The Daily Grind: The Annual Oh-Shit Moment
So, this is officially the first Daily Grind Journal entry of 2019. And oddly enough, I find myself in a similar place to the first Daily Grind Journal entry of 2018: facing an oh-shit moment as the reality of off-season fitness and the impending arrival of race season sets in. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, according to the TBD Race Calendar we are exactly 50 days from the start of the 2019 road season. 50 days. And unfortunately, my current fitness looks pretty similar to this time last year when I recapped the story of 2017 and how I wound up with some of my worse fitness metrics since I started racing bikes:
Of course, this sagging fitness is, at least in part, intentional: I am a huge believer in taking a proper off-season (even if it means a lackluster or limited CX season). In my experience a proper off-season is the only way to ward off the sort of burnout risk that Chris Burati wrote about in his essay last year. Bike racers can be notoriously bad at balancing bike-life and real-life. And in the decade plus that I have been racing I have seen any number of new racers come out of the gates strong, only to flame out and leave the sport within a couple of seasons, precisely because they couldn’t find that happy median in racing bikes.
Of course, even with that happy median, racing bikes is not an easy sport. From the fitness and training time required, to the risk of injury from crashes in races or while training thanks to distracted drivers, to the high cost of entry thanks to equipment, there are any number of factors that contribute to the extremely short racer life-cycle we wrote about a few years ago. By that analysis, my decade plus of racing already makes me an extreme outlier. But if there is one thing that keeps me racing and keeps me motivated through those tough weeks rebuilding fitness from off-season troughs it is the team environment that we have achieved on TBD. Sure, we have endured our fair share of racer retirements and relocations, but when you have fifteen odd riders coming out for a Sunday morning cruise in New York City, set to the backdrop of storytelling and catching up from the holiday season, it’s pretty good motivation to get back in shape — if not for personal goals then simply to help contribute to team goals looming on the horizon in 50-odd days.
The other key piece to the puzzle has been our team coaching program with Jacob Fetty. We have nineteen riders on our Cycle-Smart team program this year, driving not just additional cohesion in training and race planning, but also providing a guiding light when it comes to important reminders to go out on a weekend ride to prioritize “F-U-N” (Jacob likes to go all caps when it comes to emphasizing the FUN element of training). While recent calls with Jacob have been focused on establishing fitness baselines and early periodization for the season ahead, this weekend’s team ride was all about FUN. Which meant some fast sections and some not so fast sessions, all with a focus on keeping things to a moderate duration and TSS (well maybe not for our Brooklyn boys) to insure we’re not digging any early season fitness holes by over training. All in all it was both a pretty perfect day on the bike and a reminder of why we do what we do as bike racers…
Though I will say, that as much fun as it was having fifteen odd guys out for a weekend cruise, it was also a reminder that my fitness remains at the low point of the year (especially coming off nearly two weeks sans-bikes in Japan). My training log for the day:
Anyway, stay tuned to future The Daily Grind Journal entries as we progress through the season and strive to get back in race shape.