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Valve.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

 

Desktop with training journal.

Springtime. It is like passing through a valve.

I keep meticulous records of my training. It is downloaded from GPS units, heart rate monitors and wireless cyclocomputers. Every heart beat is documented, stored, logged. For some reason it seems to make the training more valuable, as if I have to prove to myself I actually did it. There is some value to the information of course; I know how long I can ride at my anaerobic threshold, how long it takes to recover from a maximum effort. I can tell when I can go hard and when I can’t. I know when I’m in shape, and when I’m not. It shows on graphs and plots and in the numbers.

So I keep track of all of it. I used to just write it down, before there were computers and GPS units and downloadable heart rate monitors. I have the log books from when I was 20 years old, from over 20 years ago. They are neatly arranged at home on a book shelf. Now it whirls around on hard drives and in micro chips. It flies through the air on wireless networks, infra-red or through USB 2.0 ports. I print it out and put it in a notebook. The notebook is thick.

When I look at the 55 week chart there is a space during December and January. There always is, every year since 1988.

I usually take some kind of a break during December and January, and I hate it. I despise the version of myself that emerges from the other side of December and January.

In January I look in the mirror and see myself as soft and white. I don’t like that. I look pale, pasty and weak. I don’t look ready. I look sick.

When I was a kid I was terribly fat and I don’t have fond memories of my childhood. When I was 15 I had to pass through a valve and emerge out the other end a different version of myself. Actually, it wasn’t a different version. It was a new person; the person I wanted to be. Since then I haven’t looked back. There is no reason to. But in January when I look in the mirror, for a moment I start to see that kid coming back.

So I get back in the valve.

It is not easy to enter the valve. I know I belong there and I know I will come out the other end much better, but it is hard to start. Nothing comes easy. All I remember is that in July it was easy to go 25 mph on my bike for ten minutes. When I enter the valve it takes everything I have to do it for one minute. But when I pass out the other end of the valve in a couple months I am back: As strong as I can be, lighter, fitter, smaller.

Passing though the valve can hurt, especially at first. I often have concerns that I won’t make it back again. That I will never see those numbers again- lose the weight, pick up the speed and strength and endurance, see my resting heart rate plummet. But it always does come; it just takes time and work. And discomfort.

It was 48 degrees today. Extremely windy too, gusting to 28 mph We rode to the Island of Grosse Ile about 17 miles from here, did a lap of the Island and battled the wind on the way back.

Two lines on my computer screen show the ride today. One line, the red one, shows heart rate. The blue line shows speed. At 1:24:28 into the ride the red line touched 174 heart beats per minute. It stayed there for seven minutes and fourteen seconds. As it did the blue line danced around 28 mph: 27.6, 28.1, 27.8, 28.0…. After seven minutes and 14 seconds the red line hit 188 beats per minute and it was time to back off. Both lines point to the bottom of the screen right there.

And for the fist time in sixty-six days I can see the other end of the valve.

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© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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