The minute my front wheel rolled onto the steep climb, my mind began spewing out a slew of tips and tricks like a broken slot machine. First, assess the hill and divide it into segments. Start off slightly slower, allowing other riders to attack the hill and hopefully blow up before the top. Visualize a rope pulling you upward. Stay seated and spin if you can to conserve energy. Stand occasionally to engage other muscles. Try counting pedal strokes as you climb to reduce the pain. Open your suitcase of courage. Dance on the pedals!
If I’m not careful, my brain tends to go into Double Jeopardy! during rides. And the categories are: Types of intervals; Know your long-chain sugars; Guess the grams; and Potent Portables. The useless factoids stack up in the form of dogeared magazine articles, coaching websites, and 140-character training-tip-Tweets. We’re talking years of accumulated facts and scientific studies. That’s a lot for one plastic helmet to contain (even if it is aerodynamic and well-vented).
More importantly, as recreational riders, what are we supposed to do with this steady stream of information? Sure, I’ve used these facts to incorporate a new stretch or to improve my descending skills, but as I carefully measure out the proper carb to protein ratio of my post-ride snack (consumed within the one hour optimum absorption window, of course), I wonder if it’s possible to be overinformed. While it’s good to have all the facts and feel privy to information reserved for the pros, is it really necessary for weekend warriors to worry about training in a fasted state or how their intervals stack up to Lance’s?
I spent years reading everything I could get my hands on and was able to attribute nearly every aspect of my riding technique to a footnote related to a coach’s tip or a scientific study. Plagued by information overload, I was eager to try every tip and trick, convinced that I would be able to ride harder and faster. Eventually all of these random workouts and intervals led me into a black hole of overtraining.
It wasn’t until I tuned out all these other voices and finally tuned into my own legs and lungs, that I found my own riding style. Of course I still salivate when a new biking magazine shows up in the mailbox, but I’ve stopped taking to heart all the advice from coaches who have never watched me ride. I’ve found that nature’s own hills are the only interval work I need — and I don’t need to count each pedal stroke to reach the top.