Form over Substance

Today’s restructured workout plan was a 20 mile ride in the morning and strength training in the evening.  Up at about 6:30, I had some coffee and puttered around with finding my gear (it was still sort of scattered around from my trip last week) and prepping the bike.  I haven’t ridden at home in a few weeks because of travel, illness, graduation celebrations, etc, so I debated which of my three primary routes to take.  Two are hilly, and provide for a great all around workout.  The third is the “easiest”, being mostly flat.  It’s also the fastest, naturally, since there really aren’t any hills to speak of (other than the monster leading back into the neighborhood).  Having seen 28 mph on the bike speedometer last week while riding the tri bike, I was really tempted by the allure of a flat, fast ride.  Instead, I opted for one of the hill routes; in fact, the one I ride the least.  I needed something different.

And this ride is different.  The first two miles are pretty deceptive.  They are on a very gradual downgrade… so gradual that you really don’t perceive it until you’re coming back the other way and you have the two mile climb.  After that first two easy miles, though, it kicks you in the face.  The route turns onto a continual 2-3 mile climb, and you know it right away.  The grade is just steep enough that you lose 3-5 mph almost immediately.  No problem, you think, I can power through this and keep up the rpm and speed.  Until you turn the corner, and there’s the category 5 climb… 150 feet of elevation change in a little under a mile, after the 120 feet you’ve already climbed in the last mile. I know it’s not possible, but I think I saw the hill grin.

The route has 3 of those climbs, which means it’s also got some great downhills as well.  In fact, coming back down the same hill I hit 45 mph… without pedaling.  In fact, I couldn’t pedal.  I’d run out of gears.  No matter how fast I pedaled, the crank was freewheeling.  No resistance.  Quite a thrill.

On one of the more remote stretches of the ride, I passed by a really impressive property.  There was a businessman in our area (big fish, little pond sort of personality) who was very well known for his philanthropy and his tendency to live large.  When his only daughter married, he bought her this property… a horse farm with the white fence, pond with a fountain, barns, the whole bit.  It added to the list of other big properties he owned in the city.  He passed away this year, and things began to unravel.  It turns out that the family fortune was pretty well leveraged, and the only thing holding it all together was his personality and presence.  Once he was gone, the financing dried up and everyone began to see how shaky the whole thing had been in the first place.  A classic case of form over substance.  As long as he was around, it all looked good.  But peer beneath the surface, and there was nothing there.  Now there are huge properties all over the city (and around the state) up for auction to pay the debts, and his family in struggling to deal with reality.

My point?  Our training is a lot like the businessman’s situation, and my ride decision this morning is a great example.  It is easy to be satisfied with seeing big numbers in the training log (miles, average pace, etc), and lose sight of the quality of the effort they represent.  On paper, any of the three 20 mile rides I had to choose from would have looked similar.  In fact, the flat ride would probably have looked most impressive, as I can bet my average speed would have been highest.  But I know that workout would not have been as productive.  I can honestly say that at some point in today’s ride I pushed my heart rate, my legs, and my lungs to their reasonable limits; even if my average speed was pushed lower by the hills.  The same could be said of any given swim or run.  Choosing the easiest workout format might make for good numbers in the training log, but the training log isn’t what matters… it’s how much you improve that really counts.

Amazing how much training resembles real life…

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One Response to Form over Substance

  1. Mom says:

    I really admire you
    Love, Linda

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