By Kevin Kolodziejski
After reading this article, someone else might recall my first one for RBR and accuse me of contradicting myself. But I believe that you, my friend, will not. That you’ll acknowledge the two seemingly disparate beliefs I present can indeed coexist.
In that first article, I wrote about how you and I are alike. That while the frequency, length, and intensity of our rides differ, we do them for the same deep-seated reason: to feel. That any worthwhile three-hour ride contains at least three weeks’ worth of emotions. And that it’s that compaction of emotion, that extra caffeination of life’s cup of coffee, that ultimately keeps us turning the pedals. While I still swear by that philosophy, I can’t dismiss the foremost fundament of toxicology — that it’s the dose that makes the poison — and the oh-so consequential caveat it includes.
The Dose That Poisons Me May Not Poison You
While that’s true for other sorts of life “rides,” it’s especially true for ones on the bicycle. But this difference doesn’t separate cyclists; it connects us. For even though we may take different paths on all our pedaling pilgrimages, we need to do the same to make the journey satisfying, productive, and safe: Stay away from Tipping Point.
Now Tipping Point isn’t a city, and Not Enough and Too Much aren’t its suburbs, but all three are still places you want to avoid. But doing so is easier said than done for the same reason it’s possible to place a frog in tepid water, increase the water temperature very, very slowly, and boil the oblivious amphibian to death.
I know that scenario sounds like urban legend and it’s explained as that all over the internet, but legitimate scientific experiments performed in Germany in the 19th century suggest the opposite. Those experiments serve to support this salient point: Subtle change is often hard to discern. And if subtle change follows subtle change that then follows subtle change, guess what, my friend? Your journey takes an unforeseen turn and you arrive in Tipping Point or one of its suburbs.
I know. I’ve mistakenly gone there many times, once when I thought I was headed to New York for a stage race — and a place on the podium.
From Boiled Frogs to Burned Legs
When I saw results from the Tour of the Catskills after the 2012 season, I knew I had missed out on a great opportunity. There was no criterium, my Achilles’ heel. The Friday time trial was relatively long and definitely hilly. Both Saturday and Sunday’s road races were exceptionally hilly. In fact, the Sunday 75-miler included the infamous climb from the 1990 Tour de Trump, Devil’s Kitchen — 1200 feet of climbing in 2.5 miles with sections that exceed a 22 percent gradient. Better still, the GC was determined on overall time, not points, which gave breakaways added gravitas.
I decided to make that stage race a 2013 racing priority.
So I did two intense climbing sessions each week in June, and they seemed to go well. My time trialing, whether it be in races or training, wasn’t adversely affected. But when I began to taper in July, something was awry. My legs felt flat, not refreshed. I had taken a wrong turn training, I feared, and ended up in Not Enough. After a two weeks of overall lethargy, I altered my plan and repeated the training week from June when I felt the best.
Sweet Success, Albeit a Week Too Early
It worked. In a relatively fast and flat circuit race that Sunday, I bridged up to a three-man breakaway the peloton decided was long gone and finished fourth. Better still, in a second race immediately afterward where I had planned to hang in the back, spin my legs, and occasionally do what I call “Polish motorpacing,” I caught another seemingly long-gone breakaway. We were safely away with two laps to go, though, when a puncture ended my day. Despite that, it’s accurate to say I was psyched for the stage race a week away.
It’s also accurate to say, regrettably, that I rode past Tipping Point either on that second ride Sunday or when I added a bit of intensity on Tuesday to a ride that was supposed to be the second of a four-day taper. Whatever the cause, I spent Wednesday and Thursday in Too Much when I needed to be in Recovery. So how did the three-day stage race play out after my foul up?
Not Really a Disaster, But . . .
I finished sixth in the GC behind five guys whose palmares clearly surpassed mine. Not the worst thing in the world, but because I had experienced that elusive, once-or-twice-a-season, extra juice the Sunday before that could’ve put me in the top three, it irked me to no end.
So let this story be a lesson to you. If you ever fear you’re not doing quite enough mileage or intensity, assuage that fear by doing just that little bit more, and it feels good, stop there. Recognize you’ve arrived in a town nowhere near Tipping Point, one called Good Place. Resist the urge to add a little bit more atop the little bit more or your next ride will take you to Tipping Point’s suburb of Too Much, which the locals call The Home of Boiled Frogs and Burned Out Legs.
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.