Friday, April 20, 2007

The Quest for Improvements

Since the return of my passion for cycling over the last couple of years I have found that I have a different perspective on many things. Some of this I attribute to age and wisdom, but clearly some of it has come from simply being away for awhile and coming back. It isn't like I started over, but I think with many things, you reacquiant with certain topics and some you just look at differently either due to new factual information that is available or from different personal experiences.

I am finding that I am approaching many things much differently and much of this is due to my life changes over recent years. I have a "real job" since returning to cycling, and in fact, it was that "real job" that helped to push my away from the bike 7 years ago. I also am a father now and that takes precedence over anything else in my life. ANYTHING...period.

So it is with these two priorities that I have returned to cycling with an adjusted attitude, adjusted priorities, adjust goals and everything that goes with that. If nothing else, it has made me a better cyclist in many ways because it has forced me to become efficient with my time. It is a priority in my daily life and not a recreational activity that I pursue as a hobby. It is a part of me and who I am and it makes me a better person (that is a whole different story for a different blog).

The single most common concept that I think about regarding cycling is simply "how can I maximize my fitness and enjoyment with a minimal amount of time." I have evolved in this regard and my plan continues to evolve as I find efficencies and incorporate them into my daily routines.

What is interesting is that I think I am able to do as much and sometimes more than I was 10 years ago simply from better time utilization. In the warmer months, I get up before "the ass-crack of dawn" (as my friend Doug calls it) and I am on the bike just before twilight. I can get in 2 hours before going into work. This is time that is mine and does not infringe on anything else in my life. In the colder months, I become highly organized and shift the schedule such that I do workouts in the gym during my lunch hour and I commute to and from work each day. It doesn't provide the same volume as the warmer months, but it is enough to maintain the muscle memory, stay flexible and maintain some aerobic fitness that my longer 2.5 to 4 hour weekend rides provide.

Another efficiency that has helped tremendously is that I stopped coaching myself. I am being coached by Carmichael Training Systems in their "classic" program which is mostly web-based. I provide some self-administered test data in the form of time, HR, power and RPE over a fixed-distance course. I also answer a detailed questionnaire and they build a program with a schedule that I can follow on the web. Each month, there is a review process and every other month there is another "field test" that is done to update the training data as well as to track progress for adjustments to the training schedule. I can't say enough positive things about this and how much it has helped me. This, in addition to the purchase of a power meter have been the two most valuable and important purchases I have ever made with regard to maximizing training. I would wholeheartedly recommend both to anyone that wants to become a better rider.

And perhaps the single most important factor in all this is that I am the luckiest man on earth to have the unending support of my wife. She encourages me, she picks me up when I am feeling down and she supports all that I do. She sees the effects that cycling has on me and my personality. She has seen me at my worst when I was physically unfit, under high stress and just generally an unhappy person. She likes this "version" of me much better and in many ways this version is better than the former version than when I "used to be a cyclist".

I think the difference is that I can look back and see from where I have come, the obstacles I have encountered, the loss of my passion for the sport and my renewed passion and return. The difference is that I can truly appreciate what I have and where I am BECAUSE I can see the path of how I got here.

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