Post-Weekend: Riding vs Watching

Ah yes, the old conundrum: do I watch a race or go for a ride? It's a tough one -- ostensibly, television is the root of all evil, and riding a bike represents everything that is good. Busy people are often given this choice, and when the subject on TV is cycling, it's a horrible, horrible conundrum.

My cycling viewing conundrum is a US West Coast one, which means that everything on CET happens before I feel like doing anything. But for the bigger races, it presents a different conflict -- with sleeping -- that eventually runs into my need to ride my own bike. Nowhere is this conflict worse than during the Giro d'Italia. I love the Giro more than many, many things, but May is a particularly busy time, from mornings when I have to scream at my kids to get themselves ready for school, to nighttime, when I have to tell them to go to sleep over and over, even though it's 9:00 and the sun is still out. My own bedtime gets pushed back as a consequence, but the Giro waits for no man, particularly an intrepid blogger who's sitting in bed 7,000 miles away. I get up early, I watch, I get moving. On the weekends, I get up, I watch, I deal with that day's morning, and then, at long last, I ride.

Yesterday I did a 3.5-hour hill special I call the Sammamish Ardennes, a series of 5-9 minute climbs all bunched together around the north end of Lake Washington, about a 30 minute ride from home by way of a very busy but very fast road, or 45 minutes via the quiet trail. It's about 3000 feet of climbing all told, all just steep enough to stress me out but not to any great extreme (with one brief exception; damn you Holmes Point Road!). I doubt I set any personal bests, but I felt very free and comfy for all 3.5 hours, enough so that I actually remembered to push myself on the climbs as if someone were watching.

This is only interesting insofar as my last three long rides, in the 50-70 mile range, were incredibly miserable death marches into an uphill headwind in all directions. Even my flat tempo ride six days earlier, a 50-mile out-and-back on the trail with virtually no elevation and (significantly) no stopping, consisted of hardly any tempo at all. My legs never woke up; if anything, they just got sleepier. A chance to race came and went, unanswered. I was in no condition at all. Despite the fact that at the beginning of the month I felt so good I even shaved my legs again.

Was I ill? Some congestion came along with a sense that maybe I was coming down with something, but it never materialized. I'm old enough to have spent far too much time talking and thinking about cancer, which seems to start out as unexplained fatigue, so I am a bit too alert to such horrors. One (more) messed up thing about cancer is that when it strikes the unlucky, the lucky ones like me are left to wonder, why her? Why not me? I wonder that a lot, particularly now, thanks to a story about a friend that I won't trouble you with. Anyway, yesterday I bounced back, and my body is completely fine. For my age.

And what happened in between these moments of feeling great, separated by a big bowl of misery? The Giro d'Italia. And sleep deprivation. I am pretty sure these things are completely and directly connected. As of yesterday, I had slept a bit late two days in a row, with no races to watch and no early commitments to jump out of bed for. Sleep was the only control factor in an otherwise static set of conditions. I sleep, therefore I ride well.

I don't regret this sacrifice, since sleep is something you can always recover. It's a reminder about how hard it is to actually do the Giro: for three weeks, they're not merely getting up early, but doing some rather large efforts in between bedtimes. And sleeping in an endless succession of hotels, which is almost always less fun than it sounds. Granted, they're actually athletes, so they have a bit more on the qualifications end than me to keep going day after day. But even for the watchers, it's a grind.

I was glad when it was coming, glad when it was here, and now I can say that I'm glad it's over. At least until the Tour de France Suisse, I am happy to do my own riding instead and not have to juggle the demands of both.

Lastly, in honor of Pablo, the inspiration to the riding posts, here's a photo he can print out and tape to his bars:



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