On Rule #9: The Badass Within

The rain is coming down in sheets, blowing sideways out from the coast. I hear its intensity more than I feel it; the drops reverberate through my helmet as they lash down. The temperature is just cold enough to add a sting to the rain, like a thousand needles upon the 15cm of exposed flesh between the tops of my overshoes and the bottoms of my knee warmers.

My body is struggling to make sense of the opposing sensations it is receiving. My arms and legs are chilled through, yet my torso is like a furnace. My face is stiff from the cold wind, but the saltiness of the water running over my lips tells me I’m sweating profusely. I am suffering, yet am hit by wave after wave of euphoria. Cycling is contradiction.

I rise out of the saddle to start the climb up away from the coast. It is sur la plaque business at first, and breathing deeply is crucial at the start of the climb. The wind seems to make it harder to draw my breath, as if there is some sort of bernoulli effect causing the wind suck the air back out of my mouth before it makes its way into my lungs. As I approach the first hairpin, I sit back down and ease onto the brakes while I drop the chain into the little ring.

There is little in this sport that makes one feel more Pro than to have to slow down for an uphill corner.

I’m through the switchback and onto the steep middle section of the climb, the wind at my back. It doesn’t seem to push me along, but it does make it easier to breathe, not to mention the pleasant warming feeling on my cheeks. Up through the next switchback, a badly paved brute with an extra bit of gradient thrown in for good measure. Why is it so hard to maintain a rhythm on irregular pavement, when climbing on cobbles doesn’t seem to bother me? These are the questions that serve to distract from the work at hand. I push the notion aside.

The legs are burning now, but they feel powerful – the first time in a while that I’ve felt these two sensations simultaneously. The effort and the cold air begin to do their work and the asthma starts to kick in. My mind casts to my left jersey pocket where I keep my inhaler only to realize that it isn’t in there. Such a foolish thing to leave at home at this time of year, but I’ll just have to suffer through a further lack of breath; no way will I allow myself to cut a ride short on account of my own stupidity. Besides, it will only serve to heighten the effect of the training.

Eventually, the asthma gets tired of the weather and goes away. Normal breathing returns.

I descend as though the road were covered in ice, as if I had become the love child of Brad Wiggins and Andy Schleck. The only thing more foolish than forgetting my inhaler is to come off needlessly during a routine training ride, so I continue to descend carefully.

The next climb has small rivers of rainwater flowing down the tarmac. They’re fun to ride through because the motion of the water adds to the sensation of speed and the unfamiliar feeling of climbing well. The feeling is enhanced by the stone walls on both sides of the road that amplify the hum of my wheels. My head drops every so often to watch my legs go about their business. They seem to be operated by someone else, someone who knows the inside of my head, but who is not me. My role has become one of an influencer without control. My head rises again and I settle back into the metronomic drip of water from the brim of my cap.

When I return home, my hands and arms are cold, and I am soaked to the bone; water streams from every bit of clothing, possibly from my pores as well. My body has all the trappings of a good training ride; I can feel the depth of my lungs with every breath. My legs feel heavy but springy, and I am thirsty for a recovery ale. Sean Kelly once observed that it is impossible to tell how cold and wet it is by looking out the kitchen window. You have to get dressed, go training, and when you get back, you will know how cold it is. Truer words were never spoken.

Why do I love training in bad weather? Because training in bad weather means you’re a badass. Period.

Related Posts

59 Replies to “On Rule #9: The Badass Within”

  1. @rfreese888

    V & IX

    VVinter training in IX conditions is definitely part of my conditioning for 2015. Nairo has mastered the art when it counts – in the Giro last year and Tirreno last week.

    Um, it’s pronounced “IVV”; we are a V-based community, if you recall.

  2. @Owen

    @Mikael Liddy

    I love the weird looks that come from colleagues when you’ve ridden to work on a cold and wet winter’s day.

    Only downside to it is that once rain starts falling, the local motorists lose any semblance of what little driving skill they previously possessed in the dry.

    That’s what gets to me. I’m confident in myself because I know I’m being cautious in the rain or snow but I can’t say the same for drivers of the two ton death machines behind me.

    Who are likely texting or at least looking for some mad beats on their iPhone.

  3. @frank

    @Owen

    @Mikael Liddy

    I love the weird looks that come from colleagues when you’ve ridden to work on a cold and wet winter’s day.

    Only downside to it is that once rain starts falling, the local motorists lose any semblance of what little driving skill they previously possessed in the dry.

    That’s what gets to me. I’m confident in myself because I know I’m being cautious in the rain or snow but I can’t say the same for drivers of the two ton death machines behind me.

    Who are likely texting or at least looking for some mad beats on their iPhone.

    Is it really too much to ask that drivers actually look at the road when they’re driving? Also, how about using turn signals? And putting on your headlights in pounding rain?

    I’ve almost been hit a few times lately by mothers dropping their kids off at school and rushing out of parallel parking spots and not signaling. If you sneeze around their kids they’ll get angry, but running over cyclists…nah, no biggie.

  4. @Ron

    @frank

    @Owen

    @Mikael Liddy

    I love the weird looks that come from colleagues when you’ve ridden to work on a cold and wet winter’s day.

    Only downside to it is that once rain starts falling, the local motorists lose any semblance of what little driving skill they previously possessed in the dry.

    That’s what gets to me. I’m confident in myself because I know I’m being cautious in the rain or snow but I can’t say the same for drivers of the two ton death machines behind me.

    Who are likely texting or at least looking for some mad beats on their iPhone.

    Is it really too much to ask that drivers actually look at the road when they’re driving? Also, how about using turn signals? And putting on your headlights in pounding rain?

    I’ve almost been hit a few times lately by mothers dropping their kids off at school and rushing out of parallel parking spots and not signaling. If you sneeze around their kids they’ll get angry, but running over cyclists…nah, no biggie.

    I used to live down the street from a elementary slash middle school. Never again. You’d think a 30 mph residential street was the interstate. Roar up, roar down. If I did that in their neighborhoods, they’do call the police. Kill someone else’s kids, fine.

    Best was when I was riding up the bike lane after work past the parking lot on the ingress side of the street. Douche in a truck was half up on the curb backing down the bike lane. At least he saw me frantically waving to avoid getting run over and stopped.

  5. @frank

    @Owen

    @Mikael Liddy

    I love the weird looks that come from colleagues when you’ve ridden to work on a cold and wet winter’s day.

    Only downside to it is that once rain starts falling, the local motorists lose any semblance of what little driving skill they previously possessed in the dry.

    That’s what gets to me. I’m confident in myself because I know I’m being cautious in the rain or snow but I can’t say the same for drivers of the two ton death machines behind me.

    Who are likely texting or at least looking for some mad beats on their iPhone.

    Unfortunately it seems I was a little too prescient. Got taken out on the standard Rule #11 child collection ride last night, that involved a little Rule #9 side dish.

    Riding along a straight suburban road with a colourful jersey & bright flashing light on the front, genius travelling in the opposite direction decides he has right of way to turn across my path in to a side street. Thankfully some quick reflexes allowed me to scrub enough speed that I only ended up bouncing up on to his bonnet without any apparent damage to myself…not sure Sir Bike was as lucky though.

  6. @Mikael Liddy

    @Oli

    upside is the insurance claim could end up turning a 2012 R3 Team in to an R5…

    That shit scares the hell out of me. Glad you’re OK; and this whole “insurance” thing you guys have in Oz blows my mind.

  7. @frank well if I’d been injured, all of my medical costs would have been covered under the compulsory 3rd party insurance that is rolled in with his car rego.

    In terms of the bike, it’s covered for accidental damage or loss nationwide as part of my contents insurance, and if they deem that the damage was his fault, they chase him up for the costs (generally via his motor vehicle insurance). The only time my bike (and helmet, shoes, kit, etc) isn’t covered is if I’m racing or motorpacing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar