On Training

Little-known fact: I was on the high school track team. I did sprints. I was horrible at it.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. I went to practice every day, did the warm-ups dutifully, did all the drills as best as I could. The fact of the matter was that no matter how hard I practiced, I was never going to be the next Wilma Rudolph.

At the time, this was hard for me to take. There were other things I did well, like writing, like music– and that was because (I thought) I had put my mind to it and I worked hard at it. Why couldn’t I apply the same to running? I couldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t have the ability to do well enough to place.

I had that same frustrated feeling this past weekend, during the group ride. This 40-mile ride was described as “intermediate,” the average speed at “a mellow 16-18 miles per hour.” Although, true to their word, I was not dropped, and they regrouped a few times, I was so far behind the peloton that I lost sight of them, even when I started with them. No matter how fast I pedaled, I couldn’t catch up.

One guy offered to let me draft on him for a while, which worked for a time– but then I lost him in the shuffle.

I can’t blame it on the bike. While it’s not carbon, it’s light. I did have a handlebar bag on it (which another member mercilessly teased me about– note to self: don’t bring a bag to a training ride again), but it wasn’t tremendously heavy. I could blame it on not getting enough sleep the night before, or whatever– but it’s not that, either.

“You can’t make a racehorse out of a pig… but you can make a very fast pig,” as the saying goes. “You can train for distance, or you can train for speed, but you can’t do both at the same time,” one of the ride leaders said to me this weekend.

Sean asked me about training in a previous post. I didn’t answer his question directly, because I felt that what I’ve been doing wasn’t training. I’ve just been racking up miles. Not in a very structured way, even.

What is it that I want to accomplish with these group rides? If it’s just to be able to keep up, then it’s just a matter of finding the right group. But if I want to be “better,” whether that means being faster, going longer, whatever, then I really should consider a structured training program.

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3 thoughts on “On Training

  1. “You can train for distance, or you can train for speed, but you can’t do both at the same time,” one of the ride leaders said to me this weekend.

    I don’t know if this is true. In running, every fast person I know gives basically the same advice “run lots, mostly easy, sometimes hard”. I imagine the same idea translates to biking. I think what you need to keep in mind is that you really haven’t been at this sport all that long. You don’t have that many miles in your legs yet. Give it time, get in the miles, and the speed and endurance will come.

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