How Distant Road Biking Prepared Me for the Pandemic
February 17th, 2021
Update from NASL member Tim Ward:
Road biking became my thing in 2018. The year prior I had purchased an entry level carbon fiber road bike and wrote my own training regime. I thoroughly enjoyed the physical workout, but more so the mental aspect. So, in early 2018 I hired a cycling coach and, as they say at the casinos, I’ve been “all in” ever since.
In season, I work out 7 days a week, off season, 5 to 6 days per week. Having a coach accelerated my conditioning, so the summer of 2019 I tried my legs in a 150km/93.3 miles ride and two century (100 miles) rides.
In the 150km race, I went out with the leaders for the first 8 miles before dialing it back. I then road with a small group the last half of the race and finished strong having learned I could go the distance with energy to spare.
Using my 150km experience, I set a target pace and time for my first century ride. Again, I started out solo, but just a few miles in, came upon another solo cyclist who was a number of years older than myself. I held back my pace having decided to go the entire ride keeping him company. We had a great ride together, but I didn’t hit my target pace.
As the final century ride of the season approached, my plan was to put into action the lessons learned from the first two rides. But mother nature had other plans. I’m used to the wind coming off Lake Michigan because I put in most of my road miles in Leelanau County, the location of this race. But the day’s winds were ridiculous, some of the strongest I ever encountered. What really threw off my plans was the wind blowing in three directions, yes, three.
After literally cursing the wind for a couple miles, I admitted Mother Nature was in charge of the ride that day, not me. Achieving my target pace was impossible, so I chose a new goal – to persevere and finish a solo ride (no groups to connect with, others were too slow or too fast) and prove to myself I could push through the winds myself for 100 miles.
The elements of distance road biking include preparation, short and long-term tactics, and effort. It can also involve team aspects if riding with a group, but mostly it requires a significant individual effort with a lot of physical and mental grit.
When the pandemic hit, just like the radical winds on the Leelanau race, I found myself drawing on some of the same mental skills of distant riding to effectively work my way through the pandemic. 2020 was not going to be the year I had planned for MLC and the team.
While the threat level of wind and coronavirus are obviously very different, and 100 miles is much shorter than the 12 months of virus, it is surprising how totally disconnected life experiences can all of a sudden produce common meaning and transportable lessons.