By Kevin Kolodziejski
Doing the research for my last article, “Cycling Aerodynamics: Going Aero Without Going Broke,” also led to some easy pedaling down memory lane. Back to a time when I’d get even more excited about an upcoming time trial than adding the treats to my supper I’d allow myself when a training ride for the time trial went especially well. On those nights, I’d top my egg-white omelet with three tablespoons of no-sugar-added ketchup and squirt my steamed Brussels sprouts with a 44-percent vegetable-oil spray at least 10 times.
I recalled a serious screw-up during the warm-up before a time trial I wanted to win so badly that I had driven three hours round-trip to recon the course twice. I’ll share the story of the warm-up screw-up because it starts with something we all do too much and ends with something we should do more.
At a distance of 20 rolling miles, including a 42×21-type climb of maybe 150 meters, the Doubling Gap Time Trial certainly didn’t suit the pure-power TT guys who had been humbling me on pancake-flat courses. During each of the three prior racing seasons, I had won several races, mainly time trials. This year, though, I never stepped beyond the second tier of the podium after any race. The season was ending soon. It was put-up-or-shut-up time.
Not the time to get lost warming up.
I was feeling better than a Deadhead hearing “Touch of Grey” during a second encore. Maybe that’s why my thoughts were elsewhere as I made turn upon turn and cranked the pace up. About the time true panic set in, I saw an elderly woman weeding her garden. The time trial course used Route 997 for a bit, so I asked for directions to get back to that road. But I was half out of my mind and only later realized that I had misspoken. I asked for directions to the exit I had used to take a bathroom break off of Interstate 78, Route 696.
“My, you’re quite a ways away,” she replied, “25 miles or so.” Before she could say more, I pedaled away crazed. My legs felt so good. The aero position so right. And it would all be wasted. There was no way I could make it back in time. So I reset my cycling computer, harnessed my rage, and started my own time trial right there in the middle of god-knows-where.
After about 30 minutes, I saw a church I had passed prior to panicking. In another 10, I was back at my car. A buddy pinned my number, and I made my start time with a minute or so to spare. As I heard the countdown, I became as adrenalized as a pure-power guy surging past the bunch to barely win the race.
Which I did, by the way. With 16 seconds to spare. But how?
It was not merely a matter, as the late, great cycling commentator Paul Sherwen used to say, of turning myself “inside out” — though that’s what happened to my insides. On my drive home, I took detour after detour to whatever fast-food restaurant was closest to the exit ramp. Not once though for a burger and fries.
Now an earlier draft provided all the down-and-dirty detour details (as well as kudos to Burger King franchisees for such clean facilities), but driving with stomach cramps, dry heaves, and diarrhea is not the previously mentioned “something” we don’t do enough. So those sentences needed to go. (And, yes, the poor potty pun was intended.)
What we need to do more of — whether we’re washing dishes, talking to a neighbor, or riding a bicycle — is stop speculating about the future or pondering the about the past and be fully in the present moment.
During that time trial, I was. In fact, you could say I got totally lost in it. But getting lost in the present moment also led me to getting lost in mid-central PA about an hour before. So what’s the difference between the one and the other?
You know those times when you drive your car for miles and can’t recall doing so? That’s known as going on autopilot, and during that time you’re thinking about everything else except the drive? When you’re totally in the present moment, you think of nothing else but the drive.
If you do less of the former and more of the latter while on the bike — or the job or the vacation or even the phone — you’ll get more out of every single experience, including those rides when you feel less than motivated. Do so when you have good energy and great legs, and you might even experience a too-good-to-be-true ride like the one I just shared.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.