I decided a couple of weeks ago that I would start playing soccer with a group of friends that holds weekly games on Sundays. I hadn't played soccer with any seriousness since high school, some 9 years ago. I used to be decent at it, and at least always had fun, so I was looking forward to using the games as cross-training. I have no races until next February or March, so why not?
Well, maybe the complete and total difference between the sports should have been warning. While aerobically I'm in fine shape, my legs haven't been subjected to any serious impact (like hard running and quick changes of direction) in years. Riding road bikes, as everyone knows, is a no-impact activity.
The first Sunday I played, I did well---but was horribly sore for several days afterward, of course. I took the first part of the week easy and then got back on the bike. The ride was strong and the soreness seemed gone. Last Friday I ran two miles in an effort to prepare for the next soccer game, and again felt very good.
Come Sunday (two days ago), I felt ready to really play hard at the soccer game. I was a little late getting to the field, though, and had to rush through my stretching routine as the team-picking had already begun when I got there.
Long story short, the second I ran onto the field, my left leg cramped up, sending lightning through the lower half of my body. I chalked it up to a lack of stretching and brought a sub in for myself as soon as I had a chance. I paced the sideline for a while, stretching and flexing in an effort to get the "cramp" out of my left leg, to no avail.
Being the genius that I am, I decided to shake off the growing pain and keep playing. Unfortunately, I felt submerged in water every time I tried to sprint or change direction, and missed several big plays that could have won the game for us much sooner (my team eventually won anyway...). The cramping just wouldn't go away.
After 80 minutes on the field, I realized I couldn't keep playing. I hobbled to the car and went home. As the day progressed, my left leg felt worse and worse, eventually reaching a point where I couldn't walk correctly or fully extend my knee. Something was wrong.
Yesterday I woke up feeling even worse, and spent the day lounging around the house in an effort to avoid walking, which caused serious pain in my left leg. My thigh was sore to the touch. When I got to work last night, I did a little Internet research on quadriceps injuries and realized that instead of cramping, I was suffering a grade 2 quadriceps strain---a pretty serious problem.
The recommendation is at least two weeks off the leg and out of athletic training, but as much as six weeks of recovery is sometimes needed. That's bad. That means that not only should I not try to play soccer again for a long time, but that I should stay off the bike as well. Luckily I have no immediate competitive goals. It's technically the start of the "off-season", so I can take the needed time off to recover knowing that I should be fine to begin my training regimen again in November for a peak in March. Hopefully I won't lose a lot of strength in my leg.
Next year, I only want one thing. I want Michael Rogers to have some real competition during next season's World Time Trial Championships. This is the third year in a row he's beaten a bunch of relative no-names for the title. Yay. No offense to Fabian Cancellara, but he's much better at shorter distances.
Not present, as usual, were actual time trialists like David Zabriskie, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong, Santiago Botero, Floyd Landis...the list goes on. Bobby Julich and Vino are solid against the clock, but they've had quite busy seasons. I'd imagine they're not at top form.
Anyway, it would be nice to see some actual competition next year. Too bad it won't happen.
It's obvious the season is winding down, because I'm having more and more trouble staying motivated. It's a mental struggle every day to get back on the bike. Luckily, when I do actually get off my butt and ride, I still feel strong and fit. I rode 50 miles two days ago like it was nothing.
That's a good sign.
It's still fairly hot here in Louisville, and I'm patiently waiting for beautiful Fall riding to start up. My regular Sunday group ride begins again in October, and I can't wait to enjoy slower, longer rides with my various buddies from around town. It will be a nice change from the fast and furious Summer months.
Now, back to lounging around the house for a while...
At the very end of this post, the Honorable Fat Cyclist can't believe that he weighs a whole pound-and-a-half less than he did the day before.
I don't know about anyone else, but my weight fluctuates wildly throughout the course of a normal day (and week!). When I wake up in the morning, I'm generally at my second-lowest weight of the day, somewhere around 155 (give or take a pound). Then, after the day's training ride, I reach my lowest weight of the day, a whopping 152 or 153. The rest of the day I spend eating carbohydrates and protein, in an effort to NOT look like a white Kenyan marathon runner. After I get home from work, just before I go to bed at 6:00 AM, my weight has increased to 158 or so. By the time I wake up at around 1:00 PM, I'm once again at 155. I consider 155 to be "my weight".
In the course of 24 hours, every single day of the year, my weight has a range of 6 to 7 pounds. Is this abnormal? It seems to work pretty well for me.
Hang in there, Mr. Fat, and learn to trust your scale again.
I know you're the greatest Tour de France rider in history, and I know, as an athlete, you're both gifted and dedicated. I know you hold the records for most Tour de France wins and most consecutive Tour de France wins. I also know that you're exciting to watch when you race, especially when you are able to dominate your competitors in the high mountain passes.
I know one other thing: you promised to retire. You went on and on about how you were done with it all and how you'd never return to road racing, no matter what. Now you're saying you "might" come back next year and you will "definitely" be training with the Discovery Channel team during the off-season.
I have only one thing to say, Lance Armstrong: FUCK OFF. I, as a fan of pro cycling, was looking forward to the first season in seven that the Tour de France would be an actual competition. I was anxious to see Ivan Basso battle for the win against some of the finest up-and-coming talent in years. Instead, I'll have to suffer through the inane, dim-witted and content-thin media frenzy that follows you everywhere you go these days. I'll have to endure another Lance Armstrong Ego Trip as you lash out against the French media for their attacks on your character. Great. While you jump into a pissing contest with a bunch of sensationalist, discredited media hacks, the sport of cycling will suffer. The Tour de France is not about YOU, Lance. It's about history. You've made your mark and retired at the very top---higher than all other famous winners ever did. You want to protect your legacy? Well, stick to your word then.
Ever since Katrina came through here, dumping about 3.5 inches of rain last week, the weather has been absolutely fantastic. The humidity has been low, the temperatures warm but tolerable, and the skies far less hazy than usual.
Subsequently, the riding has been excellent as well.
On Sunday I went to the races in the morning then hit the group ride in the afternoon. At one point I got separated from the front group and decided to go on a 5-mile chase at 26-28 miles per hour---solo. This chase also included a 1-mile climb of 175 feet at the end, which just about cooked me for good. However, I kept myself just under threshold, never blew up, and eventually caught the leaders with just a little strength to spare. All in all, a great ride.
Today, I did 40 miles of steady Zone 2 riding, including a 10-minute tempo interval at 25 miles an hour just to keep the legs strong. I felt great the entire time and averaged just under 20 miles an hour for the ride. There weren't many guys out today, so I did the whole thing alone.
I can't wait for next season to start. I'm confident that I'll accomplish my goals and move up through the ranks of the local racing scene. Let's hope the winter is mild this year so I can get some really good, long endurance rides in as I build for the spring. I really hate riding the hamster wheel.
Some photos I took from today's Labor Day Live crits in downtown Louisville...
All the pictures except for the last one were taken during the Masters 30+ race, and the last one was taken during the Cat 3 race. Unfortunately, there was no race for Cats 4 and 5, so I got left out. Oh well.
I took five days off the bike starting last Friday. The first three days involved a much-needed trip to Chicago with some friends, the last two days involved the remnants of a hurricane nobody wants to think about anymore. Since then, the weather has been glorious, the riding good and the fitness returning.
This weekend are the much-anticipated Labor Day Live races sponsored by Papa John's. Today are the road races (which I skipped going to see because of high gas prices) and tomorrow are the criteriums, held downtown on the waterfront. The crits should be really fun to watch, with big fields, big prizes and big finishes.
And speaking of Papa John, I rode with him (and three of his teammates) this week as part of a large, impromptu group of racers out on a steady training ride around Cherokee and Seneca parks. It's always a lot of fun when guys from local teams meet up to knock down a couple dozen miles together. If Louisville has anything, it has a pretty great community of racers.
"Road racing requires stamina, strength, mental focus and fortitude. But the rewards are huge and grow the more effort you put into it.
More and more men are discovering that riding a road bike can be the perfect counterpoint to our cosseted and quick-fix modern lives. We’ve become so used to instant gratification and sanitised pleasure that we have forgotten that the greatest highs come from the deepest lows, that there is a unique satisfaction from applying yourself totally, then seeing the results. From pain comes pleasure."