Desperately Seeking Middle Ground

I was in Portland this last weekend for the first time in (what feels like) a while. Since December I think. On the drive down I realized that I hadn’t ridden in town alone since I moved away over a year ago, and I made plans to out for a solo outing. Friday wasn’t going to be that day and I knew that going down, as I made plans to ride with my friend Justin after he closed up his shop and before that I spent an hour chasing another friend through the roads leading into the West Hills. I felt tired and slow, my heart rate reached close to its “max”. Climbing up to the Zoo, through the steepest part, when Tym extrapolated my comment about using the bottom gears on a compact to the way I’ve been riding lately, which in his estimation meant I wasn’t pushing myself enough and that if I went to some of the harder group rides I would become fast again, I took it as a provocation and attacked on through the next easy bend in the road, after the grade had slackened. I am five foot eight, somewhere between 155 and 160 and a former Cat 3. Tym is a bit taller 125 when he’s on form and Cat 2. Which is the long way of saying it was a dumb attack.

Saturday I went out with a pair of the deep section carbon rims Justin’s shop is selling. They feel fast, and are light and the sew ups give them a beautiful feel. I wanted to feel that fast. See, I’ve been thinking about racing enough lately that I wrote out a training plan and picked a few races to do. Which matters to no one but myself, but that’s enough for me to take my fast wheels start up NW Cornell to test my fitness.

If Friday provided an inkling that I’m no longer the rider I was my last full year in Portland, then Saturday was the rubber stamp on the out of shape paper work. I climbed Cornell to Skyline to Thomson four minutes slower at an average heart rate six beats higher, than when I last considered myself fast. Which made me feel disappointed. By letting myself go, I feel I’ve let myself down.

I do this a lot; go all in one aspect while ignoring the others, only to realized my ignorance, then make the jump to the other extreme. The archives of this blog are evidence of that. Now I’m hoping to find that all too elusive middle ground, where one “trains” but doesn’t miss out on a good opportunity to mess about with friends. One should never skip out on a ride with friends so they can do some intervals instead. Unless of course you’re getting paid, or actually have a chance of winning something. Neither of the scenarios will play out in my situation.

A few weeks ago I noted that I was wondering what it would be like to race without wanting to hurt yourself. Here’s the thought in its entirety. Written before I wrote up some damned training schedule:

I’ve been looking at pics from cross and thinking about how much racing was when I wasn’t trying to atone for some sin that punishing myself in a race could never clean. I wrote that idea in my notebook yesterday while I ate my lunch and sipped a well grade Gin and Tonic before heading back to work.

From there I thought about how much racing motivated me, even though I know I’ll never win a race. There has to be some middle ground, where I race, but not to the point where I miss out on some long, awsome ride because “I”m racing this week”. Tim Johnson nailed it last year in Velonews.

I’m not saying that middle ground doesn’t exist – it does. The wonder is whether I can find it or not.

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