Monday, January 29, 2007

The Solo Long Ride--Should You or Shouldn't You?

If you're training for an Ironman, or just in a competition with your buddies to see who can get the worst saddle sore of all time, chances are you've been faced with that monster workout of the week: The Long Ride. After you decide what you're going to eat and drink, another decision must be made: to go it alone or not? That is, assuming you've found a group of equally insane people who would rather do nothing else than get up early and ride over 100 miles on their Saturday or Sunday.

There are advantages and disadvantages to riding solo and riding in your psycho group. Here's a look at the pros and cons so you can ultimately decide which way you'd rather beat yourself up i.e. become a faster stronger racing machine who is rather whiney and walks funny upon arrival at home base.

Riding With Your Psycho GroupPackoCyclists

pros :

  • they can show you where to go. They might bring you on psycho routes you'd never have thought of or knew existed

  • there are people around to talk to and who might sacrifice a gel or two lest you feel like you're reaching bonkage territory...or have a spare tube should you be that guy and flat twice

  • you can draft

  • having to meet people at a certain time all ready and rarin' to go will make you get your bum up on your weekend and go do it. No snooze button hitting! You can't hold up the group!

cons :

  • you can draft (Hey, you're training for an Ironman, right!? No drafting, you big wuss!)

  • they might go too fast and you're feeling poopy and try to keep up, only to break down your already struggling body and see only set backs and injury instead of strength gain as a result (woah! Or you could, you know, let them drop you if they're going too fast...)

  • they might go too slow and then you're stuck pulling a bunch of lazy legs for hours on end, leaving you in a bad mood and unable to help anyone out for a week in retaliation (Or you could, you know, drop them...)

  • they might meet at a time that's inconvenient for you. Like right when your spouse is feeling frisky...

Biking SoloSoloTriBiker

pros :

  • no drafting! Hey, this is all about getting stronger, right?

  • you get to practice the mental side of your Ironman. 7+ hours on a bike alone with yourself. If you haven't made an attempt on your own life by the end, you'll be in good standing come race day.

  • You can go at whatever the heck pace you want...and convince yourself you're flying up a climb when your computer only reads 5mph.

  • You can go whenever you want. Stop whenever you want. And make pit stops on the side of the road without having to bury yourself in a bush so all the other non-existent riding buddies can't see your pale bum.

cons :

  • it can be uber creepy. For instance, should you chose a route with a climb that seems to go to nowhere, where you've never been before, and it's drizzling, and you see a peacock farm and a buffalo in someone's front yard. Who are these freaky people who live in the middle of nowhere and keep peacocks and buffalo as pets? You don't want to know. Hopefully, they've never heard of carbon fiber and won't sick their peacocks on you and steal your bike.

  • nobody really knows where you are, should you have peacocks sicked on you and/or fall into a canyon or get run over by a psycho driver. Or have a boulder fall on your head from the canyon above, etc... Yes, you've been good and told people where you're going, but the roadside assistance won't be coming until 10 hours later when people start to get concerned and realize you're not that slow.

  • you and your thoughts. You may be your best friend, but hanging out 24/7 with someone is never good for the relationship. By the end, you may want to disown yourself. That can be hard to do.

  • you may not push yourself as hard as you can go, and perpetually ride the same distance at the same pace without any real improvement. Sure, you rode 100+ miles, but is the effort reflecting in your times?

So there you have it. Buddies are great. Riding alone is great. To train for Ironman, you should probably do a bit of both. Like 50/50 to start. 40% buddy/60% alone closer to the race, etc... until you're flying solo (for real, not just convincing yourself you are) with ease before the race. And alert your loved ones to your route & possible things that could happen to you along it so they know what to look for should they have to come looking. Like a peacock with a human-shaped bulge in its belly.

Happy long riding! Cartoon

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