By Mike Burris, USA Cycling Coach
I remember when I started riding. It was about ten years ago. I had allowed myself to become an overweight, workaholic during my 20s and was in desperate need of exercise both to halt the weight gain and to reduce the stress. My lawyer at the time was a cyclist and he invited me to join his group for a ride one Saturday morning. Always one for a little competition, I accepted the invitation.
I showed up for the ride with my brand new Litespeed and shiny new Time bike shoes. The spandex was fairly tight with a significant amount of gut “overhang,” but I was ready nonetheless.
Out we went. The pace quickened. My breathing became heavy. Heavier. Holy #$^&! The gap between me and the rest of the group widened until I was way off the back. The group sat up and slowed the pace down for a little while allowing me to catch back on. This happened 3 or 4 times before I humbly gasped, “Boys, I ain’t ready for this.”
I rode by myself back to my car and collapsed. The sad thing was, I don’t think they were riding that hard at all compared to the average pace of rides these days. I will always remember that ride because it became my motivation to take training seriously. I never wanted that to happen again.
By the end of that summer I was fit and fast enough to put those guys into difficulty. I took great pleasure in being able to ride with that original group. I would use those rides to gauge fitness and continually motivate me to get faster.
Fast forward to today (10 years later). My team took a ride together yesterday, our first team ride of the year. Because I put the team together, I am highly motivated to do well. I have trained hard over the winter to ensure that I had good form going into the season. Not because I have a huge ego (okay I do) but because I know how motivating it can be to both drop, and be dropped by your peers.
We had a fantastic ride. 60+ miles with 3500 feet of up and down, no wind, and no clouds. Absolutely spectacular conditions for this time of year. I felt unbelievably good and I rode very well. My training was paying off. For me, the group ride was affirmation of this fact.
Every guy out there took something from that ride. Either it was motivation to beef up the training or affirmation that they were on schedule. You don’t get this kind of feedback riding by yourself all the time. As one rider put it, “When you ride by yourself you go hard when you want to. When you ride with others, you go hard when you don’t want to.”
As a coach, I know that it is important to not let group rides disrupt your training, especially if you are in the early base periods. However, fast group rides and races require a level of fitness that you will not get through solitary riding. The point is that you should use these rides or races to enhance your training, giving you the fitness and feedback you need to really get faster.
Seek out the most appropriate ride for you, one that will push you beyond what you thought you could do. If you get dropped, you get dropped. So what. At least you know. Then you can craft a solid training program that will ensure you don’t get dropped again.
Happy riding, mb
Mike Burris is the Director of Impulse CYCLEsport. Mike is a USA Cycling certified coach, the Training Director at epicPlanet.tv, and the Team Director of the Burris Logistics-Fit Werx Masters Racing Team. Mike always enjoys working with a variety of athletes. For more information go to www.impulsecyclesport.com