The Late Summer Burnout
This weekend my buddy Will asked me, “What’s up with the blog man? I haven’t seen anything new in a while.” I thought it was just me being lazy. I’ve been kind of busy and not putting much time into this brand new project that I started…but it turns out there is more to it than just that. Anyway, here I am, this post isn’t just to humor Will but his asking was certainly a good reminder that maybe I should do some more writing. It’s cool to know that people are actually interested in reading my content.
I wanted to write a blog about RAGBRAI this year but I sat down to start typing and I just couldn’t tell the story. RAGBRAI is typically the highlight of my summer. It was up there this year but the overnight towns were big, the sheriffs were far pushier, and the concerts were further away each night. It just didn’t feel like the other RAGBRAI’s I’ve been on. It didn’t feel like like 20,000 people cramped into a town of 3,000 with buses and tents in every yard. It was just too spread out to feel like home. To compound matters, I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in and I was still hindered during the week.
This year I’ve already put on more miles than I have during any other full year, and it’s only August. I’ve also put on almost twice as much climb as I have during any other full year. My legs have felt as strong as ever and my heart rate has been recovering faster than it ever has. You’d think that would be a recipe for a giant push to end the summer gravel season but it’s turned into quite the opposite. You see, long hours in the saddle can be a double edged sword. Without going into too much detail I have been fighting some pain in the nether regions. Chafing, saddle sores, whatever you want to call it, it’s quite literally a pain in the ass. It makes putting in hours on a bike seat one of the last thing you want to do. I’ve taken a few days off to heal, done a few runs to stay moving without making things worse, and hit a few shorter rides to keep the legs in motion but the overall feeling is this: I’m getting burnt out and I’m in uncharted territory as far as biking goes, personally. Because of this, biking has been tough to do lately and so has writing about it.
It’s so frustrating to have your legs and lungs be in the best shape they’ve ever been and still have your body hold you back from your best. It is really hard not to get worn down from that feeling. Staying motivated since RAGBRAI has been one of the toughest cycling hurdles I’ve faced so far. Gravel Worlds is in Lincoln, NE this weekend and it is going to be harder than any other race or ride I’ve done so far in life. While I’m pumped to be in the field of competitors, these last two weeks have been a test of my will. It’s been tough to be on a bike.
I set out last night to cover a nice 55 miler as my last long ride before next weekend. Things were going well and I was feeling pretty good. Midway in, I hit a level B road. I had mapped out this route last week when we hadn’t had heavy rain in a while. Yesterday morning it rained 3” and I forgot about the dirt road on this ride. I got to it and couldn’t find another road around. I decided to push/carry my bike through this mile of mud. It was actually 87/100ths of a mile if I’m being exact and honest but at that point what’s the difference. It was hot and humid and sweat was pouring off of me. After a good 40 minutes of push the bike, swear, remove mud from the nooks, swear, carry the bike, swear, stop to catch my breath, drink water, swear one more time, and repeat; I finally made it back to gravel. I was basically out of water and covered in mud. I made it 15 more miles after that but eventually had to call my girlfriend to come save me. My legs were torched, my head hurt, and I was severely dehydrated. It was a storybook ending to my last two weeks of struggle.
Things will change this week. My body is healing and feeling better each day. I’m going to take this week nice and easy with only one longer ride in the mix. I hope I am back to late season form by Saturday morning. My primary goal is to finish the full 150 miles. I’ve never ridden that far or done as much climb as I am expecting to do in a single ride, so just completing it will be an accomplishment. However, I’m a competitor even if only against myself and I’d love to finish in under 10 hours. Even as burnt out as I’m feeling, I know crossing that finish line will light up the fire again. I just have to make it there.
Unfortunately growing as a cyclist isn’t all hero dirt, freshly paved asphalt, and washboard free gravel. There is a struggle that comes with pushing yourself to places, distances, and heights you’ve never been. My first summer of riding hard and racing harder has been a testament to that. The highs have been far more common than lows, but the lows still occur. I’ve got two more gravel races and then a welcome break from the endurance biking when cyclocross season finally ramps up. If you’ve been through this before, hit me with some advice. How do you beat the late summer burnout and what tips do you have for Gravel Worlds? Cheers my friends.
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