No, really…

I decided to ride across the US many years ago. I actually made it real the day I got the approval for a leave from work. I decided to “rest”, so to speak, until January 1 and then start training. The plan was to have my employer give me a free membership to their health club to train. I chose not to ask that.

I thought I’d join a health club in my neighborhood, with the idea that I’d work on a leg press machine to build leg strength and spend hours on a spinning bike. The club at my community center didn’t have the equipment I wanted and I didn’t feel like giving my money to a for-profit health club.

So, about the same time as I started writing this blog I started to train. The first month was mostly core stretching and strengthening. I used a timer and plankgradually increased the amount of time I could spend in a plank, to the front and to each side. I did crunches. I did a lot of spine stretching. If I’m going to sit in one position for hours, my back and neck should be strong and loose. I added hamstring and quad stretches. I held those stretches for a minute each. Then I moved to the stairs and did toe raises (both as Achilles’ tendon stretches and as strengthening.)

About the time the Olympics came on TV I brought out my trainer. Years ago I bought a bike trainer while recuperating from an injury (work-related, not bike-related) that kept me off my bike (or at least off the road) for months. I rode in my living room because I could only use one arm. The trainer then sat in the basement for years, as I’d rather get somewhere when I ride. I’m riding the trainer on my Davidson, (or see here) as it was neglected all last year while I rode the new bike.

During the Olympics I would warm up spinning nice and easy, then start ramping up. I would do intervals during commercials. I’d rest, spinning easy during the next event, 20crosscountry-blog-blogSpanthen another hard interval during the next commercial. I’d mix it up, some days going hard for the duration of a downhill racer’s run, then resting. The cross-country ski marathons meant going hard and steady for a long time. Some days I would gradually ramp up – no hard intervals, just gradually harder gears and higher cadences. Then a long cool down.

When the Olympics ended, I used other long things – I watched an 8 part Grateful Dead movie on the bike. I’d watch or listen to an entire concert on the bike.

I tried a spinning class (because it was free). It was worth the price I paid, but I did work hard enough to be sore the next day.

When bike clubs started up in the spring I rode with them. My usual Wednesday Night Bike Rides and Sunday rides with the Bombay Bike Club. (I work on Saturdays.) My first WNBR was April 11 and first Bombay ride wasn’t until Sunday, April 29. April 29 and 30 I rode back-to-back days for the first time (~85 miles total). Then I remembered that the year I rode the Death Ride I had done my first century by the end of April.

On days I didn’t feel like riding (or it was raining or snowing) I went back to floor exercises to maintain core strength and flexibility. Will it be enough? (For my body? for my mind?) Stay tuned! If I go down in flames, you’ll all know!

How does one train to ride across the US?

I’ve been asked to write a post about my training. I had thought about that before and thought it would be boring. I was urged to write it anyway and make it not boring.

Obviously, you don’t train for this by doing it. No one completes an Ironman as training for an Ironman. You don’t ride across the US to train to ride across the US. Still, you have to do something to put yourself in a position to succeed.

You don’t focus on a result. I once went through a long and intensive workshop focused on getting through it. I treated it as an ordeal. The best I can say is I survived it. I had to do it again to actually do the workshop. I don’t want to arrive at the Atlantic Ocean only to say I made it. Turning the cranks for 80 miles per day for 55 days of riding requires enjoying that process. If I never coasted, I’d turn the cranks about 1.5 million times.

Most of us go to work every day. Do we enjoy what we do? My dad used to say, “It’s not supposed to be fun. That’s why they call it work.” After he retired, he said, “Don’t waste your time spending 8 hours a day doing something you don’t enjoy.” I think he finally learned something.

Training the mind is harder than training the body. Emotional weakness is probably a bigger impediment than physical weakness. Being vulnerable seems to be a key. I can’t fake it for 2 months. The possibility of not making it is there. I know I have never learned anything I already knew. That sounds obvious, but not knowing, being open to possibility, is the only route to growth I have found.

How to have fun? (Duh…remember, I’m doing this for fun.)


That’s one answer. R. Crumb’s Mr Natural approaches doing the dishes as a chore. He then enters a state where he is just doing the dishes. He later gets into it, scrubbing that pot to be sure it’s clean. Pretty soon he is whistling, and he ends up taking pleasure in looking at the sparkling glass and acknowledges a job well done.

If you’re going to work 8 hours a day, you might as well want to be there. It makes it a lot more enjoyable than not wanting to be there. Wanting what you have, in my experience, brings a lot less pain and suffering than wanting what you don’t have.

My son used to grumble about his homework. Once, in about 5th grade, I asked him how long it took to do an assignment. He gave an accurate assessment. Then I asked him how long he spent agonizing over it before he started. He gave another pretty accurate assessment. I didn’t need to say anything else.

Next time – really, how do you train to ride across the US?