Take a break!

November 20, 2019 § 8 Comments

Everyone needs a break. Or so we are told.

Especially, you need to take a break from riding because you are tired. And everyone knows that riding when tired leads to overtraining which leads to death, which is followed by even worse things.

But what if you don’t really need to take a break? What if you need to ride more? Ride faster? Push harder?

6,000 years ago people went hard until the end. Every day they struggled. Rest came at night in the form of sleep; there were no rest days. Days were when you fought to stay alive, and they began before dawn.

In my sojourns I have plenty of time to observe people and wonder how many of them would survive a single day of hard effort? And in cycling, especially in the rarefied world of the Stravver and #socmed, I wonder how many of these heroes would be able to make it through even a single week of work plus 300 miles of commuting plus “training.”

The answer is always the same: Pretty much all of them.

Every human is capable of extraordinary effort. It’s false to say that you find out what people are made of when the chips are down. Every human can survive, and most can even thrive, when conditions are relentless and brutal, when they are fighting for food, for companionship, for shelter. Competition is the ultimate whetstone.

You see it on the streets. Homeless people are nothing more than ordinary people who, through chance or choice, find themselves in a daily war for survival. They are tough beyond any words, savvy to the point of being mindreaders, innovative as an inventor, impeccable judges of people and environment. They are these things not because they are special but because they are human.

Racked by drugs and alcohol and mental illness, perhaps, but nonetheless they are hardy beyond belief, so hardy as to be pointlessly ordinary.

The jelly rolls behind their Rage Rovers are no different. Starve them for a couple weeks, put them beneath a freeway underpass with ten dollars and a blanket, and they would become hard as diamonds. You would, too.

You don’t find out what people are made of when they’re down. When they’re down, they’re brutally hard and resilient or they are dead.

You find out what people are made of when they’re up. When they have the time, the money, the confidence, and the community to do whatever they want. That’s when character shines through and people differentiate themselves.

That’s when privilege and sloth and self-satisfaction and greed all come to the fore, and when you get a view into a person’s true nature.

Ride too much yesterday? Too many dragons to slay or swamps to drain?

Keep at it. You’ll be taking a long enough break before you know it.


Are you overtrained?

May 6, 2018 § 5 Comments

I know I am. Or rather, I’ve finished about eight weeks of feeling great on the bike and now the peak has passed. To continue, experience tells me, will result in much badness filled with unhappiness and sadness and etc.

What are the symptoms of overtraining? You certainly don’t need to look here, as it is well covered by numerous other #fakesports publications.

  1. Bodybuilding has you covered!
  2. Men’s fitness has you covered!
  3. Wikipedia has you covered!
  4. Bicycling has you covered!
  5. Cycling Weekly has you covered!
  6. Joe Friel has you covered!
  7. Cycling Tips has you covered!
  8. Pez Cycling has you covered!
  9. GCN has you covered!
  10. And thank goodness, Semi-Pro Cycling has you covered!

Reading through all these tips and clickbait and insurance offers for cyclists who ride more than 50 miles a week, you may well get overtrained from reading about overtraining.

However, Cycling in the South Bay can save you from all those other articles with a quick, ad-free list. Here’s how you know you’ve fallen into the hole.

  1. The little voice inside your head (or all fifty of them) shrieks “Fuck you!” when people harass and disturb you by saying things like “Good morning!”
  2. You glare at your bicycle.
  3. Every non-cycling thing you’ve ever done in your life and given up on seems incredibly fascinating.
  4. Amazon. For hours.
  5. Your idea of social time with friends is staying in bed, alone.
  6. Astonishing soreness in your legs when you attempt major physical efforts, such as standing.
  7. The last ride you did you felt invincible. For ten minutes. After that, you felt like you look.
  8. Food appears to be a kind of poison.
  9. Ordinarily stupid things like the Giro and the Tour seem like crimes against intellectual humanity.
  10. If you had to choose between doing another interval and being strapped to a Nazi fallbeil, it would be the easiest choice you ever made.



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Deep in the overtrained hole

May 17, 2017 § 14 Comments

When I got back from my trip I knew that something was wrong. It wasn’t simply the exhaustion of travel and being away from home and a few hard days of riding, but something much worse.

I figured I might be overtrained. Why? Because prior to leaving for Mallorca I had ridden pretty hard beginning in December. Then, about a month before my trip I put in a crazy block of stupid hard riding that included one 60-minute TT workout each week. The icing on the cake was that a few days before flying out I had one of those magical no-chain days.

So, I was leaving town on something close to a peak, or as close to one as I’m capable of getting, more like a gentle bump, or at least a non-acute decline.

In Mallorca there was some hard riding, but what was killing is that the days were so brutally long. We’d spend 7.5 hours to ride 70 miles. On my best worst day, I did 140 miles but it took 11.5 hours. Even Wanky Math couldn’t make these numbers work because I’ve been riding at just under ten hours a week all year, and 11.5 seems plainly greater than 10. Even taking two full days off in Mallorca didn’t help, because each “rest” day was followed by more pretty hard riding, or PHR (technical term).

Back home I vowed to take off a couple of days before testing my legs at Telo Worlds, but instead I took one day off and should have seen the writing on my legs then and there. What were these heavy, cement-covered appendages that rebelled at even the thought of pedaling?

At Telo Worlds it was much worse, sixty minutes of agony followed by a one-hour pedal back through Despair Swamp, up Col d’Defeat, along the Wreckage Rollers, all the way to a glorious pity party at home I had arranged in my honor. I was asleep by 9:30 and awoke this morning twice as tired as when I went to bed.

My morning coffee and fresh Ms. WM Special Homebaked Bread tasted awful, that’s how bad I felt. Okay, that’s a total lie. The coffee and bread were heavenly. But still, it adds significance to my condition to lie like that because apparently one symptom of overtraining is loss of appetite.

Knowing I was overtrained and needed rest I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00 AM sharp to do Internet research on overtraining. It always annoys the shit out of me when people describe Google searching as “research.” Why can’t they just say, “I googled cycling + porn”? Why do they have to say “research?” For fuck’s sake, people.

Another indicator of overtraining is irritability.

The Internet, as we all know, is useless, but it did indicate that I’m not overtrained. Overtraining is actually rare. What I am is something much more ridiculous. I’m a victim of non-functional overreaching. When I first read this I thought maybe that was porn talk for a failed reacharound, but no.

Non-functional overreaching is when you are really old and delusional and ride about 20 years younger than you should. Everything gets saggy and droopy and you hate life. I read a detailed discussion of the Men’s Fitness Warning Signs for failed reacharounds, and also reviewed the scientific literature, read Joel Friel’s take on it, read Bunny McTavish’s Internet Coach Training Tips on Overtraining, and was overwhelmed by the fact that nowadays everything on the Internet that purports to be a substantive discussion is boiled down into a bulleted list, presumably because no one has enough of an attention span anymore to read, you know, actual paragraphs. So I’ve condensed everything ever written or known about NFOR/overtraining below so that you can quickly make a scientific diagnosis without having to do more “research.” In short, you are suffering from NFOR if you are:

  1. Slow as shit.
  2. Irritable as shit.
  3. Tired as shit.

This is kind of problematic for me because I’m 1 & 2 regardless of my cycling regimen, and 3 whenever I work, which is all the time. So I may either be suffering from NFOR or I may just be a congenital dick.

You be the judge. But don’t invite me on a ride. I’m taking the next eleven days off. Sorry, ten. I mean, seven. Until Saturday.




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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 3: How to Spin (not “Spoon”)

January 13, 2014 § 3 Comments

Aside from age, inability, laziness, drunkenness, and absence of desire — all key qualities for any racer seriously embarking on the Wanky Training Plan ™ — it is important to realize that the main thing holding you back from the fifth or even the fourth step of the ugly wooden podium that someone hammered together with cheap plywood so you could totter on it, arms waving wildly as you try to keep from plunging off the back and onto the concrete in the typical arms-raised-cyclist-in-slippery-cleats-on-painted-wood-pose, is fatigue.

The fact is that aside from the creaky joints, achey back, loose bowels, urinary incontinence, and general systemic collapse that generates discomfort and pain as you rush maddeningly faster down the death spiral of human longevity, your main problem is that you’re bone tired. And please don’t give me that “But I take off Mondays and Fridays,” or “Last week was a rest week” crap.

At your age it has to be a rest month, and you’d better be ready to make virtually every week a rest week if you’re going to succeed on the Wanky Training Plan ™.

Fatigue self-evaluation

The difference between fatigue and being tired is simple. Tired is what happens when you stay up late eating potato chips. Fatigued is what happens when you ride your bike for hundreds of miles every week. But in case you’re unsure, or more likely, in total denial, take the quiz:

  1. After riding, I sit at my desk and stare vacantly at the screen. Yes/No
  2. I do “training blocks.” Yes/No
  3. I do “base miles.” Yes/No
  4. If I miss three consecutive riding days I tell myself (and every wanker who will listen) that I’m “out of shape.” Yes/No
  5. I’ve never missed three consecutive riding days. Yes/No
  6. More is better. Yes/No
  7. I’m a gronker. Yes/No [Refer to Wanky’s Circular on Gronking, #45, in a previous blog post.]
  8. When I’m off my bike, motion is my enemy. Yes/No
  9. No injury or illness is so severe that some type of cycling (trainer, rollers, spin class) can’t be sneaked in. Yes/No
  10. I would ride less if … well, no, I wouldn’t. Yes/No

If you answered “Yes” to any of these, you are fatigued. Fatigue won’t go away with a day off, or a week off, or beer, and it’s different from overtraining. Whereas overtraining simply means you are stupid and cannot be helped, ever, because your newt-sized brain is permanently stuck on No. 6 in the quiz above, fatigue can be overcome. But like the lightbulb, you must want to change.

The Yin to the hammer’s Yang

Hammering is the Yang of cycling. You do it because you can, because you get sucked in, because you’re a chronic gronker, and because no one has ever shown you how to spin. Spinning, of course, is the Yin of cycling. We’ve all heard the same stupid advice for decades. “Spin to win.” “The pros all know how to spin.” “Practice with a fixie.” “Race the track, that’ll get your cadence up.” Blah, blah, blah.

Before you can spin, however, you must truly understand the Yin and why it is so important. It is important because, properly done, spinning will rest your legs, actively recover your legs, and build your cardiovascular fitness. What’s most extraordinary is that you can achieve all these things without ever doing an interval, with the exception of perhaps a Belgian Tripel followed by a stout and finished off with an IPA.

In order to spin, you must first relearn some basic stuff, and the most basic one is this: You gotta go slow. Right. I’m talking to you, Mr./Ms. Hammerallthetimebecauseitsfun. Because you have a hard time with new ideas, this one is going to be very simply stated.

  1. Put your bike in your easiest gear, no matter what the terrain.
  2. Start pedaling.
  3. Do not change the gear.

Okay. That’s it for today. Now go have a beer. See? I told you the Wanky Training Plan ™ was fun!


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