Thoughts On Long Bike Rides

What occupies your mind on long solo rides? I know I regularly get a feeling of flow, the time and miles just fly by and I find myself stunned when I look at my watch and realise I better head home.

This year I’d decided my main goal wasn’t a nice “SMART” goal but a rather vague one of just enjoy the training. This means I’m back to chasing my “Eddington Numbers” and riding long just for the sake of it. So what does occupy my mind?

First and foremost, of course, I ponder what to write in this column. In fact, only yesterday during a 236km ride it amused me for an unknown passage of the time the circular-ness of writing a column on my thoughts during a long ride and the thoughts being what to write a column about.

The next thing that occupies my mind is data. I have my computer showing various numbers. If I’m going well I find myself chasing averages – power or speed. I’ll start slow and then try and see it increase throughout the ride. This soon leads to mental arithmetic to determine just how fast or how high an average power I can get.

I also love to see “special numbers”. So for instance 12.34 km or 111.1 km. Setting your computer to metric helps these numbers tick over quicker giving far more options. Of course seeing these numbers with few decimal places is far more satisfying so 246.8km is rather rare and nice to see. I get a ridiculous pleasure out of seeing times of 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44 and 5:55 which always leads me to what is next in the sequence but by this time I’m too tired to work it out. Palindromes fit in to this category and I can get quite frustrated if I get distracted and miss a hard to get one. For instance yesterday I missed 233.2km.

When it comes to special numbers ascent is a great one to watch as it ticks up quickly. I like to see those mentioned already but with ascent there’s the added bonus of a range that looks like dates. There’s a certain point in a ride where I start to see ascent and it looks like a date. Sometimes when 1066 comes up but normally it’s not till I get to the 1900s. Depending on the ride this period can pass quickly or slowly but I always like to pass through the war years quickly before I get to spotting various friends and families years of birth. Then I hit my birthdate and I have a short period remembering periods in my life. It’s great if the ride hits a less hilly section here so it takes time to pass through recent years. Next its the future and imagining what the world will be like before the moment seems to pass around 2,100m.

If I get bored of numbers I put the world to rights. Since taking up triathlon my views on an awful lot of subjects have changed dramatically as has my way of life. I truly believe this is down to having time to think. Most people’s lifes are so full there is no time to just think things through. As triathletes we have the luxury of long bike rides so sometimes ride solo and let your mind wander. I think our various leaders would gain a lot if they could solo ride with their own thoughts rather than forever having ‘advisors’ and ‘lobbyists’ around constantly at their ear.

During yesterdays ride what occupied my mind was the announcement that Ironman St George is to become a half ironman. It’s a race I had in mind for future years not only because it was hard but also because it didn’t sell out immediately so you could decide quite late to enter. I’m sure these two facts are not unrelated and I’m pretty sure it’s almost certainly the real reason for changing it to a half. The official reason really amused me “… St George doesn’t work as an full-distance Ironman” referring to feedback from athletes. Was this feedback from athletes actually taking part? Would seem odd. It amused me because I started to think of what would happen if we always decided based on what the majority want. For starters would we have Ironman at all or even triathlon since I’m sure the majority of the population don’t want to race triathlon and the majority of triathletes don’t want to race Ironman. What next, Ironman UK becomes Olympic distance because it doesn’t work for most as an Ironman? Perhaps we’ll get shorter swims on some races. Luckily us Brits like tough courses so with luck Wales and UK will continue to be challenging courses.

I am being a little daft just because it amuses me as I ride but I really feel there’s a place in the Ironman schedule for some races that don’t sell out a year in advance, clearly this doesn’t work for a ‘for profit’ organisation but if only for once they’d put us consumers first, it’s certainly in our interests to have the odd race we don’t have to commit to a year in advance.

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