The Mystery of the Invisible Legs

I started riding in a weird, drizzly mist. I was soaked immediately. I pedaled and went faster, then I pedaled a little harder, and continued going faster. While physics was justly confirmed, my confusion mounted. “Shouldn’t I be dead-legged?” I wondered, given my lack of sleep or anything approaching regularity in the past couple weeks (my hours of sleep over the past week: 5, 0, 10, 6, 4, 4, 9).

Yet my legs continued to go faster. There was a vast mismatch between the feeling in my legs — happy — and the speed at which I was moving — much above normal. Based on the past month or so, I shouldn’t have been going this fast. I’ve been wrecked, scrambling to find energy and consistency, surely the result of gloriously overdoing it during my week in Death Valley — no regrets about doing it.

After my massage on Monday, in which my friend is slowly undoing years of damage to my steel-belted left IT band and myriad other horrid knots I’ve tied myself into contorted in front of a computer or on a bike, I could barely shuffle up or down stairs. I felt looser, but my knee refused to calm peacefully. I have no doubt that going from the massage to sitting in front of a computer for 27 hours or so didn’t help.

As a consequence of having too much work, too little sleep, and a grumpy knee, I didn’t touch my bike for three days. Thursday, the sun came out, and I gained a bit of time, so I went out for an short and easy two hour ride. I couldn’t push hard at all, my heart rate stayed low, and I had some knee twinges. However, being outside was glorious, and I smiled for the whole two hours.

Friday, I again snuck out for a quick 30-mile ride before heading to campus for another work binge. My knee felt much better, and I could ride a more respectable pace. I was up until 3:30am and up again at 8:30am, so there wasn’t much rest to really keep recovering.

Last night, I was mentally and physically fried, so after a night of playing some of my favorite original NES games, I crashed hard. Nine hours later I woke up cuddled up next to the words of Edward Abbey — thankfully unbent, even in sleep I respect my books! A super-productive morning led to ride time. The rain from the morning persisted into early afternoon, so I donned my cycling cap, tucked a rain jacket under my jersey and headed out onto the road, experience what I described above.

I can only guess that the forced rest, even if haphazard, finally allowed my legs to actually recover. In general, I’d rather ride a little slow than not at all, so forcing myself off the bike for three days almost never happens. But my worries of over-training seem to be the more usual case of under-recovering. Hopefully, I’ve turned the corner on the fatigue just in time for the start of the Midwest ultra season.

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The Thrill of the Chase

I was uncertain. I had done my hardest ever 5-day training block earlier in the week — 440 miles, 37,000ft of climbing — and then taken one day for rest. A day that found me eating ravenously — nothing could fill me up — and napping/lounging after a few morning hikes because I was fried. I had no idea how this “race” — technically it was an organized and supported ride, but it is timed and everyone in the first wave is out to hammer each other, which means race to me– would go. Would I be sufficiently recovered after a lazy day? Or would the mounting fatigue I had felt all week continue and make for a long day in the saddle?

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The Groundhog Rule

I am in the midst of a prolonged discussion with some friends about when to use bike lights. I always have mine on in low-light or nighttime and in bad weather, like fog or rain. If I ever feel like cars might have difficulty seeing me, the lights go on. An alternate view is for the lights to ALWAYS be on, regardless of visibility. On a bright, sunny day, having lights on seems like a waste of batteries because that light is washed out by the much stronger sunlight.

Over my past few rides, I directed a good deal of thinking towards lighting. I came up with an extremely simple rule for when to have lights on/off.

The Groundhog Rule:

If you can’t see your shadow, your rear lights should be on flashing.

Addendum: If you can’t see the road easily, rear lights should be on solid, and your front light should be flashing if day, solid if dusk or night.

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Overrun

Death is discovered on every ride. Unfortunate reminders of our ultimate fate lay strewn across the roadways in the sprawling entrails of opossums, the splatter of squirrels, and the rancid smell of a decaying deer. An unexpected bump to the hulking steel machines with whom we share the pavement becomes a visceral example of our limited mortality.

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Balltown 2012

I raced he Balltown Classic back in May 2012. A 200-mile race through the rolling hills of Iowa that had about 10,000ft of elevation gain. Quite a change from the flatness of Michigan, though lots of small hills is not as fun as the BIG mountains.
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Locked In A Seven Mile Box

One. Two. If I had kept counting, I might have hit 150,000 before the
day was through. But who’s counting when you haven’t hit the main road
and almost twenty-four hours lie ahead?

The stream of clicking chains and reflective glasses turned onto the
main road, the first of countless right turns to come. The pace quickly
increased as the strongmen in the race began asserting themselves.
Topping a short rise, I heard my friend behind me say, “Collin, it’s
about to be just you and that recumbent ahead.” I glanced back and, sure
enough, the pack was a couple hundred yards behind. I didn’t give it a
thought and kept going hard, figuring the fast ones would catch up soon.

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8 Mile — The Lengthy Johnson Re-Mix

Call me The Mad Prince. On the bike, I fling myself recklessly down the
road, probing my legs and mind for an extra watt, hoping somewhere in
the depths I’ll find the missing piece. My style has been described as
“riding like a madman” where “each time he lapped me you could feel the
road vibrate”. On the bike, I flog myself mentally and physically. When
my legs threaten to fail or my mind wavers and stopping seems solace, I
think of the self-recrimination and regret I’ll go through for days or
months into the future. In these times, I come to fear my inner self in
a Machiavellian manner. The drive pushes me further, but will I
eventually go too far?

Thoughts such as these pass through my head not only during the dark
hours of a 24-hour ride, but during the all-night coding sessions or the
evenings when my mind refuses to cease ticking. I describe myself as
restless. Perhaps that’s it. Yet, ‘enough’ is a word I rarely utter. So
it seems I still search for something. However, I am fortunate to have a
life filled with beautiful people, places, and experiences, so as my
wandering continues, the journey will not be barren.

Enough of such thoughts though. You saw the title, knew I was racing,
and were looking forward to another excessively long post filled with
anecdotes from 24 more hours on the bike…

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Metamora and Mora and Mora and Mora

On August 11th, 2012, I raced the Metamora 4X50. I won and set a
new course record of 22.45mph average speed. Below is my race report.

The clock on my bike computer was three minutes slow, so I made it to
the start line just as the race began. Kurt Searvogel yelled back,
“Let’s go Collin!” and off we went in a pack of about ten, chasing the
course record of 22.2mph in the refreshingly brisk Illinois morning.

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