Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mindless and loving it.

I was still feeling a bit stiff (ok, a LOT stiff and quite sore) from yesteday's ride when I checked the weather forecast this morning.  Hmmm....rain, but probably not starting 'til after lunch.  I had some coffee, started a few chores, then texted the CLM looking for folks willing to forego a little Sunday morning relaxation in exchange for City Loop recovery ride.  Brad got back to me, so we agreed to head out around 10:30.

The remarkable thing about today's ride was the very low mental cost.  Some rides, especially the difficult ones and almost all races, require quite a bit of mental energy.  Perhaps better words might be 'mental stamina' and 'focus.'  When you are searching your body for the last micrograms of energy just to get over a hill, mental fatigue can sneak in.  "I don't want to do this anymore..." Even if the body could go for a few more miles, the mind is done.

A few years ago, I signed up (and sort-of trained) for the 3 Mountain Madness -basically a supported Triple Hump ride but with some miles cut out as is starts closer to the hills themselves.  I rode it with a friend, a Type I diabetic, who was really in fantastic shape.  The best part about riding with him was his need to stop on occasion to check his sugar and eat properly.  This gave me the opportunity to stop and rest often, which I needed.

The last climb on that route is Pilot Mtn.  Standing 1500 ft above the surrounding countryside, it is a monadock - a solid remnant of a once mighty mountain range. 
The route to the top is just under 3 miles, twisty, and with plenty of switchbacks and kickers.  It would be a GREAT place for an uphill time trial...or even the mountain top finish of a road stage. Rich and I hit the bottom together, but I started cramping immediately.  I had about 65 miles in my legs and nearly 7000ft of climbing in already.  But, here comes the mental part:  Jill and her family drove up from W-S that morning to watch the final climb.  I knew they were on the mountain somewhere, but not exactly where.  With cars and cyclists all over the place, it was madness.

If it had been a different day, without Jill's family, without the expectation of that climb and finishing that ride, I'm not sure I would've made it.  I was delirious and with every rotation of my legs, I jerked and wiggled due to the muscle spasms.  I was truly afraid that my legs woud seize, leaving me stationary and flailing, just before falling straight over.

Well, that didn't happen.  I made it up, and even back to the finish.  But just like yesterday (which was easily harder than 3MM as we completed it in half the time I took in 2007 and really only stopped once), the mind is a major part of the equation when things get hard.  Call it discipline, call it character, call it whatever you want, but there is some flexible zone of achievement can span the distance between the body's limits and the mind's goal.  Not always is this bridge long enough, or sturdy enough, but it exists and can be called upon when it really matters.  It's a life lesson as well, one that I am learning.  I have to thank cycling for some of that.

So why the 'mindless' reference in the title today?  Brad and I just spun, yapped, and talked about life.  No stress, no cramping, no threshold, no heart rate monitor in sight.  The weather was overcast, and the air thick with humidity despite the low temperatures.   The ride is now over and I feel refreshed, not exhausted. 

Good thing, because Coach is coming back from Charleston today and I need to get this place cleaned up!


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