19.68 miles; 01:07:12; Max: 24.05; Avg. Moving Speed: 17.58
It’s back to intervals. And I realize if you’re not familiar with cycling you have no idea what I’ve been on about. All the fancy terms I use are just Newspeak that cyclists use to feel special. PowerStart and FastPedal mean absolutely nothing in the real world. So, what you should know is that I’ve been sprinting a lot and spinning my legs very fast. Yesterday what I really wanted was to get in just a couple of hours on the bike, but it didn’t happen. Today what I wanted was to work on my endurance. And I did it.
All you need to know about my ride today is that I did three sets of 10-minute muscle-burning efforts with 10-minute sets of easy pedaling between. And now my legs are sore. And I am happy.
Endurance gradually builds when you push your body to its limits, let it recover, and then do it again. And you can recognize your body’s limits because your muscles start to burn. That burn is the production of lactic acid in the muscles, and what it’s doing is destroying the old muscle. That muscle damage winds up making you sore for the next day and a half, but when it rebuilds, your body is ready for a more demanding workout. In cycling, there are a bunch of different workouts that target different muscle groups and they are all designed to build endurance, strength, and aerobic capacity (or breathing and oxygen absorption). Granted, this makes cycling a world more complicated than just riding your bike, but if you think of it like going to the gym, it doesn’t make it any less boring or complicated. So, here’s a story about a Macaque.
In another life when I thought I was hot shit and dreamed of being a pro-racer, we got this rider from Canada halfway through the year who actually was hot shit and was pro-level (but not pro…). Anyway, he used to invite me to his dorm for espresso. He was really excited about finally getting his dad to send him his “dream machine” espresso maker, but I thought the espresso always tasted like skunk farts. In his dorm, I saw that he had an entire dresser devoted to cycling apparel (several $100+ pairs of bib shorts) and travel cases and wheel bags and spare wheels and trainers and nutrition supplements. And then I noticed his bikes. He had a pretty standard aluminum mountain bike with all Shimano Deore parts, which is respectable since a lot of people scoff at the low-end Deore parts but don’t realize that’s the actual entry race group, while XT is for recreational riders, and XTR is pro-level. Even more respectable was the fact that he was a mountain biker, but he just happened to train on the road. His road bike was a $5,000 Specialized S-Works Tarmac Pro his father bought him just for getting on an American college sports team with a scholarship. It got less respectable when he mentioned his father was buying him an equally expensive Specialized mountain bike…but that he’d have to fly back to Canada on a rest weekend to have it properly fitted.
Shortly thereafter he stopped inviting me for espresso. Then, I found out his father was a lawyer. Not like a “Hey, my dad’s a lawyer,” kind of lawyer, but a “Hey, my dad represents a giant multinational corporation and he pays for me to travel to World Championship events in Italy and he pays my development team dues.”
So. This is the part of the story where I tell you he wasn’t hot shit at all and that I was better at sprinting or something like that. I wasn’t. He was seriously hot shit. While we laughed at him for his ridiculously fast cadence, his awkward choices for practicing sprints (the middle of the road, really?) and his out of control bobbly head, he wound up beating the A-level riders pretty much flat out, and on that fairly basic alloy mountain bike with entry-level parts. However, he used this success as a means to distance himself from the “rednecks” that made up the rest of the team. He didn’t ride with us on fast training rides because he wanted “to actually go hard”, or because we barely made him break a sweat when we climbed together.
I don’t remember him negatively because he was a good cyclist and I was jealous, but because he was a dick with deep pockets. Whether a team is a bunch of rednecks or binge drinkers or just not as fast as you, you still share that passion for cycling, right? In spite of all the differences, if you wear the funny shorts and talk about gear ratios, you at least have that, don’t you?
The macaque. After the Canadian isolated himself from the rest of the team, he sort of became the subject of mean but lazy commentary. Before one race, we heard a rider warming up on a trainer, his knobby tires loudly going “Whirrrrr-errrrr-errrrr-errrr” and echoing through the parking lot. Thinking it was the Canadian, one of the A-riders said, “If that’s McCanada, I’m going to punch his throat,” or something like that. Another time, in the dining hall, I was staring at him from across the table, sort of just wondering why he stopped inviting me for espresso, when I realized that with his tall, scrawny frame and wide, thin lips (but especially with the way he tucked his fingers into his lips when he ate his sandwich) he most closely resembled a macaque. I said this much aloud to the rest of the team, none of whom, I think, knew what a macaque looked like, and so the comment died there on the spot. Except in my head. I haven’t heard anything about McCanada since I left that school, but if I ever do, the image at the top is all I’ll think about.