Sometimes you're the joker, sometimes you're the joked.

Sometimes you're the joker, sometimes you're the joked.

Ebb and Flow

by / / 35 posts

As Tyler Farrar rode by in the other direction, we gave each other a subtle wave; not the wave between friends, but between brothers of the road. On another day, I might have turned around and chased him down, like the first time I’d seen him riding locally. Not so much to bother him or to ride with him, but just to say I’d chased down Tyler Farrar. Not everyone can say that, you know.

But the legs had been missing for days. Weeks, even. It had already been a dark several weeks and there was no end in sight. It wasn’t the weather that was dark, but the form. They can be such cruel things, The Legs. The Legs tend to tell us within a revolution whether we’ll have a good day or not, and every ride I’d been on lately, they spoke only of toilets. On the rare occasion that I would join the Hedrick group rides, I was relegated to riding the wheels or wallowing at the back. On one occasion, I was even the rider who rolled up after the climb as the others waited. I wait at the top of the climb, not the other way around.

It is a cycle that feeds into itself; I was training a little less than usual, but not significantly. Certainly not enough to justify the lack of form. But the bad form was not motivating me to work any harder than I was and it made it very easy to find excuses not to ride. Not training harder means the form slips a bit more every week and before very long, you’re the guy the other riders are waiting for.

Then four days away to visit my parents; we worked long days on the farm but it was only the last two days that we carved out time to ride and even then it was just an hour of the three of us enjoying the moment and being grateful for the time together on two wheels. When I came home, work was waiting and so was my personal life which was all too tempting to indulge in, which I did.

Then the itch came. It started with small things, like noticing that my legs didn’t feel as supple when I walked to work in the morning. Or that my bounds up the stairs didn’t feel as fluid as they normally did. And then I started to miss it. Seven days I counted, seven days off the bike. For the first time since November, by my loose guesstimation.

But it wasn’t just my legs that felt different; my whole body was suffering and so was my mind. It was Monday when I realized I actually wanted to ride again. But it was impossible; too many balls in the air. Tuesday: the same. Today, I was determined to get out, but I was apprehensive of how it would feel to be back on the bike knowing how it feels to ride when you’ve missed a block.

I’ve rarely felt so good on a bike as I did today. I don’t know whether it was the enthusiasm of feeling that sensation of flight as you hover a meter or so above the ground or the rest my body had probably been begging me to give it, but I couldn’t keep myself from pushing harder on the pedals. In anticipation of a first ride back, I chose an easy route. But then I found myself pushing the pace and pointing my front wheel up the various little “bonus” climbs that lay dotted along the route of almost any ride in Seattle.

I can’t wait to climb back on my bike tomorrow. Can’t. Wait.

Be patient, listen to the signals your body is sending. Learn to distinguish between “good” not wanting to ride and “bad” not wanting to ride. And cherish that feeling of childish enthusiasm that awaits when you climb once again upon the bicycle and feel the freedom that pushing on the pedals gives us.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Musings from the V-Bunker

  1. you should take a week off more often, or at least until the dull ache of continuous training leaves the guns completely, did you a world of good, once every three months at least, knowing how to rest is vital, I think being active in anything other than cycling is ideal.

  2. Still waiting for “my little scandium friend” to arrive here in Germany. I’ve been off the bike for THREE WEEKS now. I feel like I have gained three kilos and lost about half of my aerobic ability. And then throw in the stress of moving and it is a perfect fucking mental and physical storm. Brother, I got a signal coming from my body right now and the only cure is more bike bell.

  3. Seven days? Luxury…

  4. And cherish that feeling of childish enthusiasm that awaits when you climb once again upon the bicycle and feel the freedom that pushing on the pedals gives us.”

    Fuck yes. I’ve been waiting for the whole 2 years (nearly) that I’ve been a pedalwan for this feeling to subside, but it never does. I do a lot of riding as extensions to my morning commute, so hearing the alarm go off at 6:10= pain.

    Struggling out of bed and into my bibs without waking Mrs Sandy or Little Sandy = pain.

    Slinging a too-heavy rucksack on my back to take my laptop and change of clothes to work = pain.

    Swinging my leg over the top tube and taking those first few pedal strokes away from the house and out on my early morning journey= pure unalloyed joy. I hope it never fades.

  5. this season it took me what seemed like an eternity to even have a modicum of form. so i signed up for my first race, a 40 minute criterium. which i didn’t ride because i bent my rear rim on the roll up to the start line (mis-judged buddy hop, crash into curb). moral was gone. so i put the bike in the workshop and didn’t touch it for 6 days. on day 6 i took apart the headset cleaned and lubed it. removed the seatpost and saddle cleaned and lubed them. reassembled everything, retuned the gears. next morning i was back on the bike and have been feeling extra motivated for weeks now. one full week off in the middle of summer can feel like a waste, but with the renewed sense of motivation and excitement, it was well worth it

  6. I am in the midst of this very feeling right now.

    I didn’t ride yesterday. I normally ride more of less every day – I’m a bike commuter, it’s what I do.

    To be honest I can’t blame the weather – although it was raining & had been for quite a few days – not light drizzle, but greasy apocalyptic hose sessions of mighty downpour that make you wish your #9 bike was a kayak. That sort of weather and the thought of yet another commute into work on my beloved, but let’s face it, crap by comparison rigid MTB just made me want to go catch the train instead. So I did.

    Today? Wonderful sunshine and perfect conditions for giving the good old #1 a shake down. I honestly felt as if I had an extra 200W in my legs. I am sitting here now at my desk literally vibrating with excitement at the anticipation of swinging a leg over #1 again and blasting back home. The long way.

    Great article.

    “…cherish that feeling of childish enthusiasm that awaits when you climb once again upon the bicycle and feel the freedom that pushing on the pedals gives us”

    A-Merckx, brother Frank, a-Merckx

  7. Welcome to my world, mofo.

  8. @Buck Rogers

    Still waiting for “my little scandium friend” to arrive here in Germany. I’ve been off the bike for THREE WEEKS now. I feel like I have gained three kilos and lost about half of my aerobic ability. And then throw in the stress of moving and it is a perfect fucking mental and physical storm. Brother, I got a signal coming from my body right now and the only cure is more bike bell.

    Seriously. Climbing back on after 3 weeks off is going to be hilarious here too.

  9. Even though I do not feel it, I am not the young man I once was (45 now). 20 years ago my body did not tell me to take a few days off the bike, recovery was not much of an issue, nor was nutrition. This season I have a new coach and he is a real prick (in the best way possible). My FTP training began in December and then I suffered an injury (lower back issues from years of wrestling). I was off serious training for three weeks, so when I returned, I had time to make up. It was not so bad and I was able to peak for my first race on April 17th. I then stated a new block of training and the intensity ramped up. Racing here and there. I did not train this much even when I was younger. My fitness and power were improving each week until the first week of July. I remember the exact day the wheels came off – July 3rd. The previous day we raced 202km (126 miles). I felt strong at the end but when I woke the next morning, my legs were jello and I did not even want to look at my bike or move from the sofa. How could this happen? I was beyond overreaching, I was overtrained. When your mental state to ride disappears, that is a bad sign.

    Luckily, I had a two week vacation planned to start on July 6th. By the end of the first week of vacation I was feeling better. When I returned home, I was stoked to ride. The legs were still angry, my power was better than before but my endurance was down. Spoke with my coach and nutritionist. Had a blood test and found low iron. Reworked my nutrition plan and training plan. More rest between training days, two on one off. And much shorter rides (max of 112km). At 45 years old, there is definitely an Ebb and Flow to training. I got sucked into a riptide this season.

  10. With a three month old, time for long rides isn’t there right now. Thankfully, I still commute to work daily. 1.5 hours a day, five days a week isn’t ideal, but it’s something. And, I know I’m lucky being able to ride to work.

    Sparty – I hear ya. I’ve played sports my entire life and have had plenty of aches, pains, and injuries. But I was mostly able to just play through them. Lately I can tell my body, and the injuries, are starting to require more attention.

  11. Last April I started to get a pain on the outside of my right knee. At first I’d feel it after 40 odd miles or so but then as the weeks went by then the number of miles came down. Eventually only after a few miles my knee was in agony. I had to stop.

    The diagnosis was IT Band Syndrome. 90% of people recover within 3 months. Of the remainder 90% recover within 6 months. I had the misfortune to be in that 1% that requires up to 1 year to recover.

    A whole year off the bike.

    It was probably the most depressing, despondent period of time I can remember. It made me realise that cycling wasn’t just about fitness, competition, locomotion, the outdoors, bullshitting with buddies in a fast moving bunch; it was more than the some of it’s parts. I missed cycling like I missed a dead friend.

    You don’t know what you have until it’s gone…

  12. It has taken years of trial and error to reach the point of recognizing when to and not to ride. Like a Jedi skill.

  13. Yes over the years I have learned the value of rest even by accident at times. I can ride 3 to 4 days a week for a 3 month block then my body says hey i am done. Then 5 to 7 days off and do another 3 month block. But yes I know what you mean when I say come on legs whats going on and no matter how much I yell “shut up legs” they yell back, your done. So enjoy the time off know that your legs will return with a vengeance after a break.

  14. @frank

    Days, weeks off bike. Can relate. Only with me the black dog comes scratching at the back door, and that’s motivation enough to get back on.

  15. @Teocalli

    ‘You don’t know what you got til it’s gone’……so true.

    Wonder if Joni is a velogirl.

  16. @Neil

    Yikes. Have you found the cause of the IT band issue? Bike fit? Too much training too soon? Hope it is on the mend and you are back on the bike soon.

  17. @Sparty

    @Neil

    Yikes. Have you found the cause of the IT band issue? Bike fit? Too much training too soon? Hope it is on the mend and you are back on the bike soon.

    I’ve had that sort of knee pain a couple of times over the past couple of years – both times it’s been caused by my saddle height changing by accident.

  18. @Sparty

    It was a mixture of things; saddle 3 cm too low andmore miles in the previous 12 months than I had ever done but most of all years of sitting on my ass too much.

    I’m a desk jockey, spend 8 hours a day sitting at work. I take public transport to commute where I sit for an hour each day. I get home and spend most of my time sitting. I go out to meet family/friends (driving to meet them, pretty much sitting down the whole time) either in a bar, restaurant, cafe etc where (wait for it) I sit on my ass.

    And my choice of sport? To make up for a modern, sedantry lifestyle? Cycling! Where I sit on my ass!

    Recovery has been slow but included lots of glute activation and stretching. Show your ass some kindness and it will repay that kindness ten fold.

  19. @RobSandy

    @Sparty

    saddle height changing by accident.

    Sounds like your doc should be prescribing you a big dose of Rule #65. I like to self-medicate here, but you can always pick some up at your LBS for reasonable prices.

  20. @Neil

    It is amazing how quickly you can stop your glutes from firing by sitting too much. It only takes about a week before they begin to shut-off. After my vacation (two weeks) I found that my first few rides were quadricep heavy rides, meaning that my glutes were not very much in play. Two sessions in the gym squatting that week and they began to fire again. If they are not firing, your IT band is being over taxed. Hence your issues.

  21. One more thing @Neil. Check your cleat position. Too far forward is a recipe for disaster with the knee and IT band. Sometimes having the center of the cleat a bit behind the ball of the foot is much better than right on the ball of the foot. This may require you to slide your saddle a bit more forward on the post, but I found more power there and a better stroke action. But we are all different so…

  22. @Sparty

    At 45 years old, there is definitely an Ebb and Flow to training. I got sucked into a riptide this season.

    Wait ’till you’re turning 50 and the ebbs and flows feel more like wanting to take the year off ! Cheers

  23. @Randy C

    @Sparty

    At 45 years old, there is definitely an Ebb and Flow to training. I got sucked into a riptide this season.

    Wait ’till you’re turning 50 and the ebbs and flows feel more like wanting to take the year off ! Cheers

    Add another decade! Then it becomes – keep going while you can.

  24. I’m 65 and am still able to ride my age in miles each birthday (sorry for the rule violation but 104k doesn’t translate well). The first 30 minutes of each ride are slow but I’m thankful for every ride.

  25. Been away for a while. What’s the consensus on all this “Adventure Bike” nonsense.

    I only ask as potential for a Ridley X Trail coming my way at a price I can’t really refuse. Though wouldn’t want to burn bridges here.

  26. @VeloJello

    Been away for a while. What’s the consensus on all this “Adventure Bike” nonsense.

    I only ask as potential for a Ridley X Trail coming my way at a price I can’t really refuse. Though wouldn’t want to burn bridges here.

    Right bike for the right place? I don’t see any bridges to burn unless you turn up for a local track session or crit on it.

  27. @Teocalli

    Ah, that’s a relief… The pure breed race bike will be reserved for such occasions. The Niner will also be kept for wet winter roads. Living in Northumberland (aka Winterfell) means an “All Road” bike is a sensible option for when a bridleway or gravel track (lots of old mining waggonways up here) gives you the glad eye.

  28. @RobSandy

    @Sparty

    @Neil

    Yikes. Have you found the cause of the IT band issue? Bike fit? Too much training too soon? Hope it is on the mend and you are back on the bike soon.

    I’ve had that sort of knee pain a couple of times over the past couple of years – both times it’s been caused by my saddle height changing by accident.

    Whilst they could easily double as a medieval torture tactic, a regular foam roller session on the ITB & glutes will do wonders for the lower back to knees region.

  29. Thank you for a timely article @Frank. Since the Alps week in June which should have been a kick start to proper training I too have added to my book of excuses for not riding as much as I should. My dog is very well walked though, his big expectant eyes and droopy ears draw stronger than the bike right now.

    Your words have motivated me as did a CX blast with 2 club mates on Wednesday when they practiced mounts and dismounts as they waited for me to bible along the trails feeling like I was in the red.

    Proper riding and training commences today. The bad not wanting to ride is banished and if I have to I’ll do it early in the morning before the daily shit really starts.

  30. I’ve been there before, not wanting to even look at a bike. Coming home after riding a 1200km Grand Randonee and not unpacking my bike for a couple of weeks.

    Another time, following a strange wheel in the midst of a group of regulars but going down hard. Surgery for me and the bike. Over a year before I was comfortable again riding with people I don’t know.

    But wheels want to roll, and the familiar sensations come back.

    They say that time heals all things,
    they say you can always forget;
    but the smiles and the tears across the years
    they twist my heartstrings yet.

    — George Orwell, 1984

  31. @Sparty @Neil

    One more thing @Neil. Check your cleat position. Too far forward is a recipe for disaster with the knee and IT band.

    Interesting stuff. I’ve been suffering from IT band pain for the last 5 weeks. At first it was from running (I was running away from lightning on a mountain top… does that still count as rule breaking?) It started up after a week on the couch with a violent stomach bug, so my glutes essentially went MIA and then the first day I felt okay I went for a 10 hour trail run. The interesting thing that I’ve been reading up on is that a big part of what your glutes do is keep your pelvis stable. I’ve been paying more attention to what happens when I’m out of the saddle and my pelvis does rock side to side. I’m trying to see if keeping more stable will help. It’s taking a lot of concentration right now, but hopefully it gets easier.

    I also notice that I’m hunched over a bit even when out of the saddle. I tried straightening my back and tilting my pelvis forward a bit and it seems to work my glutes more. I’m not sure if any of this is going to help, but it seems to be so far… only time will tell.

  32. As a total noob to this site (first day today) and a general noob in the world of cycling (31, fat, hairy, out of shape) I find myself drawing similarities with this article. I have been riding for two years, and everyday it felt as though I was slower, form was worse and a general hatred to even get on the Steed. Then, within seconds of finishing, I long to be on her, once again. I never feel like I improve but in the last 3 months something has changed. I have become addicted. I fall asleep reading Rouleur. I wake at 4.30am just to hate seeing her. I read these articles, The Rules. I am obsessed. I cant focus on anything but being on my bike. I don’t care how slow I am or how fit I am, all I know is that in the last 2 years of pain and suffering it is starting to all make sense to me. I dont notice the change in fitness until I am chasing my kid or running up stairs. I dont notice the joy in my life until I imagine the feeling of fresh air, watching the sun rise while trying my hardest to maintain 30kmh. I have spent all morning reading as much as I can on this site and I now get it, the feeling I have we all have. A small hat tip, a nudge of the fingers when giving it everything, its not about me, or biking or you, its about all of this. I guess what I am trying to say is thank you. Thank you for providing a place where I feel like I belong. Where others inspire and drive to inspire through action and word. Where I can feel completely incapable at something and know that, at some point, everyone here on this site has or currently does feel the same way. Thank you.

  33. @David Moore

    What he said.

    Welcome, David.

  34. @David Moore

    What @RobSandy said.

    Plus to add to that you’ve found this site. You are now completely buggered.

    Welcome.

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