But if I don't post, don't send me angry emails, death threats, or worse yet subscriptions to the Primal Wear jersey-of-the-month club. With that bit of administrative business out of the way, let's get on with today's post.
Intervals, zones, repeats, efforts, watts and kilojoules. As I understand it, these terms have a great deal of meaning to most cyclists. They train, they race, and they enjoy doing both. At least I think they do, even if their permanent frowns (and their lack of waving back at you) say otherwise. Speaking of units used to measure things within cycling, I would like to propose that we all start using the sheer size Cipollini's head as a new measurement unit. As in:
"I got a proper bike fit last week, it turns out that my saddle height should be three Cipollinis (CNs), not two and a half."
If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at the image below. The innocent bystander on the left (not, that's not me...I'm roughly the height of the average sixth grader) has a normal sized head, while Cipollini has something atop his torso that resembles one of the massive stone figures on Easter Island. Think about it, that extra amount of cranial protuberance was probably his winning advantage in most races where a photo-finish was needed. The guy was physically predisposed to win from birth.
It's a good thing Cipollini is now retired, because his head is so astonishingly lengthy for its diminutive width that I doubt the UCI would allow it, since it clearly violates the 3:1 ratio rule. It's for this very reason that Sarah Jessica Parker has failed to break into the top ranks of cycling, since her facial structure also violates the 3:1 rule, while looking like a size-13 foot. Before you leave a comment saying that I'm being cruel, let me remind you that even Google agrees with me.
Yes, it's a real screen shot. In case you're wondering, other options that Google offered were "...looks like Dee Snyder", "...looks like a witch", and my favorite "...looks like a boiled horse".
But let's get back to numbers, and their deep meaning to those how train and race (versus people like me who simply ride and ride). I admire these people, and their commitment. Racing is something I haven't done, but perhaps will do one day. I'm not sure if that day will ever come though, because there are significant differences between me and those who race, differences that I believe simply can't be resolved. One of these differences is so significant that I'm devoting this entire post to it (that's not saying much, since I pretty much devoted an entire post to the fact that a filling came out of my tooth not long ago). The difference I'm talking about is huge, and its something I keep track of like others track their power output. What am I referring to?
I take naps during my rides.
Yup. I nap, and I'm not using the word "nap" as a euphemism for something else. I mean it literally. I stop, I lay down, and I sleep. It's fantastic, it's relaxing and you too can benefit from it. Let me tell you about it, but before you judge me (in case you haven't done so already), let me clarify. I don't take a nap during every single one of my rides, although I would like to. I only take naps during one ride which I like to do often. This is how it all began.
Early last spring, while trying to plan a new weekend ride on Google Maps, I came across a nice route with a substantial amount of climbing. The ride would take me to a fairly secluded park which sits about 25 miles away from my house. The park is more like a wooded reserve than a place with a dog park and swings. I had never been there, and decided this would be a nice ride for a chilly Saturday morning. I put on my wrestling singlet, my fancy tap shoes, and off I went. When I arrived to the park, the temperature had magically risen into the high 60s, which at that time of the year felt insanely warm. As I rode through the park, I saw a beautiful clearing in the woods, which was surrounded by a creek and covered bridge. Sadly, I didn't have my camera with my that day, so I can't show you exactly what the picturesque scene looked like. Luckily, I was able to arrange something far better. I called up my friend Thomas Kinkade (The Painter of Light™), and spent nearly six hours on the phone describing the place I found that day during my ride. After the long phone conversation, Kin (that's what I call him) went ahead and painted this astonishingly accurate depiction.
For some reason, The Painter of Light™ depicted me as an overall-wearing farmer, instead of as the chiseled cycling warrior that I am. I think there was some confusion regarding my attire, the bib shorts in particular. I described them as having "suspenders", when Thomas asked me how they stayed up, hence the misunderstanding. Oh, and he also painted my bike as a medium-sized golden retriever. Minor detail. That aside, the painting is pretty accurate.
Additionally, I should mention that I'm pretty sad that during my trip to France, I won't be able to visit the Louvre in order to see their extensive Kinkade collection. Maybe next time.
But let's get back to the ride. As I went past this idyllic scene, I realized how much of a waste it would be to simply go past it, and not enjoy it. It seemed almost criminal. Luckily, it so happened that I was a bit tired at that moment, so I conveniently decided to stop. The sun was shining, and the birds were chirping as I put my consumer-grade bike down on the grass. I took my shoes off and decided to lay down for a bit in order to enjoy the surroundings. I could hear the water in the nearby creek, and the sun was pleasantly warm. I didn't mean to fall asleep...but I did. I guess I was a bit more tired than I realized, and 45 minutes quickly flew by. When I woke up, I was well rested, in a good mood, and in a bit of a hippie daze. I was one with nature, or whatever it is they say you're supposed to feel in moments like that. It was fantastic. I got back on my bike, and rode home.
Not knowing many routes out of town, this ride has quickly become my favorite. Depending on the route I take, the ride can be 38 or 50 miles long...always broken up with a mid-ride nap. When I started to do this, I told my wife about it. I described the spot where I would nap/rest, and she seemed interested in seeing it. Now, when I go on this ride, I give her an estimated time when I'll be at the park. She's drives there, along with our beloved miniature dachshund Emma. Once there, we sit on the grass, we play with our dog, we talk, we rest and sometimes kinda' sleep a bit while laying on the grass. It may sound silly, it may sound corny...but it's a fantastic way to spend an hour or two. The days when my wife can't make it, I still stop and lay down for a while. Sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes an hour. That's what I did just last Saturday. Perhaps taking a nap mid-ride is not the most efficient thing on earth you can do. I know that it doesn't make my legs stronger. I also suspect that it hasn't made me a better climber, and that it's greatly at odds with the regimented nature of cycling...but damn it, it's fun and pleasant. Isn't that supposed to be part of bikes and cycling? It makes me very happy, and it's for this reason that I recommend everyone try it. Remember how happy you were during some moments of your early childhood? This had nothing to do with the simplicity of your life at the time, and the general lack of concerns. You were that happy because you were getting regular naps. It's a medical fact, I don't make this stuff up people.
This is the profile for a stage at the Tour which I proposed to the UCI and ASO last year. Note the "nap time" icon. Sadly, both organizations rejected my proposal. While many cycling fans bemoan the UCI's handling of issues such as doping and equipment regulations, I will continue to criticize their unwillingness to implement a mandatory nap time in both one-day races and grand tour stages. Is it so wrong for athletes to be well-rested? Why does the UCI hate naps? Why does the UCI hate happiness?
So continuing on the subject of naps, I should tell you that the image at the top of this post (of the Garmin Edge 500) was not augmented or changed using Photoshop trickery. Oh no. Because I'm now an official part of the cycling media, Garmin sent me a free Edge 500, customized with a nap-counting feature. Upon accepting the package at my front door, I signed what I thought was a simple FedEx slip. As it turns out, what I signed was a legally-binding contract. Because of that contract, I am now obligated (like every other member in the cycling press) to say that Dave Zabriskie, his jokes, facial hair and product nomenclature are hilarious. Additionally, I now have to say that Jonathan Vaughters' hair, not just his sideburns, have always been "both tasteful and fashionable." It's a substantial price to pay, I know, but I feel the nap-counting feature was well worth it.
Vaughters, you can try all you want...we all know that you're just a third-rate Joe Parkin copycat. We've seen your kind before. His hair is the real deal...you're just a poser.
So if you invite me on a ride, and you tell me it will be 60, 70, or 90 miles...don't be surprised if I ask how many miles into the ride we'll stop to nap. I really need to know, so I can plan accordingly.