After about 25 minutes on the bike, in the basement, I start the back and forth in my brain, the give/take, the fight between the rational side of my brain that says it’s stupid to sweat my ass off in the basement and the emotional side of me that screams Suffer! Endure! Get Strong! in the name of dedication! Stay on the bike! It’s only 65 more minutes!. So, I sweat it out, watching the seconds – Literally! The seconds! – tick off on the cycling computer on my handlebars, counting them out in 2 minute blocks, telling myself, "Two more minutes, just keep going two more minutes" . Then, after those two minutes are done, I tell myself, "Ok, now go five minutes" and so on until I’ve ridden for 90 minutes. It must be the catholic in me with a Gibson-esque fetishisation of the suffering, but I love it (when I’m done) and think about it all the time when I’m not riding.
This is the boring time of the year, the begining of the training cycle, where I start all over again with the long, slow rides on the trainer in the basement with 240 channels, lots of tapes of the Tour De France, and an old 3 speed fan to keep me company. I’ve got close to 3500 miles in this year, which is pretty good. But, the bad news is I had, probably 3100 miles in at the end of July. For a while this summer I was in excellent cycling shape, but I’ve done almost nothing since I got back from France. When I look in the mirror, I can sure tell that I’ve put on about 10 pounds since I got back. Spandex head to toe reveals all and, to make matters worse, I’ve got my bike set up in the basement next to sliding doors that show my reflection when I ride, so I can see exactly how much I don’t look like a bike racer anymore. But, I’m back on the bike again, and I’ve got a plan, and it will help me beat the winter blues, even if it means riding those long rides in the basement alone.
Tonight I watched the first couple tapes of the 1999 Tour De France, where Armstrong returned to the tour after his sickness. I fast forwarded through the first couple flat stages until I got to the epic stage to Sestriere. God, what a race! After almost 6 hours climbing through the Alps, Amstrong puts the hammer down on the tour’s best climbers. It’s so cool to watch the riders climb through fog,through the cold, past the drunks and the fans, mouths open, eyes up the road looking for the end of the up and the beginning of the down. Its so much easier to ride when I’m watching these guys, so much more enjoyable to challenge myself when I’m watching others suffering for their sport.