Wednesday, 7 November 2012

strava - getting quicker

twelve o'clock you say. surely time you were off out on your bike rather than typing up some blog post about cycling? maybe so but i'm burst after yesterday and there's always that thing that, particularly the more 'mature' rider, you need to kick back and listen to what your body's telling you.

not that it hasn't been a good set of days off (aside form almost continuous punctures but that's a whole other story). yesterday was my road/mtb combo day so i went out in the morning to get some miles in and generally have a slow rollout. as soon as i was out tho i noticed the favourable wind - when i say favourable i mean that the segments that have been resistant to time improvement due to a general battering from the wind, might just be a bit more do-able.

first off, some personal strava rules. wind assisted times are not kosher. drafting behind a car is equally not kosher (tractors are more acceptable as they're too slow and here your payment for this favour tends to be a faceful of some form of agricultural effluent). riding in a group while i suppose is okayish really isn't the same. and sniping? you're only cheating yourself. sneaking off on a wind assisted day to that one segment and only that segment? never whine about lance again!

anyway, i'm burling around and i come to a wee hill that i've found problematic in the past so i decide to give it a bit of pace (a slight aside here - andy murray's recent pronouncements on cycling lacking skill? if it wasn't already obvious and, as he come to realise - he's talking bollocks). the conclusion i'm drawing with the hills is that my approach to them is fundamentally wrong. I come in too fast, stay in too high a gear for too long, have bad cadence, go too much into the red zone and arrive at the top too burst to put in any decent speed.

i listen to these inner voices. i take three seconds off my pb.

further up the road, coming onto my favourite straight i see a cyclist. and not just any cyclist. he looks the part. good form on his bike, better bike, non-compact gears. i see what he sees when he sees me. dodgy winter bike, back pack, mountain bike helmet, overweight and kind of old. ha! i say. i don;t want to draught him but i sit, mudguards rattling, about 2 metres off his wheel. he knows i'm there, yes he does. he drops a gear, gets himself down on the drops. me, i'm up on the bars, biding my time. he looks back. yes, i'm still here. you'll need to try harder to shift this old geezer!

there's a wee combo of uphills in the centre and it's here he eases away. i see him do it and it's great to watch - this is exactly how i lose time. what is it that does this? is he just lighter? do i not just have the power to shift this much lard? or is it the hill itself, is the incline the thing that beats me before i've even started?

what i do know is that when we're back on the flat there is no doubt in my mind i will be faster. even now i still believe that, that i am the strongest and no-one, but no-one is faster than me in a straight line. i still believe this even when it's not true. i still believe this when i've run out of gears in a pursuit. looking back on strava i can see this in the segment profiles when i look at comparisons. on the flat speed isn;t an issue. as soon as the road goes up i fall back and worse, when i hot the top of the hill i don't push as hard.

i don't catch the guy. another mile and maybe. as it is he has about ten seconds on me btu i've taken back enough road to maintain dignity. more telling i've up'd my pb by fifty seven seconds. i'm happy about this but also profoundly depressed. what's going on in my head that i can't push this hard on my own? am i lazy or just scared? but then i smile. i've max'd out at 37.6mph on this stretch, picking up speed rather than losing it. yes, my technique's crap. but i'm not slowing too much just yet!

it's this type of question that's starting to come out in the strava wash. the whole segment racing thing, while okay for some, seems to me ultimately pointless. times are great it's true bt what i'm really liking is the intervalness of it all, the continuous pushing (some might say marginal gains but i so wouldn't!) towards some sort of state of cycling grace, when everything works, the tyres and the chain are singing, my legs will go where ever i want them to and my style is just that.

because whatever else, being out on the bike right here, right now is something glorious. true the roads ar a bit muddy, leafy and just a bit slidey but the autumn is just sublime. i took t out on the route i did the day before yesterday. light, lochs, hills but above all trees. what i couldn't tell her was the feel of the air as you go thru it all, the way the air feels in your lungs. this route i wasn't caring about the strava other than logging the miles. all i was doing was what i started doing away back when, when i was wee, just getting out on my bike, going down the roads i hadn't been, seeing the things i hadn't seen. since i've got the strava i've been doing much more of this. was that the sort of performance improvement they meant? i'll take that!

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