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Cycling for Sanity’s Sake

By: Garrick Valverde

I don’t believe we’re designed to live such easy lives. Yes, this is a cycling blog. Hold tight for a minute while I ruminate about our existence.

You’ve got it good. How do I know that? I know that because if you’re reading this, you have access to the Internet. That access makes you already ahead of half the planet. If you have a home or an apartment and are then reading this without freezing your fingers off (talking to my Midwest people, halla), you are above the nearly 2 billion people on the planet who live in an unstable housing situation. Also, it’s 2017. Have you ever had strep throat or an ear infection? A century ago, you could have died from it, or if you were lucky, your ear infection would only spread to your brain. So if you have recently posted on Facebook about how terrible 2016 was for you, please make sure and find someone who’s dying of a terminal disease, or fighting in a war, or living in war conditions (cough cough, Syria), and share that post to their Facebook page as soon as you get a chance. Of course we all have our problems. If I’m coming off as belittling, I don’t mean to. Some problems are very much real, but let’s be honest, some are very much not. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I believe cycling holds the antidote. Cycling, for me (and I’m going to make the leap that it is for you as well), provides a means of stepping out of our problems and occasionally seeing that they weren’t really problems to begin with.

As cyclists, we have a unique perspective. We see the angry drivers. We see the man flipping off a group of cyclists in colorful spandex dressed like Peter Pan. We see the people who risk our lives by not waiting to pass us until the oncoming traffic has cleared. We see the curse of our modern lives: the curse of a life that’s too easy. When there aren’t real problems, people tend to invent them. The issue of invented problems, I believe, can be traced back to a kind of biological neglect.

Now, I’m no biologist, but I’m going to speak like I’m one anyways. We’re designed to have to fight for our survival. We’re designed to have conflict because for hundreds of thousands of years everyday existence was physically and emotionally hard. As a result, we carry the badass biological drives past on from our ancestors that allowed them to survive. That biology, not to mention intellect, has brought us a long way. We have striped toothpaste, for example, and bikes made of woven plastic that can be ridden as fast as horses run (I’ll be honest, I had to look up how fast horses run). Yet when our badass biology isn’t satisfied, it turns against us.

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Scott’s only life problem at this moment is that his bike is lying on its drive side. If only he had the energy to fix that…

Cycling is our antidote. It satisfies the biological disposition that craves physical challenge. On the bike, we make ourselves uncomfortable on purpose. This is real discomfort, not discomfort from sitting in a desk. This is discomfort that hurts so much it rips us from our made up problems and removes us from the modern world. This is discomfort from chasing a gazelle. Ya you read that right, a gazelle. We’re in Africa now, and you’re not getting dinner (aka protein shake) unless you complete the next three sets of intervals! Oh, and you don’t live in a country of 350 million, you live in a tribe of your select riding mates who meet up at 9am when it’s 30 degrees out and prowl the countryside for 4 hours. The tribe regularly discusses the annual return of battle in the spring. You sharpen your weapons and master your skills and fitness. You study the enemy, stalk them on Strava, and give them kudos that are actually passive aggressive and really mean “nice, but you’re still going to lose”.

Okay, okay you’re back in America now. While winning the local race or even a big regional race isn’t ultimately that important, and frankly it will impress virtually no one outside the cycling world, what is important is the sanity we gain, and the perspective from being so uncomfortable we can truly enjoy our comforts. After all, there’s nothing like drinking cold water after a 90 mile hot road race or coming home to a warm house after freezing for several hours riding. We ride, among of course many other reasons, to not be driven mad by this modern world. We ride our bikes over to our friend’s houses like we did when we were kids. We’re adults now, but we still play and we still explore. We suffer daily on our bikes not as masochists, but as human beings who need to calm our badassness, less it spirals out of control and we wind up being the guy flipping off a stranger dressed like Peter Pan.

The Olathe Subaru presented by Scheels tribe! 4+ hours of suffering on the bike will, without a doubt, bring a group of teammates closer. (Shadd for some reason seemed unaffected by the 110 mile road race, however)

Mid January Arkansas Team Camp Recap

We’re a little late posting this, but here is a recap of the trip we took down to Arkansas a few weeks ago.

As mentioned, a few weeks ago we joined GP Velotek on their annual training camp in Arkansas. The trip takes place over MLK weekend so quite a few people can swing getting away for a longer weekend. We took full advantage of the long weekend, and left Thursday morning for a five day training block.

Thursday afternoon we rolled in to Fayetteville around 1. We didn’t have too long of a route planned, but we still rushed around so we could enjoy the warmest part of the day. Scott, as usual on any of our travel weekends, had memorized all of the routes for us and took us on a loop that previewed the NWA Classic course. For the most part we kept the pace nice and steady just to open up the legs for the rest of the weekend.

Some pre ride reading

Some pre ride reading

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Friday we woke up early for breakfast, and then spent the rest of the morning anxious to hop on our bikes. Quite a few Velotekers rolled in that morning and were excited for the 60ish mile loop around Fayetteville. The temperatures had risen slightly from Thursday, which had everyone pretty excited. Coming from the 20-30 degree weather we had here in KS in late December/early January, it was incredible to enjoy some temps in the high 50s. There’s something about that first winter ride that people are able to do in just shorts, jersey, and maybe baselayer that gets people really excited. Every stop ahead or town sign momentarily turned the ride into a 500 m race.

Gravelly goodness

Gravelly goodness

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Saturdays route previewed the Hogeye loop of Joe Martin Stage Race. This was the first day we would do some serious climbing and most everyone took it easy for the first 20 miles or so before reaching the first steep climb of the loop. Once we hit the wall, the attacks started to go and was the first real race pace efforts any of us had done for the year. The rest of the day was pretty much the same, being fairly easy until the climbs, where we’d then split into select groups and push it a little bit. The route was a little over 70 miles at a pretty decent pace and weather in the low 60s! Our first big goal of the season is Joe Martin, so it was good for us all to get a little recon in, and test our climbing legs.

Chilling at the bottom of Devil's Den

Chilling at the bottom of Devil’s Den

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Saturday night we traveled further South to Mt. Magazine and stayed in the cabins there. Mt. Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas, and has some incredible riding. Sundays route took us to Mt. Nebo which is a 2.5 mile climb averaging close to 10%. The ride was easy up until this point to keep everyone’s legs fresh. Once we arrived at the climb, Garrick and Benn hit it hard to make a selection. Ian and I tried to match the pace, but couldn’t quite match it on the switchbacks, so we backed off. Kent and Scott took a different approach, starting off nice and steady to avoid cracking before reaching the top. Garrick smoked his own time of 15min from last year making it up in 14:40, Benn and I reached the top in just over 16, Ian and Kent were about a half a minute behind that, and Scott the sprinter killed it in a little over 18min. We took it moderately easy for the rest of the day, having a headwind on the return trip to the cabins. In Danville, we decided to tack on a little more mileage to the route so we could get a century in. The ride was solid, but one of the best parts was the slow climb back up Magazine while the sun was setting. For a mid-January ride, we couldn’t have asked for much more.

A very casual spin up Magazine

A very casual spin up Magazine

 

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On Monday we decided to do a loop around Mt. Magazine, which is a nice 60ish mile route that goes into Magazine and Paris. It was another gorgeous day, but we were pretty tired from the previous four days and were also dragging knowing we had to drive five hours immediately after finishing the ride. Other than a couple of townline sprints, the ride was pretty mild and enjoyable. When we reached the climb to go back up the mountain, we all took it at our own pace. Scott went ahead, while the rest of us stopped to shed some clothing. After about 20 minutes of climbing, Ian and I picked it up a bit in an effort to catch Scott, while Garrick and Benn decided to enjoy the scenery and take the climb more casually. Scott was able to hold on to beat us all to the summit, showing some impressive climbing form. We grabbed some quick leftovers at the top of the mountain, and got on the road pretty quick to head back to KC. The week ended up being about a 20 hour, 300ish+ mile week.

Before climbing the backside of Magazine

Before climbing the backside of Magazine