Friday Group Ride #357

Friday Group Ride #357

One of my mentors said, “We can talk a lot about why you’re not doing what you should be doing, but in the end, you don’t want to do it, so you won’t.” It hit me pretty hard, this idea that my horizons might be fixed, and not only that they are fixed, but the limits are self-imposed, a product of my own non-malleable personality.

I wanted to push back against this idea, but when I examined my behavior, not isolated moments, but as a whole, I had to concede that doing things I don’t like doing isn’t something I do, mostly. It is possible, I think, to sustain short periods of action that push outside one’s “comfort zone,” but it is not realistic to think I will radically alter my type.

On the bike that means I am never going to be good trainer, although I will occasionally slap together some training to prepare for a one-off event. I can sometimes content myself in a paceline on a road ride in order to spend time with people I like, but mostly I prefer to freestyle my rides, going out with one or two people, taking a pretty inefficient and unstructured approach to covering a route.

I’d like to think I’m a good climber. I am compact and certainly better suited to it than going fast in the flats, but more accurately, I’m a mediocre cyclist. In my head, I want to do hill repeats and ride that line somewhere between pink and red as I crest one climb after the next. I’m just not that ambitious though. I’m not a good climber.

Next weekend I ride this, which is daunting in a few ways. First and foremost, it’s spring here in Southern New England, so the idea of heading north to revisit winter (and mud season) gives me the shivers. It seemed like a good idea when I signed up. Now it just seems like another opportunity to get into my “discomfort zone.” This is, I suppose, a good thing, maybe the only way to push back against type. Anyway, I’ll try it.

This week’s Group Ride asks, where is your discomfort zone? What are the things you wish you were suited to but aren’t? Do you believe you can change? Or do you just become more yourself the longer and longer and longer you ride?

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  1. Dave

    I’m an ornery fucker and have known I was since I was young. Once I discovered cycling as a teenager I also realized I had a great capacity to push myself. Being ornery and focused on endurance and speed is a decent combination I’ve found and in the ensuing years I’ve become a nicer person as I enjoy the company of others more and more.

    Where in New England are you heading? I’m in Portland Maine.

  2. Lyford

    Discomfort zone? Long straight flats, especially with headwinds, when riding solo. Seems like something a good cyclist should be comfortable with, but I’d much rather deal with rolling terrain or a long climb.

    At 50+, 150lbs-ish, I’ll probably never be the kind of wattmonster that thrives on flat open terrain. So be it.

  3. Andrew

    I do tons of hills. Ridiculous numbers of hills. Repeats. 100 mile rides with 10k climbing. And I suck. Maybe I suck less than I used to. Anyway, they make me happy.

  4. Dizzy

    By nature I’m a stationary pontificator. I’m much more suited to reading or searching the internet for new ideas while listening to a good music mix. I can do that for hours and be perfectly content. I’m also genetically a 5’5”, 160#, diabetic-heart disease time bomb. So every spring, I crowbar myself out of the house to start cycling. I cycle solo to facilitate thinking for hours. I ride for hours a day to work off the annual 15 lbs. gained each winter and to ward off the heart attack that potentially awaits.

    Physical activity is my discomfort zone in that it interrupts my collection of intellectual material. I wish I was better suited to physical activity vs mental activity. I wish I was the cycler that I read so much about. I don’t think I’ll change. I have attempted to “will” myself to change but alas, I never permanently adopt a different life pattern. I always fall back to my nature.

    Being physically cold is anathema to my nature too. So until the temps are reaching out of the 50s, I don’t ride. Rain? Forget it. I don’t see that changing either. Some of my riding colleagues ride no matter what. I take their encouragement, chiding, crap, in stride.

    In my mid-60s, I may take on different nuances, but change who I am? No. I don’t see that happening. Slowly, I’m becoming OK, content, with who I am. Lyford stated it perfectly; “So be it.”


  5. Kevin

    I want to achieve too many things at once. I want to lose weight, have time for my other hobbies, shine at work, be a good husband and father, get enough sleep, AND be a better cyclist. I’m looking forward to retirement so that I can gain back the12 hours a day that I currently spend on my daily routine for work.

  6. chuckster

    I learned a long while ago that I was a pretty decent sprinter. I put forth the effort to train it specifically a few times over a few decades and it made a difference and won some small races on occasion. But it, and bumping elbows into the last crit corner are definitely my discomfort zone. For quite a while, I’ve found that I’d 10x over enjoy toiling up and over big climbs that I don’t excel at, cruising along on my personal idea of big rides… the ones where you cram a few sturdy sandwiches into your jersey pocket and maybe a 3rd water bottle, plus a few $ for a refill, and figure out how to see as few cars as possible, climb till you hit snow (CO springtime), or until the legs eventually remind you not to quit your day job, while taking in as many views as possible along the way. It’s a treat when friends can come along but mostly it’s my version of quiet meditation. I don’t see myself wanting to, or being able to change from that mindset going forward and am very comfortable with that.

  7. Martin

    Interesting topic.

    Long term improvement is possible, but no matter how much you do, you are still some version of yourself. So, I will probably never be a really fast rider, except maybe to non riders or some really old guys I sometimes ride with socially. 😉

    I know am a much better cyclist than I was 15, 10, or even 5 years ago. Mostly it is just time in the saddle, year after year, knowing my body, knowing how to use my gears, and learning from my mistakes. And to a lesser extent, reading articles in places like this, and participating in cycling discussion forums.

    That said, I am still me. I struggle with my weight, and I cannot escape the fact that by cyclist standards, I am paunchy, or even fat. And despite my efforts to extend my riding further into the fall, and early winter, I still have to work in the early spring to build up bike fitness and endurance lost from lack of outdoor saddle time from December to early March. And I still dread hills, though I don’t fear them as much as I used to. And though I was at times fitter in my younger years, I am more consistently bike fit now than I used to be. For example, years ago, I might have jumped on my bike for the first time and ridden 35 miles, but other years, I might struggle the first time out to manage 5. That is no longer much of a problem. And I am putting in more miles now in my early 50s than I ever did, 20 years ago. So not necessarily always a fitter cyclist, but a smarter and better cyclist than I was.

  8. TomInAlbany

    That which you exercise gets stronger. If you exercise your same self, you become more your same self. Also, out of you, then that.

    That said, my own personal is that I will always feel guilty for pulling time away from family and home and taking some ‘me time’ to ride. Kids are 8 and 11 now and often content to ignore me for hours on end. Yet, I insist to myself that I must be there for the moments they may pay me a moment’s notice.

    But, damn. Would I love to go for a 5 hour ride each weekend like I did back in the day…

  9. Geoffrey Knobl

    My discomfort zone is, I think, riding in a peloton. I’ve done pacelines and it’s all fine if everyone drifts back while not too close to me. I want to have room to dodge things in case there’s junk or holes on the road. If they pass by me just a breath away, I get nervous. I’ve done it before but the truth is I’m happier in the lead even if it wastes energy. On climbs, it matters less as we all tend to ride at our own pace but doing 25 for 20 miles in a three or four pace where I can’t see that pothole ahead and have to trust the guy in front leads us in the correct line is more difficult. Add that one guy blocking my one exit line and I’m unhappy.

    Why am I not riding as much on the road? Recently, it’s been getting the garden ready and doing some running – or actually just jogging at 9:30 per mile – to get ready for an attempt at a personal record for a downhill mile in August. Both take time and the garden is a lot of physically demanding digging. That kills my back even if it’s not always (but is sometimes) as overall tiring as riding 50 miles at 18-20 mph average.

    So, I guess I don’t really “want” to ride when I feel I need to do other things. It’s always about choices. Many others are getting ready for a tough 100-120 mile ride with 10-13000 feet of climbing and I just don’t want to put in the work to get ready for that in May. I’d rather be up there in August but not May. Choices.

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