The Dark is a great training buddy.

It is February. The annual Spring teaser is in full effect here in Oregon. It is wonderful being outside to work, play, train, write and enjoy the sun and its warmth. I feel that it’s time to start thinking seriously about the bike rides that I have planned.

It’s no big deal to jump on the bike and ride 20 miles. Almost anyone can do 20 miles. Besides being sore, they will probably manage to get out of bed the next day and not die. Running out and doing 60 miles (to me at least) is another story. Now that I have started the crazy talk about 100, or 130 or 170 mile rides, I think I better get serious about training.

I don’t see myself as an “athlete”. Bradley Wiggins is an athlete. Mark Cavendish is an athlete. I am a middle-aged dude who likes to ride his bike with his friends. Even though I’m not an “athlete” I’m a smart guy and from my experiences I’ve determined that this whole training thing is all about:


I have been riding outside since the middle of January and many times I have been riding in the dark. I have noticed, riding up hills that usually pose a struggle in the daylight, tend to be easier in the dark. It seems that not “seeing” the hill, makes climbing the hill easier. I would not say that riding in the dark makes me faster. Rather, my mind is less able to mess with the rest of my body when it is blind to what’s up ahead.

The mind is a powerful persuader. When my mind has “visual” data to share with my heart, lungs and legs, it’s skilled at convincing them that they are supposed to be completely whipped at the slightest hint of a hill. If the brain can’t actually “see” the hill, the other parts have a much easier time ignoring it’s whining and moaning. The trick is to be able to simulate the dark in my mind even when the sun is shining. If I can convince my brain not to see hills, I think my overall riding can improve greatly. I have to convince my brain and the rest of my body, there is no hill. It’s all an issue of mind over matter.

That being said, the first battle to win is simply showing up. Having an event on the horizon is a great motivator. My first event ride is April 28. The ride is the Monster Cookie Metric, sponsored by the Salem Bicycle Club. This ride begins and ends at the State Capitol mall and takes cyclists out through the countryside to the north. The turnaround is Champoeg State park. It is, by all accounts, a lovely 62 mile ride. The motivation that drives me is not just finishing the ride, but having the fitness to ride it happily and without fear of failure. Training will get me there.