If you are like me, you sometimes need motivation. Motivation to get outside on your bike. Motivation to work hard, harder than you usually do. Motivation to push a little harder, beyond where it is comfortable, where it hurts. It hurts your legs, when they feel they can’t continue. It hurts your lungs, when they are gasping for breath. And, it hurts your heart, when it is working as hard as it can to pump oxygen enriched blood to your needy muscles. This is the kind of motivation I’m talking about.
Group rides can get you to this level of exertion. Sometimes. It depends on how well matched you are with the other members of the group in terms of fitness, and motivation. For me, this seldom works. There are always stronger, and weaker cyclists in the group. If it is a no-drop group, you will always slow down for the slower riders. If it is a drop group, when you are left behind if you can’t keep up, you are left on your own, or with slower cyclists. The value of group rides for me is the social aspect. It is fun to ride with other like-minded cyclists. It’s not the place to test your metal.
Younger cyclists, particularly women, that pass me on the road are also a motivation. I don’t intend to sound sexist, but I hate being dropped. I work to catch up and stay on their wheel, if I can. But again, they made be too strong, or too weak, to give me the motivation I’m talking about.
Today, I discovered the perfect motivator.
Today was supposed to be a relaxed, Zone 1 ride. I had already put in over 200 training kms this week, and simply wanted to spin lightly to work out some leg muscle soreness. The first 25 kms were just that. I battled a 20 km headwind going out but I simply geared down, maintaining a high cadence. I decided mid-ride to stop for a coffee and sit in the sun. As I was finishing up, I noticed the sky to my right, the direction I was heading, was blue with numerous billowy white clouds. Perfect I thought. However, the sky to my left grew increasingly dark grey, even black. A severe thunderstorm was heading my way, and quickly. That’s what can happen in these parts.
I gulped down the remainder of my coffee, hopped on my bike, thinking I could out run this imminent storm. I was 25 km from the cottage, on quiet, smooth roads. Once I got onto the road, I realized the storm was gaining on me. I felt the wind strengthen, and a few drops of rain. I got onto the drops and large chainring, put my head down, and hammered as quickly as I could hitting speeds of 45-50 kph for 10 km before turning south. As I rounded the corner, the wind picked up, and it began to rain heavily. I dug in, lowered myself on the bars, and pushed harder. But the harder I worked, the worse the condition became. I was battling a 50 kph sidewind, and then hail. Large pieces of ice were pelting my face and bare arms.
I could barely see, but continued. There was no point stopping. I was already soaked, and cold. And, I was frightened of possible lightening strikes. They are normal for these storms. The sooner I got back to the cottage, the sooner I could dry off, and warm up. The sooner I would be safe.
My heart rate was high. My legs burning. And, my lungs aching. I was at my limit. Beyond my lactate threshold. This was a 25 km sprint. A 25 km time trial. No stops. No stop signs. No stop lights. No traffic. Just me, my bike, and the road, in the eye of a thunderstorm.
Fear is what motivated me. Fear of the storm. Fear of possible lightening strikes. This storm taught me that I could work harder, and longer, than I thought possible.
I got home in record time. I cycled faster than I ever have for 25 km. It was a sprint on relatively level ground. No drafting. No descents. Just me motivated like never before.
This storm has changed my training goals … 😂