Finally, I enjoyed a workout that truly felt like a taper! Thirty-eight miles of mild climbing (just shy of 3,000 feet) at a low heart-rate, complete with actual conversations with other human beings! What a concept! Fun! I started off the morning riding on my own in Agoura, but about a third of the way in, near Lake Sherwood, I ran into some Fortius teammates. I immediately turned around to spend time with Joe and Kelly. They're both in their off-season now, so we ambled along, chatting amongst ourselves and even some other cyclists.
Kelly and Joe turned back into the Starbucks parking lot but I needed another hour of pedal time. That was fine by me, as I felt refreshed and eager. I realized in typing this post that today's ride was the first time in months where cycling felt like a hobby -- something I love doing -- rather than a mind-numbing effort towards a particular goal. I'm saddened by that epiphany somewhat but happy that at least I can sense it. Maybe that's what tapering is all about. Rediscovering the joy for the sport, plain and simple.
My spirits lifted, I found myself galloping along for a brief 30 minute follow-up run at a faster pace. This was further encouraging to me. Maybe now I can start to gain energy over the next couple weeks. Looking at the training schedule more closely, tomorrow's brick is more or less the last "long" workout until the race. I can dig that.
There was another force at play today. Something I didn't expect. One of the reasons I was able to ride with more joy was actually because of the relief and satisfaction of knowing I'm more adept at fixing flat tires. I know it seems silly, but just knowing I'm not screwed if something "bad" happens to the bike during the race released a flood of pent-up anxiety should it actually happen. Certainly, I hope I can stay on the bike and not have to dismount to fix a flat. But if I have to, I'll be ready. This means I'm instantly more comfortable and confident riding long distances on my own. I can be my own mechanic now. Seriously, what a relief.
For the past several weekends, I haven't really looked forward to any workout in particular. I've just tried to get through them. Past them. Over them. Around them. Tomorrow, I can honestly say I'm excited to get back on the road. My bike got a thorough cleaning today at Helen's, thanks to Pete, and poppa's got a new pair of cycling shoes (Shimanos). In addition, I'm now rockin' a Speedfill bottle that holds up to 40 ounces of liquid and lets me drink from a giant straw while maintaining my aero position.
Hanukkah arrived early!
Excitement. Joy. It's nice to reclaim these essential feelings. It seems like they've been gone from my training for quite some time.
15 days and counting.