Speed: the Darker Side

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The inner competitor in my wants to go fast. Really fast. My goal is to keep up with the racers who train on my regular routes. They seem to average about 21 mph on the flats, and can smoke me on the hills.

I currently can maintain a nice pace at 17 to 18 mph on the flats (in the top 2/3 of the ride, anyway), and tend to average about 16 mph on the ride as a whole (including up hills at 10 to 12 mph, and down hills at 25 to 40 mph).

Of course its always easier to go faster during a group ride than by myself, and on a shorter ride than on a longer one. On such rides, I can top out at 18 to 19 mph, if I really push myself.

While I’m looking forward to the challenge of achieving my speed goal (and will post on how I plan on achieving it), I wanted to take a look at why I wanted to achieve that goal.

First, I’m naturally competitive in athletics; when I try something, I want to be best at it. However, this cuts both ways. Its good to get me motivated to keep trying, but mentally I don’t like competition, always preferring cooperation. Because my nature and my mind are at odds, I can convince myself to turn away from an activity when I think I’m getting too fierce. (For instance, when I was younger, I once ripped a basketball out of the hands of a coworker, and felt so bad about it that I never played basketball again!)

Second, I am really only as good as I am. That means riding with superior riders will only get me so much of a boost — I’m not the sort of rider who can push himself to the limit. This can be discouraging, especially when riders who I thought weren’t as good smoke me on hills, or pull out of a straightaway barely panting.

Third, I hate the idea of being a show off, but can’t help it! When I ride with my mates, the inner beast wants to be the first to the next rest stop, and I have to tame him. Part of the point of the ride is the group effort, riding together for fun and companionship. Another part is exercise, so I do like to get my heart rate up. Its a delicate balance to get the right ride in.

The AIDS Lifecycle will challenging at 7 days and 545 miles. Getting up to speed will take a lot of effort, but remembering why I’m there in the first place (for fun and to be a supportive team member) will also be challenging.

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