Training Rides 101: Keeping it fun and knowing when to take it easy

2018 has been a long year. Kicking off in my Australian homeland in January, the summer of Down Under lead to a long flight across the Pacific Ocean to the Continental United States, where I spent the remainder of my year. I’ll spare readers the minute details of my travels since that time, as you can see everything here on the Gravel Cyclist website. Let’s just say I’ve done a lot, seen a lot and ridden a lot, and loved every minute of it!

By the time October 31, 2018 rolled around, I was feeling burned out. Between the October trips to Colorado for the SBT GRVL preview, the C&O Canal Towpath Trail and unPAved in Pennsylvania, the travel and riding had taken its toll. Combine that with my drive to produce quality content for Gravel Cyclist and the associated sleep deprivation, I was feeling the effort. I need to interject at this point. This paragraph and article is not a pity party. There’s already enough of that happening on a daily basis on social media. Moving on :mrgreen:

My final race event for the year was the inaugural 3G Georgia Gravel Grinduro. You can check out my race report here, and know that over the coming days, the race video is coming. If you love fall foliage, this video is a must see! I rode the 3G as conservatively as I could with a good mate from Gainesville, Pfaff Junior. Prior to the race, I’d taken about 10 days off the bike to relax and unwind. Those were some good days. My legs were in an unpleasant mood at 3G after waking from their slumber, but the fun factor of the 3G made the experience an enjoyable one. I prefer to think of my 3G experience as a lovely ride in the Georgia mountains and countryside with a good mate. The event may have been timed, that that didn’t enter my thoughts.

With the recent time change from Daylight Savings Time to regular hours, all of us who ride bicycles have to adapt to the decreased daylight hours. If you hold down a regular job like me, say eight to five type hours, you’re confined to an indoor trainer or heading out the door into the dark of the night. I understand the attraction of an indoor trainer and those folks who like to Zwift or Sufferfest each other, particularly in the really cold and snowy climates. Here in North Central Florida, we receive the odd cold snap (mid 20’s to 30’s Fahrenheit do occur), but we are graced with beautiful dirt, gravel, limerock and sandy bits roads that we can ride year round… and no snow. It may a humid cold when temperatures dip, but with the right clothing and lights, it is an absolute blast riding at night time with friends.

I don’t ride horses too often, but when I do, it’s astride a German warmblood jumper in full cycling attire. Giddy up 🙂

This video gives you an idea of what we get up to during the darkened hours of winter in North Central Florida. Unlike the video where only a few lads showed up, our numbers normally average six to twelve riders, especially on the Gravel Cyclist Tuesday Night “Worlds” ride. The rules of this ride are simple. Ride as hard as you can on the dirt and gravel sectors, and regroup at the end; think “Wintervals”. This encourages attendees to ride hard and have fun, sans fear of being dropped. Normally, when the lads listen to me, the month of November is meant to be ridden at a gentler, more pleasant tempo on the dirt sectors. Well, that didn’t happen this month… once again I cite my zero pity party reference.

On the pavement, destination dirt and gravel.

My short spell away from the bike, combined with riding along at 15 to 18 miles per hour for stretches of ten hours or more at a time most of the year, were felt once the evening rides began. They went something like this:

  • November 13, 2018 – About 12 riders, mega hard pace on the dirt sectors. By the end of sector one, I knew I was in trouble. Jacked heart rate, dead legs, fatigued. Not helping matters was the set of tyres I was riding, the WTB Sendero. More coming when I post the tyre review but they are not suitable for this course or type of rapido riding. At the end of the second sector, I did an Elvis and left the building… turned for home with my tail between my legs. More sleep and rest required.
gravel cycling at nighttime
Randy Andy the Irishman, currently on tip top form.
  • November 20, 2018 – About 10 riders and the pace on the dirt sectors was faster than the week before. Three riders, Ryan, Clayton and Nature Boy were absolutely drilling it. Their form was far above everyone else, to the point they crushed a long-standing Strava KOM by several seconds, and another by several minutes. As an FYI, I seldom upload to Strava… I don’t need everyone seeing what I get up to! I survived a little longer on this ride, but wisely cut it short with the elder statesman of gravel, K-Dogg. Chapeau to the lads on good form!
gravel cycling at nighttime
Suffering on the wheel of Randy Andy.
  • November 27, 2018 – Cool weather as in mid 30’s Fahrenheit saw a reduced attendance. Just six riders appeared. The tempo was hard but sustainable and no attacks. A good ride for me, and a sign that things may be turning around. It may be November 30 at the time of this article but I have a January event that requires me to have some semblance of form.
gravel cycling at nighttime
Suffering on the wheel of Ryan and others.
  • Next Tuesday – Fingers crossed my form is on the up and up!
gravel cycling at nighttime
K-Dogg, the elder statesman of gravel.

Riding long and steady miles year-round isn’t stellar for my top end fitness, but I cannot maintain superb fitness all of the time, and riding hard every time is no fun at all. So, what’s the story behind this posting?

gravel cycling at nighttime

If you feel fatigue, listen to your body. Ride easier, cut a ride short, take a long sleep, take a couple of days off or eat some food. No amount of hammering whilst you’re fatigued is going to see you through a bad spell. Keep it fun and keep it in perspective. Do something different, go kayaking! Nobody remembers a training ride champion, and in the world of gravel races, 95% of us don’t care about the gravel race results.

Thanks for reading.

JOM