Exhale. Getting the first chunk of early season racing out of the way has been a huge relief. The pressure to perform at the beginning of the season is always extremely high. I’m getting good at managing my nerves, but preparing for the first races of the season is always the hardest. I didn’t quite get the results I was hoping for, though I rode well and I now know what I need to work on to get up to speed.
With the first three rounds of the US Cup out of the way, I can finally focus on my preparation for the Transylvania Epic which is now less than two months away. With the help of my coach, Joe Wentzell at Breakaway, I’ve laid out a challenging training plan for the next five weeks. I plan to spend 100+ hours on the bike, go to the dreaded gym a few days a week and sleep as much as possible over the course of the next month. To cap it all off Ill be heading to the Whiskey Offroad in Prescott, Arizona.
The Whiskey Offroad is an extremely challenging race with over 7,000 feet of vertical gain over the 50-mile course. With a $40,000 pro prize purse, the race typically attracts some of the best racers in North America. I’m hoping to use it as one of the final tests of my endurance fitness ahead of the Trans-Sylvania Epic.
Currently I’m getting settled back into my daily routine of coffee, ride to exhaustion, eat a third of my weight in food and fall asleep by 9pm. Depending on the day, the familiar sights of the Market Street bike lane, the Schuylkill River Trail, Main Street Manayunk, or the Henry Avenue bridge greet me as I head out of the city. I love the training process, and I’m rarely more content than when waking up to the full body ache that sets in towards the end of a long training block.
No doubt though, sometimes it’s a grind. The incessant rain of the past week was certainly less than ideal. Pulling on perpetually wet shoes each morning before heading out for another four hours in the freezing rain began to wear on me. I started to daydream of warmer pastures and by Sunday morning brunch I was pitching to Meghan that we should move back to her childhood home of Tucson. By evening much of the practicality of that plan had worn off. Plus, after another day in the rain, I was starting to get used to being soggy. The onset of Stockholm syndrome, no doubt.
My theory is that the variable and extreme weather in Philly makes us stronger, both as people and cyclists. We really get the worst of it year round. Sub-freezing and snow in the winter. Buckets of rain all spring. Hot as hell Texan summer. I guess early fall is pretty nice. We’re either tougher or dumber for enduring it, I’m not sure which it is. Probably both.
In any case, this city certainly helps create a tougher breed of cyclist. When battling the elements, traffic, and each other, you learn a thing or two about perseverance. It’s something I try to embrace on race day. The harder it’s raining on the start line, the wider the smile on my face is going to be. I’ve had a fair share of my best races in the rain and mud. I don’t know whether it’s the increased concentration it takes to stay upright or some heavily masochistic tendency buried deep inside myself, but the deeper the mud, the better the chance I’m going to have an unstoppable, completely chainless day.
Hopefully I’ll be able to channel some of that inclement-weather-performance-enhancement this May at the TSE to show the visiting desert dwellers how the East Coast does it. For now I’m going to keep my head down and keep pedaling forward. I’m currently a week and a half into my massive training block and the hunger has fully set in. Both in terms of hunger for success this spring and physically, I’m hungry man.
I’ve been emptying our shelves of their contents in rapid succession. Luckily when the kitchen is empty or I’m just too damn tired to cook, I can crawl the half a block to Honest Tom’s. There’s no problem I’ve had that couldn’t be solved by a sweet potato burrito. Soon however, that half a block will be too far and I will fully devolve to eating Peanut Butter straight from the jar. That’s OK though, I have no shame.
Next week, I’ll be heading to my parents place in Harrisburg to put in a solid climbing camp in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. And to empty their kitchen cabinets. Sorry Mom.
Photos by Cole Oberman.