Friday, April 20, 2012
I love sprinting on my bike. It's such a rush. The speed, the adrenaline, the comments from neighbors as I wizz by their houses, the somewhat objective measure that helps me gauge how good a shape I'm in. I just love it.
But it does strike a measure of fear in me and for today the question is this: why? Two answers.
First, when I was a kid, I loved riding my bike--BMX--and had several pretty bad wrecks. One time I was flying down this series of 10-12 foot drops offs, there were probably 4 or 5 of them in a row interrupted by 100 yards or so of level ground (dirt). One of the drop offs took me by surprise and I ended up unintentionally doing the "superman" which didn't end well when I hit the next drop off! In this awkward position, I couldn't reach my brakes and thus hit the next drop off at full speed with no control and--ouch! I ripped the skin entirely off my upper right forearm. Oh I can still feel the months of "itchy scab" to this day.
On another occasion, I was jumping my bike over some concrete medians in our neighborhood. The curbs sloped upward in a diagonal fashion making for a perfect launching pad, and to make it even more enticing there were two of them in a row. So you'd jump the first one, land and pedal hard so that you could clear the second one, and jump again. One day, things didn't go according to the plan. After the first jump, I pedaled hard, the chain broke, and I flipped over the handle bars at full speed. I hit the back of my head on the second curb which knocked me out. When I came to, I got up and started pedaling home--boy did I feel woozy!
Someone stopped to help me, they seemed almost panicked. I didn't understand. It turned out that I was bleeding pretty badly, in fact, the entire back of my shirt was covered with blood. They got me home, my dad giggled and so did I, my mom nearly passed out--literally! Went to the hospital, got some stitches, I was just fine.
I could tell other stories but I'll stop there. The point is that I have memories from my childhood--10-16 years old--of some pretty bad crashes and to this day it makes me gun shy when I stand to crank the pedals as hard as I can at full speed. I can still feel the feeling of flipping over my handle bars, and now that I'm 45 rather than 12, I'm thinking it wouldn't turn out quite as well for me! So the first source of my fear is past experience.
Second, I'm a logical person and I can see the variety of circumstances which would land me on the pavement as I enter into a full out sprint. It's probably only a 5% possibility but I have so much responsibility in my life--I live to serve others to the glory of God--that I sometimes wonder as I begin to sprint, "Is this smart? Is the price of a crash really worth paying at this time of my life?" But the adrenaline junkie in me says, "Deal with it!"
I've been thinking a lot about this over the last few days, and I think these two things summarize well the sources of my fear. So what to do? Three thoughts:
First, care well for the bike so that I can trust the equipment I'm using. Of course, a chain can break on a fluke but that's exceedingly rare. More often than not, they break because of neglect. So if I care well for my equipment, and replace it when I should, then I can relax and put that out of my mind.
Second, I need to keep completing the form sprints workout every week so that I get more and more comfortable with body positioning and technique. Practice makes perfect. Repeated efforts produce muscle memory and instinct so that we think less and act more naturally, and aggressively.
Third, I need to spend more time visualizing, dealing with my fear, imagining wrecks--the worst case scenario--and imaging success--the best case scenarios. That is, I need to deal with the psychology of this off the bike more than on, I think. I've spent lots of time visualizing in the past, and found it very fruitful, but that's had more to do with producing speed or whatever, not dealing with fears. So I'm going to try visualization as a means of dealing with this fear and we'll see what happens.
Right now, I'm focused on completing a half marathon in three weeks (May 12 in Maple Grove, Minnesota), after which I'll focus more intensely on cycling. I hope to hit 30 mph in a sprint by the end of May and then reach my goal of 32-35 mph sprint by the end of June. Thanks for reading this long psycho-blog! I'd love to hear any feedback.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Yesterday I blogged about my early season sprinting level and season goals. Today I want to say a word about why sprinting at 30+ mph scares me more than descending at 50 mph.
First of all, I have hit and exceeded 50 mph on my bicycle many times, mostly when I lived in California and 3-4 times since I've lived in Minnesota. Most of the hills here just aren't long or steep enough to produce those kinds of speeds, but every once in while I come across one that is and go for it! There are, however, many descents near to my home where I can hit 35-40 mph and I do so on a regular basis.
When I hit these speeds on a descent, I rarely feel any fear at all. Why? (1) Road bikes are built for speed and seem to ride smoother as the speed increases. My bike never shakes or feels unstable, rather, it feels very comfortable and controllable. (2) Once I get into my tuck and settle in for the descent, there's little to no body movement involved and thus, again, the ride is very stable and controlled, even if fast.
Sprinting, however, is an entirely different thing. While the bike itself is indeed designed for such speeds and efforts, there is much body and bike movement involved in sprinting at max effort, whatever the start speed. If I'm traveling at 20-25 mph and feel like getting out of the saddle and pedaling at a mellow and controlled cadence, I feel very relaxed and fear-free. But when I'm traveling at 20-25 mph and decide, for whatever reason, to get out of the saddle and crank the pedals as hard and fast as I can, I must confess that I deal with a certain amount of fear, probably because I'm a rational person and realize the danger inherent in this activity!
So, last year, I got in good enough shape that I was able to hit 30 mph sprinting on flat ground with no wind at my back. I know that I can eclipse that speed this year, but I have to put the possibilities of crashing out of my mind in order to do that. It's a real mental block for me.
Tomorrow I'll write about why I think this is so but for now I want to invite you into my fear! Complete a couple of workouts wherein you sprint 5-10 times at a 75-80% effort level. This will help you work on the form that's necessary to sprint safely and productively at max effort. As you develop the feel for how to sprint, ride for 30 or more minutes so that you're nice and warm. find a stretch of road that's flat and unobstructed. Increase your cruising speed so that you're nearing the top of your ability and then, when the time is right, put your hands in the drops, get out of the saddle, and hammer as hard as you can. At that moment you'll think to yourself, "Now I understand what MNCyclist is talking about!"
If you take me up on this, first of all please be careful, and second of all let me know how it goes. I'd love to interact with some of you about sprinting technique, accomplishments, and strategies for overcoming fear.
Here's a pic of Mark Cavendish in a beautiful sprinter's position, going a little faster than 30 mph--that's less than his starting speed!
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Yesterday, after taking a 3.6 mile recovery walk, I rode my bike for about 12 miles and completed the same workout I did at this time last week: form sprints. The idea of this workout is to develop and improve sprinting form rather than to go full tilt, that comes later. But at the end of the ride, after seven sprinting efforts, I just couldn't help myself.
The ground was almost completely flat, the road was wide open, and I was feeling good--so I put my hands in the drops, shifted to a harder gear, rose out of the saddle, and sprinted as hard as I could sprint for about 15 seconds. I hit 26.9 mph, which I will eclipse within a few weeks, but which for now is a decent speed for me.
The most important thing I have to work on if I'm to hit 32-35 mph in a sprint this year--which is a stated goal of mine--is to deal with my fear. This will come with time and practice, but the bottom line is that it takes guts to rise out of the saddle and give 100% when you're already traveling at a decent speed. Thoughts go through my head like, "What if my chain breaks or slips? What if I put too much torque on the cogs and they give way? What if my 10 year old frame decides it's had enough and cracks? What if? What if? What if?"
It's easy to deal with these thoughts when I'm sitting around thinking about it, but try sprinting as fast as you can when you're already traveling 18-20 mph or faster and you'll see what I mean. It takes guts. And unlike the pros, I don't have a support vehicle and ambulances around to scrape me off the ground if I do go down!
So anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! I plan to just stick with the plan, keep working on my sprinting form, and slowly add intensity over the coming weeks. As I combine this with weight loss and increasing fitness levels, I'll reach my goal--of this I'm sure! I'm determined! I hit 30 last year, so 32-35 ain't nothing! It's mine!
Hope you all have a great evening, and thanks for reading.
(Here's a pic of me and the old beast from a couple years ago)
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Over the winter I got a bit undisciplined and put on about 13 lbs--ouch! But that's behind me, I turned the boat around some weeks ago and as of today I've dropped 8 of them. It was sure nice to see the scale back in the neighborhood I lived in last year, and given some changes I've made to my diet and exercise regimen I feel hopeful that I can lose even more this year. I'm at 210 now, I lived at 205 most of last year, and I hope to get down to around 200 and stay there.
We'll see how things progress, but again it sure feels good to be shedding those winter pounds!
Have a great day!
Monday, April 16, 2012
Okay, okay, that's the best I could come up with--further proof that I should not be a comedian!
Point is, I jogged with walking intervals for 10 miles on Saturday and expected to be sore, and I do feel it a little bit but not much. I feel very good about this, and am now setting my sights on this week's training plan. Here it is:
Tuesday: 3.6 mile jog/walk--plan to work on technique--10+ mile bike ride
Wednesday: cycling--recovery ride
Thursday: 3.1 mile jog/walk--plan to work on speed--10+ mile bike ride
Friday: cycling--recovery ride
Sunday: 11.2 mile jog/walk--still thinking about how to structure my intervals this week
Hope you all have a great week!
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