once you got it up, keep it up.
i was a terrible bike racer in high school. i liked going up hills on my road bike, but i hated going up them on my mountain bike. i was also just bad at it, overtrained, and doing too many other things (girls, volleyball, girls, XC running, school, girls, etc.) to focus on excellence. but to be absolutely honest, the main reason that i was bad at going fast on two wheels: it never occurred to me to go faster.
riding was a whole lot of fun. i'd get out there, cruise around the local four-wheeler and ski-doo trails in my lycra, feel like some kind of extreme athlete when i made it over a rock or root stretch or a 10-foot wide (and long) bridge over a picturesque stream. i'd take a break, eat half a powerbar (those things were too expensive to eat all at once!), and continue on, probably at a breakneck pace of about 2 miles an hour. sure, those trails were rough and not made for bikes or any kind of cyclical rhythm of human power transfer. those hills were steep. but really, i was slow, and i didn't really know it. i was enjoying myself, and going uphill seemed to hurt, so i must have been doing fine. right? right.
as part of my 'let's change the world with bikes' campaign of high school ridiculousness, i attempted to start a mountain bike team (i also had huge dreams of being sponsored by the local pizza pizza - imagine how sweet orange and white checkered jerseys would have been!). we went on a bunch of rides, and even competed and did well in the provincial high school championship series. but it all came clear to me on one 'training' ride we convinced the high school to drive us to in algonquin park. many many kilometers of rough ass singletrack and rock gardens and mud, and i learned everything i needed to know about reality and my failing mountain bike racer extraordinaire dream.
we got to the trailhead, unloaded the bikes, got ourselves ready, and took off. i went at my usual pace, and was immediately left in the dust by all other 'team members'.
they were gone.
off and away. and not for any particular reason other than that was how they rode. fast. fucking crazy breakneck fast. and so i learned: you have to pedal faster to go faster. the curve has gotten a little less steep at times, but i continue to learn and enjoy my bike-based learning.
this past spring, i spent many hours pouring over old race videos of the spring classics. i bought lance's 'big six' dvd and have memorized every segment. i trained to sastre's/andy schleck's alpe d'huez 2008 stage (yeah, i can only stay on a trainer for the half hour they're on that climb). i watched people ride bikes fast until it became an unconscious expectation that scenery should go by that quickly, people should be blurs, and cornering is always tricky. i trained myself, once out on the road, to pedal quickly. high cadence, in a higher gear. 20mph should be average, and faster if downhill or with a tailwind. no dipping below 17 or 18mph in a headwind. climbing should be beyond painful, for as long as possible. this summer was the best shape i've ever been in for riding. i rode almost every day, hard, after a great base-building spring. i watched what i ate. i slept tons. i was relaxed. and i did hill reps all the time (not a lot of fun riding to do for long distances in toronto). i watched races and racers going fast. i rode fast. simple. no spinning easy, unless it was warm-up, warm-down, or inter-interval recovery. give'r.
now i'm at the back side of my peak. it's fall. it's freezing here in toronto. skinny tires will soon give way to skinny knobbies on the cross single speed, and the neck gaiter and goggles will come out. i peaked a long time ago. now i'm just putting in miles. i went for a ride yesterday, full of bronchitis and phlegm, and still managed to enjoy myself on a sunny thanksgiving spin. sometimes it's okay to plateau. sometimes it's okay to sit up, eat an apple that your daughter picked in an organic orchard miles away from the bustle of downtown, and say good morning to roadies (who actually said goodmorning back. every one of them! amazing...). i got it up. i kept it up. now i coast. now i spin easy, try to recover, get dormant for a while, build for next spring. i set myself up for so much success, now i revel in the aftermath. it's a sticky sweet hangover with no headache or vomit. i should start wearing some rapha or something...