Culture

Phil Gaimon Journal: Not peaking

Phil Gaimon writes about winter training, which included a recent mountain bike ride that left him and his bike covered in mud



I’ve always lived in warm climates, where it’s easy to be consistent in the winter. For many years after I started racing, I really sucked, so winter was always the best time to make big improvements in my fitness. The only problem: if you’re doing the hard work in the winter, you generally peak in the spring. So I’d always come out swinging at the first local races. When I started to suck less, I’d win something early (San Dimas, Redlands, Merco), but even in the last couple of years, when I only sucked a little, I’d pay for my spring in May or June.

This year, with Optum p/b Kelly Benefits (as I understand it, p/b means “peanut butter”), I’m hoping to not suck at all. California is a big target, so the coach is holding me back. Instead of trying to improve my power in the winter, I’m improving my endurance, getting a real base. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been training. It just means I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym (only bicep curls and abs), and hours on the bike are more in the 250 watt range than the 400 I might have been chasing in the past.

I even went mountain biking once. My friend Stefano Barberi had been wanting to show me the trails in his neighborhood, and we selected the day that turned out to be the first rainstorm to hit Los Angeles in months. We both grew up in the southeast, where rain is no big deal, so we didn’t know any better. Here, the people aren’t equipped for any form of precipitation. The same way that an inch of snow can shut down a city like Atlanta, a few drops can cripple LA. Take a look at an overhead view of car accidents on a rainy day here, and you’ll see why I stick to the parks and bike paths. It’s something to do with slippery pavement. Or the people here are morons.

Fortunately, the trails in the rain were much safer, because it was impossible to go more than 10 mph (no idea what mph stands but, but I assume it’s delicious, spreadable, and comes in “crunchy,” or “creamy”). To make things even safer, mud quickly stuck to the wheels, clogged up the fork, and eventually made the wheels stop rolling. Try hurting yourself by crashing into soft mud at low speed. Can’t be done! In fact, it’s hard to crash at all when the mud holds your bike upright. We finally had to stop the ride, because the city of Austin called. They said it was too muddy, and we were going to damage their prized “heritage cactus.” (Too soon?)

The mountain bike is clean again, hanging on the wall, gathering dust, as any MTB (that stands for “MounTain Bike”) belonging to a roadie should, and I’m starting to do big boy rides again. For awhile, I was afraid that not going crazy in the winter would ruin my legs, but then I did my first big ride, and according to the old power meter, I’m going to be just fine. I think I won’t suck. More importantly, the primary goal was to not peak in January, and we’re about halfway through. So far, so good!