Cyclists in training are urged to alternate hard and easy days. If you have a hill workout, take it easy the next day. If you ride 50 miles at a quick pace, ride a much shorter distance at a much slower pace the next day.
Over the weekend, I had a chance to put that to the test. On Saturday, I rode 50 miles. A co-rider was strong enough to challenge me on the hilly parts, and we made good time. I finished with a 15.6 mph average, not bad when you throw in a couple of long hills, broiling summer sun and temperatures around 94ºF (34ºC).
On Sunday, my wife wanted to do a training ride for the Mamma Jamma ride against breast cancer, which comes up in September. Her recent bike issues have kept her from building up much of a mileage base, and she said she wanted to take the 30-mile option on this ride. It was the same route that I rode Saturday, just turning around 10 miles earlier.
Again, she asked me to stay with her. Now that her bike is performing well, she thought I might be able to do some in-saddle coaching. I figured it would give me a good chance to get in a recovery ride.
It did. I pedaled along easily at about a 12 mph average, going slower on the long easy uphills that were hard for Pat. I stopped several times to wait for her to catch up. But despite the slow, easy riding, I was having trouble maintaining a Zone 1 pace.
What I really wanted to do was push myself a bit. The hills on this route aren’t difficult, but they are longer than the ones I ride near my house. But I knew I couldn’t. First, I had to stay with Pat. Second, I knew deep down that I needed to take it very easy today. I’d get in a decent number of miles, but would not knock myself out.
I could let the bike go on the downhills. Coasting along, I watched the speed inch past the 30 mph mark. At the bottom of each long hill, I stopped to wait for Pat and her friend to catch up to me.
The day before, we had cruised along on the return route at a pretty good clip. This time, it felt like I was beach riding in the sand on a wide-tired cruiser. With 25 miles down, I still felt pretty good, although the hot sun was beating down and we were pushing into a headwind.
With two miles to go, we pulled into a gas station, and Pat let out a yelp. She was already bonking, and needed a break, but suddenly she cramped up in her thighs. She was just able to get off her bike and start massaging her muscles. I decided to ride back to the starting point and bring the car back to pick her up.
At the end of the ride, I had covered 30.6 miles, but unlike Saturday’s 15.6 mph pace, this time I averaged 11.8.
I think Joe Friel would approve.