Andy Guptill has a girlfriend so he likes to finish training before her lunch break. That’s why I assumed he had already visited the gym or was already whirring away on his spin bike. Regardless, I called him up, because company would be a Godsend on this mid-forty degree rainy day. It surprised me when he answered. After a brief hesitation, he committed with his characteristic enthusiasm. I could almost feel phone nodding beside his toothy grin. “See you in twenty.” With that we ended our fair weather, carefree off-season and began our regimented, bullheaded ramp into next season.
My 2010 race season ended October 1st at the World Championships in Australia. For the next three weeks I got back on my bike only once for Levi’s Grand Fondo. I rode enough in November to tame my enthusiasm for next season, but not enough to prevent me from spontaneous vacations and staying up past 11 PM. Physical changes highlighted the mentality shift of this week. For example, I noticed my hair and fingernails growing faster. Now my metabolism worked overtime to recover so that I fell asleep sweating and find myself watching TV and breathing hard in lingering oxygen debt. I wake up hungry. I walk slower. Sometimes I’m grumpy like an addict having withdraws, endorphin withdraw. I’ll even start shrinking despite an extra brownie here and there. Now I have an obligatory 11 PM bed time. Andy said, “I tried to take a nap, and thought, wow, this pillow is really hot. Then I realized that I had a hot face.”
We were saturated in two hours. On each roller, yesterday’s five hour loop ached in my legs. I had picked a route with no available shortcuts, laying a clever trap for myself. After three and a half hours and a seven-mile stair step climb to the parkway, I thought I was a goner. I ate a bar and made it home, but could feel the effects while riding alongside Andy. The forecast called for heavier rain tomorrow, Wednesday, so we planned to watch Chasing Legends on DVD and ride trainers. Food dominates the end of most of our rides together. I couldn’t wait to blend a Muscle-Milk shake and drain it in a naked trance in the kitchen. That is living the dream.
On Thursday morning I rolled out my door at 9:26.
“Andy, my computer said, ‘28 degrees’ when I left.”
“Really? Mine said, ‘Pro!’”
At the end of most rides, just before the conversation turns to food, you’ll hear something like, “Dude, we’re going to be so fast next year. This is gonna make us so good.”
We stayed low where it was warmer and avoided serious climbing. As I had done on Monday, Andy entered new territory for this season after three and a half hours. The first long one is the worst. There comes a time before you’re home when your body decides that it should be finished. It confuses your perception of time. Fifteen minutes takes an hour. Then you notice a lump in your throat. Seriously? You are forced to laugh at your pitiful self. Then it becomes hilarious, and you creep home in a deranged state ready to undress in the kitchen and slam Muscle Milk. Living the dream. Andy never entered delirium, but I picked up on little signs- my front wheel always a few inches ahead, him dropping back for cars to pass, greater conversation lulls, and more talk of food. It was a good time to talk about how fast we were going to be.
The days of December and early January will be similar to this week, the eat, sleep, ride program. I’ll sip coffee and read until the frost melts, depart before eleven AM in order to make it home before sunset, have the afternoon free for “inactivities,” and appreciate that, at least for now, I have routine. If 2011 holds as many surprises as 2010, then I have to be ready for anything.