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01/21/10
Pushing Past The Dead Spot
Filed under: general, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 2:37 pm

As I’ve said before, momentum is a fickle mistress. Sometimes it’s emotional, other instances it’s physical.  In cycling, there are palpable moments when things slip easily through your grasp.  When it’s your brain, thoughts or attitude that betrays you, all you can do is try to recognize the patterns, the ease with which your will unhooks its fingers from the goal and learn to trick yourself past that crucial moment of choice.

Lies:
“Ease up”  “You’re going too hard”  “Too far to close it down” “You can’t sustain this” “Don’t try to climb with them”

One trick seems to be limiting the options. The singlespeed removes the choice.  It forces you to maintain momentum.  It lets you strip past the fluffy, brain-induced crap and give you nowhere else to go.  Nothing to do but pedal. Maybe that’s why I like it. 

Truth:
“Keep pedaling, it will get better.” - Kent Petersen

Kent, as usual, nails it. That simple sentence has gotten me past tough spots a number of times since I read it. The brain creates that Dead Spot - the place in the pedaling stroke where no one really puts in any power.  It’s how you move through that portion that separates folks.  And that’s always a helluva lot easily to write about than achieve.

And sometimes, it’s subtle.  The Dead Spot encourages you rest longer, take an extra break, lose track of what you are supposed to be doing. That’s where the Framework comes into play.  Back when prepping for my first brevet, one of the really helpful things that Jan Heine wrote was in his series of Randonneuring Basics which appeared in Bicycle Quarterly.  He wrote that having a written plan with both “goal” and “slow” times was a good idea. When things were ebbing away in 2008, seeing that I was still within the “slow” time was a mental lift in the last couple hours of riding.

You never know how things will go out on the road.  Flats, weather, road conditions, cattle grates - all sorts of unforseen variables even before you take the engine into account. I blew a tire off the rim in 2007 - never have I done that before in my life. The Framework gives you a plan, a direction, a timeline.  Then, when stuff happens, if you start pedaling squares for an hour or so, if you want to help another rider along for a bit, if the hot pizza at the Bovine Bakery calls, you’ve got a chance to adapt and mitigate.

It’s still raining today, though the patter on the roof is lighter and steadier than yesterday, which brought tornado warnings to the San Jose area, clattery hail to this neighborhood and produced some pretty danged impressive shower storms through the day. The neighbor’s cats are wicked pissed.  There’s an actual tideline of flotsam in the backyard from yesterday’s puddle. Even the dog is sniffing a little too carefully at the rug rather than heading to the back door to go out.

I got through the bike tech list last evening.  Discovered that the rear axle nut was actually loose, cleaned the grunge out of the chainrings, retrued both wheels, put new tires on (checking the bead veerrrrrrrryyyy carefully and then overfilling the tires to make sure everything was seated correctly) and got everything happy.  Measured the old chain at 12 1/8″, so swapped that out. Added a couple of reflective chevrons to the fenders, finally using the strips of 3M Reflective Tape which I’d bought from the RUSA store last year. (That stuff is reasonably tricky to play with, I’ve now learned…)  The bike’s pretty much set up at this point. 

Sketched out the Framework this morning over coffee.  Interesting to see that in 2007, I got to the Lighthouse 18 minutes slower than 2008, yet ended up finishing a little over an hour faster.

I’ll be running with a computer on the bike this time, which is a change from the last two events. It got me thinking about the ride from the standpoint of “rolling average” - data I haven’t really had access to until after the fact.   Since you have a known quantity of miles to cover, your actual average speed lets you know how long the riding time will be.  (Yeah, I know this isn’t higher mathematics, but I went through a bit of a data fast while riding over the last few years, and well, I guess I’m just reapproaching it now.)

To wit, on a 200K (13.5 hour time limit) actual riding time:
17 mph - 7:25
16 mph - 7:49
15 mph - 8:25
14 mph - 9:00
13 mph - 9:41
12 mph - 10:30

Therefore, TTFA (Time To Fart Around):
17 mph - 2:36 (10 hr finish)/1:36 (9 hr finish)/:36 (8 hr finish)
(Since 9 and 8 hour finishes are in my Realm of Magical Unicorns, we’ll focus on a 10+ hr finish)
16 mph - 2:11
15 mph - 1:35
14 mph - 1:00
13 mph - 1:19 (11 hr finish)
12 mph - 1:00 (11:30 finish)

We’ll see how that plays out, but I’m going to keep that info with me on the Framework sheet.  It probably means that in 2007, I was rolling around 14 mph, because I figured about 1:30 in break time.

Also in 2007, there was another phrase banging around my head, thanks to Finding Nemo.  It was Dory (Ellen Degeneres), melodically chanting

“Just keep spinning! Just keep spinning!…”

Which actually helped quite a bit. 

3 Responses to “Pushing Past The Dead Spot”

  1. beth h Says:
    When just pedaling doesn’t help, I’ve found that mumbling to myself in another language sometimes does. That’s how I got through 8 miles of false flats on my very first populaire. It was weird but it worked.
  2. The Cyclofiend Says:
    Ha! That’s a good tip. I’ll try that if need be. Thanks!
  3. Arleigh Says:
    I too repeated that mantra…still do