Breathe. Recover. Drink.

I’ve had a tough summer on the bike. I’d like to say it was the extreme south Louisiana heat (July was the second hottest on record), but really it was the old combination of not riding enough, not doing enough of the right kinds of riding, not eating right, and lack of confidence.

Last week I was on an easy ride with some hammers. I was doing ok until I wasn’t, which has been the story all summer. I hit my limit and just collapsed–off the back and left to finish the last 10 miles at 16 mph with short bursts of something resembling a respectable speed. While I was feeling good I had some time to think. I had just tucked back in line after taking a pull, which had followed a bit too soon after chasing  the lead two riders out of corner.

As  sat in, I patted myself on the back for not blowing up on the front and told myself to recover and relax. I reminded myself to breathe. After a few good deep breaths while telling myself to breathe, I told myself to recover and then reminded myself to drink. These three words–Breathe, recover, and drink became my mantra for the rest of the ride. As the pace slowly picked up on the way to the turn around, I kept telling myself, breathe, recover, and drink. It worked more or less until I did a stupid thing and rolled up to the front when Keith, the college kid I’m trying to teach how to race bikes, didn’t quite keep the pace when Jonathan, the college kid I did teach how to race, picked up the pace in the last 500 meters. Despite being within sight of the turn around, I was stupid and rolled up to the front and spiked my heart rate. It wasn’t a fatal mistake, but given the heat and the quick turn around, that stupid move set me up for getting dropped 8 or so miles down the road.

As we headed back, the pace picked up. The easy ride wasn’t quite as easy. Sure no one was attacking and the pace increase was done slowly, but I was starting to feel the pace. All the way to the turn onto Sanchez, I keep telling myself, breathe. Stay on Clark’s wheel, just a bit more until the turn, and a bunch of other positive bullshit. It worked sorta. And then once we made the turn, I forgot about breathe, recover, drink. Sure I slowed and tried to recover and I did drink as we waiting to make sure everyone made the turn–there was a bit of traffic, I didn’t really believe it. I drank, but didn’t recover. Instead I focused on how I knew if Clark kept the pace, I’d be cooked. Instead of picturing the blinking stop head sign that signals the end of the ride, I started picturing the turn off of Sanchez. Or the convenience store just past there. Telling myself not breathe, recover, drink, but just make it to the turn. Just make it Mike’s. And off course that’s what I did. I made it to the turn off of Sanchez and pulled out from behind Clark. Instead of breathing, recovering, and drinking, I let the line of eight hammers roll past me. I didn’t even try to get back in line.

And then I pedaled back at 15 and then 16 mph. And then as I was coming out of the Cabin Curve I saw Joey’s blinking headlight. I got in my drops and picked up the pace. And then there was Clark making a uturn. I got on his wheel. We rolled to the blinking stop head sign at 20 mph.

And then I got home and did the Strava upload. And yeah. I was bit gassed on Sanchez. But not that gassed. I could have recovered. Clark would have dropped the pace back to what we said we were going to do as we rolled out of the parking lot. But instead, I gave up.

Breathe. Recover. Drink.