benefit of momentum on the way down which made the more technical side (the first miles coming back) a blast to run through for those of us that are really into technical riding. After we got past the wall that we had to climb walk up the last time through, there were several more sections of hike-a-bike that I remembered blasting down and thinking…this is going to be hell coming back. I was right and the calves started burning like crazy as we pushed bikes up some crazy terrain. On the second section of pushing, the wall hit and my fitness was spent. Since I had been on the road for several weeks traveling, my body was just not ready for two days of grueling pain. However, it was time to sack up and finish the ride because the only other option was laying on the side of the trail dead.
The earphones went in and I let the loud hard rock blaring into my ears help with the pedal strokes until finally we were at the last downhill of the day. Ironically, this is the same downhill that I had voiced I needed to be in front for the finish. I couldn’t find my ego…and it was time to take my place at the back as my vision was now getting blurry and my arms were so tired that it was going to take everything in me not to wreck…much less lead the charge down the hill. We finished up the ride with zero mechanicals and all body parts in place…and it was still sub 40 degrees outside.
Pushing The Limits Of What You Consider Normal
For many riders, the weekend I had could have been just another weekend on the road and out in the woods. For others…it could be almost unimaginable to put in over 70 miles in terrible conditions. Every rider has a baseline they work off of and that is what they consider normal riding.
In the metro Atlanta area, we hear a lot of complaining about trails being too hard…there being too many rocks…or just complaining about the conditions and not being able to ride. This past weekend, I took my baseline of what I considered normal and raised it a bit to increase my skills and ability to ride a bike. Did I increase my technical ability? Probably not…but I did increase my fitness and threshold for weather conditions. There will be other rides on other trails that test my riding abilities and each time I extend those (safely hopefully) I increase what I consider normal on the bike.
I do not believe that mountain biking, road biking or even urban biking should be as easy as riding a bike.
I do believe that trails should be constructed within an area that allows for progression within the sport. Just like at a ski resort, they should not all be double blacks or bunny slopes. It is up to the rider to ride within their limitations and test themselves to become a better rider over time. By testing ourselves and extending what we consider normal on the bike, we are able to continue to enjoy the sport of cycling. Just because you can’t do something today does not mean that you won’t be able to do it tomorrow.
If you want to get faster…ride with people that are faster than you are.
If you want to become a better technical rider…ride harder trails.
If you want to be able to ride longer distances…start riding longer rides.
Stretching your limits in life and on the bike is a good thing. Sometimes it takes pain and stress to figure out what you are really made of. If you make the decision to never stretch what you consider normal, you are making the decision to never get better at anything you do. Next time you are on your bike, look for that obstacle or feature that you want to be able to do. Find a way to either work up to that point or get the courage to try it. There is only one way to do it and that is to try…
Images by Laurie Phillips
What do you think?