Friday Group Ride #452

Friday Group Ride #452

People find their own stress, by which I mean, what one person finds stressful, given their specific context, another person might call a luxury. It is very difficult to escape your own context. And so, when I say I’ve been living through a stressful moment, I just want to own that I don’t have the kinds of challenges that threaten my health, my family, or my future. I’m just navigating a lot of high pressure situations, all at once.

I knew this was coming, a home renovation, a healthy dose of over-commitment to coaching youth sports, intense work days, and an ambitious training schedule have left me tired and stressed out. To be sure, the lessons are all good, to suffer is to learn as Padraig is fond of saying, and because I knew it was coming, I have been able to deal more effectively than I might otherwise.

The enduring metaphor to cycling (and all endurance sports really) is that crisis is coming. Things are going to get hard.  You are going to be stretched and tested in ways you didn’t expect, and your success depends a lot on how you navigate. Are you flexible? Are you resourceful? Are you patient? Can you stay clear in your thinking?

On the bike, I can recall so many long rides when I felt strong at mile 50, fell apart completely at 60, regained myself by 70, and finished shattered some time later. I have felt the depths of despair, just turning the pedals over through a pain fog. I have cursed my best friends as I lost their wheels. To work the RKPisms some more: There will be chaos. Keep pedaling.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how do you deal with crises on the bike? Scale of 1-10, where 1 is ‘total basket case,’ and 10 is ‘imperturbable.’ I’d give myself a 5.5, which is an improvement of where I was ten years ago, largely due to the practice of overextending myself mentally and physically, and having to put it all back together, i.e. living.

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  1. scott g

    When you are feeling overwhelmed, time to shed some load,
    as the electrician says. Or as R. A. said, adventure is just
    poor planing.

    Crisis on the bike, call 911, don’t look at bone sticking out of your shoulder,
    talk to the nice EMT whose house you crashed in front of.

  2. Parker English

    A complex question this week. Some bike-related crises are frightening, a bear twenty yards from one’s tent at night for example; some just require endurance, torrential rain two hours before the end of a century for example. Certainly agree the contexts facing most Western cyclists are less stressful than those facing African farmers for example. Am nonetheless inclined to think the former can actually change their contexts, and hence the stresses they face, by accepting various long-term adventures — military service, education, logging, cabin-building, work in Africa for example. Much easier done as a singleton of course. And less a felt need as more are accomplished. Apparently, one needs to balance the satisfaction that results from handling stress in the adventures one chooses against the risk of big-time costs from not handling them. Like you and thanks partly to my wife’s influence, think I do that better now than ten years ago. Since I don’t challenge myself as much as you, I might score a little higher on your 10-point scale during crises of endurance. But who knows how to really measure such things?

  3. Neil Winkelmann

    I’ve become pretty stoic. I mostly tend to just suck it up when things are getting tough. The issue of how we respond mentally to the physical stress of a very hard day out is fascinating. There is of course a strong feedback loop, and “forcing” yourself to feel OK with the circumstances somehow eases it physically as well. Maybe we just become comfortable with going more slowly.

    I did a long gravel race yesterday that also had lots of flowy single-track (which was fun) but also some unrideable technical singletrack climbs. Un-rideable for me, and most people around me, at least. The hike-a-bike was starting to get to me on the final pitch (20 minutes of steep and slippery uphill hiking, 6 hours i to a hard event)). It felt gratuitous and unnecessary – we could have just climbed a fire-road instead. I was starting to lose it a bit. I was baked. I doubt few people really enjoyed it. But once we resumed actual riding (there was still a fair bit of climbing still to go) I immediately felt strong again, and enjoyed the remainder of the ride. It’s in our heads.

  4. TomInAlbany

    I keep it together until someone else starts to gripe. Then, I fall apart or join in the whining and feel negative about it. As a result, I try to isolate myself from the negative influences. I don’t want sympathy or pity in the middle of the shit. I want someone to notice I’m keeping my shit together…

  5. Lyford

    It varies. Sometimes not so well(flats) — mutter, snarl, fume. Sometimes acceptance: Shift down, sit up, unzip, have a drink –you’re going to be here a while. Sometimes disbelief at a bad event crosses into absurdity and you can laugh at it. Often the hardest part is getting out of my own head and back into the world around me — there’s always something to delight in if I’m open to it.
    But riding has taught me persistence: that if I keep the pedals turning, I’ll get there eventually. And as I age, a measure of kindness to myself: If I don’t unreasonably ask my legs for more than they can do, they will repay me by doing all they can.

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