Thursday, July 3, 2014


Taken at a bike race in Alta Sierra, California in 1967, one of my first bike races as a Senior rider. I was still trying to race on the Hetchins touring bike I purchased for my Tour of Europe in 1967. I picked this picture because somehow it says "malaise" to me.

There has been a pause between this post and the previous one, and as with most pauses in my postings, this reflects a problem with my cycling. Such problems are occasionally physical but are more commonly mental. Of course, physical and mental are interconnected, but usually I can classify any slump I am in as predominantly one or the other, and the current is predominantly mental. In the larger sense, this slump has been going on for about eight months, since I failed to prepare for a 200K brevet last October.  (The Randonneurs USA website explains bevets and randonneuring.) However, there have been ups and downs, and right now I am pretty much focused on the current down which has been going on for about six weeks.

So what's the problem? The problem is that I cannot get into a training (or riding) routine, there is always some reason not to ride:
  • My performance is falling instead of improving, I must be overtraining. 
  • I need to go to California to take care of Dad. 
  • I have household chores to do or I need to help my wife with her work or I need to participate in one of my volunteer activities. 
  • It's too dang hot! 
All of these reasons have a greater or lesser amount of legitimacy, but I feel like in the past, when I was motivated, I overcame greater obstacles to riding than these. Why not now? I think there are a couple of reasons:
  • Once I realized that the occasional 200K brevet is my limit as far as randonneuring goes, I fell into a "been there/done that" state of mind. With nothing new to look forward to, the oomph is just not there to juggle around the interruptions and put up with the heat/cold/rain/traffic. I suspect many of my fellow randonneurs would argue that I should just enjoy the rides for their own sakes and not try to make them an accomplishment. If I take that attitude, then I guess I would have to say that a 200K brevet is just too dang hard! I don't think I can complete one without pretty careful training, training which would violate the dictum of "just ride." 
  • As one of my readers commented a few slumps ago, there is nothing special about 200K. Bike riding is about bike riding, for whatever distance you enjoy riding. Problem is, there are a limited number of route options leaving from my front door, and I have done them all, again and again and again and again... (I plan to discuss this at greater length in a future post) and getting away from the oppressive traffic of the sprawling city of Houston is a significant investment and burden on the environment.
  • I previously mentioned my sciatica. I have had it diagnosed but there has been a hitch in getting it treated, so for now, I am living with it. The pain is not terrible but it is fairly continuous and I confess that weighs me down. (This is new since my last brevet.)
So what am I doing about it? I don't want to stop cycling, at least not without replacing it with an equally good exercise. I need this for my health!
  • The inspiration for this column came from this morning. I was scheduled to resume my Block 2 training cycle with a 50 mile ride. I simply couldn't face the heat. What I have been able to do is to ride in the early morning (to avoid the heat) on the Rice Bike Track (to avoid the crazy Houston traffic). Figuring that anything is better than nothing, I put on my cycling clothes and rode in to work with my wife, turning off at the track. I did this knowing it was less than ideal; I can only stand to go around that third of a mile track so many times. Both to change things up and to up the amount of exercise, I decided to do a fast ride. I had originally planned a 30 minute time trial, but when I got there, there were a few friendly riders out there with whom I could barely hang by gluing myself to their wheel and I ended up with what I think and hope was a pretty good workout.
  • I just bought myself a cycle trainer:

    I figure it is one more way to ride, a way not affected by weather. I have heard that these make the Rice Bike Track seem interesting by comparison so it is not a panacea, but I am hoping that every little bit helps.

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