I decided to lay off the normal regimen of VOmax intervals this week. Doesn't mean I'm not riding. I took Monday completely off, as I sometimes do. Tuesday was a perfect day to soak in your own sweat. Summer is finally here. I jumped on my hardtail and headed into Mine Falls park in Nashua at lunch. The Nashua River was so high from recent rains that some trails were under water. I don't think I've ever seen this in July before.
So I'm lollygaggin along, ride over this little root drop I've ridden 200 times, and the next thing I'm brushing sand off my face. WTF. Guess I was just a little too loose and relaxed on the bike, as my handlebar apparently slipped from my grip and jackknifed. No damage, but when you are drenched in sweat and flop into sand, powdered sugar donuts come to mind.
Then not five minutes later, I mash up a root infested bank I've also ridden 200 times, just to have pedal release and whack me in the calf uber hard. Had a baseball sized lump going for a while. So much for a low impact recovery spin through the woods.
Great Brook center, Russell Mill right, Conant lower left
I actually started my recovery from Saturday's race on Sunday by doing a 33 mile ride in the greater Great Brook Farm area. To keep a lid on intensity, I brought gears for this 3+ hour ride. Yep, I'm finding more secret ways to link stuff up in Chelmsford and Carlisle. So you have the 15 or so miles of singletrack in Great Brook. Then there's the 5-6 miles in Russell Mill. I discovered Old Morse Rd still runs uninterrupted from Great Brook to the center of Carlisle, linking in the Conant parcel via dirt. From what I understand, Old Morse Rd does traverse private property, but it is not posted anywhere. You'd never know looking at a map that an old carriage road still runs through that area. It's little more than badly eroded stream bed for one stretch. So now, with minimal pavement riding, I can hit Great Brook, Russell Mill, Conant and Towle parcels in Carlisle and the Cranberry Bogs for upwards of 40 miles of riding.
One of my triathlete friends is amused with my concepts of recovery. He cites that world class triathletes begin a taper for major events two to three months out. He himself will start tapering two to three weeks before an important event. He specializes in Olympic distance triathlons. I mentioned that some of the strongest cyclists I know not only race every weekend, but often race twice on weekends and once midweek. His retort was "just think how much stronger they would be if they actually recovered!" I tend to think they are good racers because they race a lot. My friend also thinks a 2hr triathlon will take a lot more out of you than a 2-3hr bicycle race. Thus more recovery is needed before and after the event. I bet a MTB race with a little dismounted action would not be much different. But what do I know, I don't run or swim.
I guess if you are 110% results oriented, then yeah, recover for two months, get your two events in per year, and you better hope you don't screw it up or hope the event doesn't get cancelled (like nats a couple years ago). Most bike racers are process oriented. Racing is fun, even if you finish in the middle of the pack each weekend. Some masters may accumulate 50 races in a season. That sounds like a lot of fun factor. Doing just a couple events sounds like a lot of potential for disappointment. If you do extremely well, do you derive more net satisfaction than participating in many events with mediocre results? What if you suck on your big day?
While I do value results, I strive to achieve a reasonable balance between training, competition and epic rides. Each are part of a continuum called cycling. I don't do any one of these just for the benefit of the others. In fact, some events I do blur the distinction between these three categories of riding. It's all good.