Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Suffering.

Lofty title I know but stay with me. Far from some facile Nietzchean  "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger" notion this is a blog about cycling not philosophy (duh) and besides, the good philosopher died at 46, quite possibly of syphilis. Keep that in mind the next time you quote a pop song. Ahem.

On New Year's Day I left my house for a training ride under grey skies and a temperature of 37 degrees (lack of effort on the part of the weather gods, who apparently took the day off as well). Heading into a chilly, windy metric on a mountain bike no less, my brain told me I was probably missing the point of the holiday. Be that as it may I remembered an article passed on by fellow lunatic Mark Drogalis of Toasted Head Racing - - which is one coach's diatribe on what separates good athletes from the elite: namely one's ability to suffer.

I pedaled my way through Waxhaw and into the nether regions of Lancaster County and recalled a quote from the article: “The true vision of a champion is someone bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one else is watching.” -

Far from an elite athlete I nonetheless kept this quote in mind as my intervals began, which in this case consisted of out-pedaling  doublewide-ejected canines  every mile or so (I don't think it counts if dogs are watching…).  After 60 miles it seemed as if my clothes no longer fit (they did), it was colder than when I left (it wasn't), and my legs felt like two foam rollers sticking out of my leg warmers (they were).

It struck me that I hadn't been willing to do this in previous years. Why was I doing it now? Well, because Training Peaks told me I had to, of course and my coach, Dr. Evil.

Wait, not that one, this one.

Professional Mountain Biker and TotalCyclist Coach Chris Wieczorek

would be waiting to look at lines on a graph and send a text telling me what a great job I'd done (I wouldn't see the text, I'd be crying in the shower). Let's just leave it at that.

Now the holidays are over and it appears the weather gods are back on the job (they do seem to lack focus…).Thankfully (in a way) we still have plenty of opportunities to push the suffer line out further so that next summer we might look back and be reminded that this is the time of year when the season is made.

Without a strong aerobic base and power training done months ahead of time, the best bike and fancy tires won't help you in July in the heat, at altitude, or in your most anticipated race . You'll be like that old Mazda we've all seen with the spoiler on the trunk.

Don't be the old Mazda with the spoiler on the trunk. If you live in the southeast you already know about TotalCyclist and classes designed to enhance your fitness and power on the bike. Did you know they also have expert coaching, fitness classes, Yoga, and everything else you need to get you all strong and bendy for the upcoming season?

They can rebuild you
So head over to and pick a day to suffer. Some truly dedicated athletes even work out at 5:15am (they serve donuts….ok, not really but the staff is awfully chipper for the time of day). There are now four locations so you shouldn't have to go far to make your legs hurt. Don't be afraid to crack…or crack a smile.

Even more fun (and surely more painful), the Winter Short Track series began January 12th, so borrow a mountain (or CX) bike and come fill your lungs with icy air at Renaissance Park Neil Boyd and his minions have categories for racers of any age and ability (c'mon kids!) and there is always great food and hot cider.

I'll be the old Mazda at the back with the spoiler on the trunk….

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