Friday Group Ride #449

Friday Group Ride #449

I was running before I knew what had happened. I don’t even really remember why I started running, probably the press of time and some vague memory of high school cross country meets. The woods are always lovely on foot anyway. And then I signed up for a half-marathon, because I needed something to keep me running.

Finally, it was my running partner who brought it up. She said, “Do you think you’re going to stop running soon, so you can ride bikes?”

This time last year I was training for Rasputitsa, which means I was dutifully cranking out hill repeats in the cold on a Saturday morning and squeezing in miles wherever I could. Spring riding in New England isn’t Type 1 fun usually, but you put a ride like Rasputitsa on your calendar to make you do it, to jumpstart your season.

This is the classic paradigm of racing-to-train, which is when you don’t really care about racing-to-win, but you put a race (or any event) on your calendar to motivate you to do the training you want to do. The inverse of this is training-to-race, which is something that competitive people do, I’m told.

After two seasons at Rasputitsa, I was looking for something different this year, and just fell into running. The whole discussion about whether I was going to go back to riding bikes came up after some people I know whizzed passed us on gravel bikes. I might have made some involuntary sound of longing or regret. I don’t remember clearly.

We trotted on down the dirt path, and it occurred to me then, as we fell back to chatting, that the phases of my fitness are governed by two primary factors, habits and projects, in a sort of chicken-or-the-egg, or  Oroboros-like absurdity. I’m pretty good at getting in a groove (habits) and putting in the work day-after-day over a long period of time. That groove can be interrupted or even destroyed by a work trip or a vacation or an illness, but otherwise I can do right-left-right-left really well. Maintaining motivation to do that is usually predicated on having a project, like a race. So the habits feed the projects and the projects feed the habits.

I’m running a half-marathon at the end of April. That’s the current project. I’m riding my bike, but I’m running too, because that supports the current project.  The next project needs to be a bike project, I think. It’s time to tune up the bike habits.

This week’s Group Ride asks how this works for you? Do you need events to be able to ride regularly (or even commit the sin of running)? Or are you able to maintain the habits without the projects? Is the maintenance of the habits enough project all on its own?

Image: Ski Burke

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  1. Brian Ogilvie

    The only event I do regularly is D2R2. That’s because I like long rides in the hills, but I’m busy and can be content with 2-3 hour rides. Knowing that I have a lot of climbing and miles on gravel in August motivates me to do the longer rides in preparation, and so to have fun in ways that might otherwise make me feel guilty about robbing time from work or home.

    For my 15-25 weekly miles of running, I don’t need an event for motivation, and with my cycling and hiking, that’s all I want to be doing.

  2. Michael

    Sometimes I have an event in the spring (riding) to get me to ride during the March-April ice-melt season. If not, I don’t hit the same level of conditioning, but I still ride. I have a running race in October that keeps me running in the fall, although a few years ago I scrapped that when I was fully trained up and realized I did not feel like actually doing the race. Otherwise, though, the year goes in seasons – nordic skiing in the winter to early spring, riding between snow and ice March-April, then bring running into the mix by late April or May. Then run and ride all summer and fall, just because I really want to. Events serve to get me to peaks of conditioning, and then I reap those rewards afterward, but I don’t always feel like doing them. I was signed up for the Eroica in California last weekend, and did some training for it, but the friend I was to do it with had to bail. Instead, I flew out there but with my coupler bike and rode long rides on mixed pavement and dirt for a few days. Got the conditioning, and did not go to a big event alone.

  3. Alanm

    My “event” is work. My motivation is not sitting in my car among the nation’s worst traffic. Weekends are for pure fun with an occasional charity century thrown in.

  4. Stephen Barner

    I’ll be riding my 20th 100/200 double-century this year. We’ve always placed it on a weekend close to the solstice, and that’s mighty early in the season for such a tough ride. Although I ride year-round, mileage drops dramatically in the winter, and I don’t ski often enough to keep in shape. I mean that literally, as this is the time of year when all my pants have shrunk. The big ride is definitely a force in my decision making. If I’m on the fence, I’ll remind myself that I don’t just want the miles, I need them, and that will convince me to put in the miles. I’ve done the ride without preparation and I don’t know that I’ve ever had to dig so deep to finish something. I look around at others my age and I know that without this incentive, I’d be a heavier, less healthy person, and that’s one of the reasons we keep the ride going–not to mention that others tell us they like riding it, too. Getting in such good shape early in the season makes everything about cycling better.

  5. Parker English

    When anticipated enjoyment doesn’t suffice for regular cycling, the sense of self that requires fitness for satisfaction can; perhaps moreso for you than for me. Same with jogging, tho hope it provides more enjoyment for you than for me. Of course, extra training’s sensible before any challenging project; and such projects involve their own appeal. But challenging projects have even more appeal when circumstances provide extra training, as when one retires for example.

  6. MattC

    Don’t race, don’t train. I just ride. Don’t need to put an expensive (travel, hotel, food, entry fee) event on my calendar to get me to ride…I ride because I LIKE to ride. I have accepted that I will NEVER be fast. A 3 hour road ride w/ my friends shows me that. However, that isn’t my strength. I’m a long-game rider. Go out with those same fast friends on a 6-8 hour ride and the tables are turned in a big way (very few of them will even go for a ride like that). I LIKE long rides…gravel, mtb, road…(though I’m moving away from solo road rides in recent years because I don’t want to DIE from an inattentive driver, of which there seems to be WAY more than there used to be…I blame that on cell phones and lame laws about using them while driving). Who knows, maybe I COULD become fast if I did “train”…but I’m afraid that would take away what I LOVE about riding. Likely I’d have to force myself to get on the bike and train…yuk. That would really suck the fun out of it for me. But an all day gravel/mtb ride in the spring wildflower bloom here in the CA Central Coast? 8-10k feet of climbing? Oh yeah…I’m drooling at the prospect! That all said, obviously I’m a “Fair Weather Rider”…too much wind? I’m out…same for rain or cold. That isn’t fun, so why? But hey…different strokes for different folks. If everybody was the same it would be a very boring world. To each his (or her) own. Just don’t forget to have FUN along the way….life is too short not to!

  7. Mike

    I have come to realize, over the last several years, that I like having an event on the horizon, even if the horizon is a long ways off. I feel aimless, otherwise. I still want to ride, but what am I riding for? A target date seems to give me the excuse to get out and ride. I am very conscious of the family/work/hobby balance. If I “have to” train for an event, it will get me out the door on a Saturday morning before the rest of the world is up. Did a 2 hour ride on Saturday morning in the cold and the wind and when I got home, my wife was quite literally just getting out of bed. “Well, that seems like the definition of not using family time!’, she said.

  8. Paul S,

    I 100% race to train. I want to be better/faster/ready for anything on my bike. Having moved from California Coast back to VT 18 months ago, if I don’t have something I have to work towards in the winter, I won’t spend the time in the basement on the trainer, or outside running when the weather allows. I’m doing my first Rasputitsa this spring, and considering a half marathon at the end of May as well if I can get my runs up close to that distance.

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