A severe flu left me stranded for the better part of a week. I was finally able to get back on the bike yesterday.
The weather was terrific and I went for a longer ride, roughly two hours. I kept an aggressive pace tracking well above 34 km/h on the flats. Even on the slopes I pushed hard. Anywhere from 3 to 6 km/h above my typical pace. When the downhill slopes came up I got down on the pedals and really cranked.
Why was I pushing so hard?
I had become competitive. There was a rider six to eight hundred metres out in front of me and I was trying to catch him. He was moving fast. But I wanted to pass him. After 40 kilometres of hard riding — and a heart rate that was consistently above 160 bpm — I backed off. I could not catch this rider.
As I made my way back home at a saner pace, I thought about the good and bad of competition.
Competition makes you work harder
My goal for this ride was to get back on the road after a week of illness. I’m still not 100 percent and I told myself to take it easy and keep the heart rate aerobic. When this rider pulled into view, I lost all sight of that goal. A new target had come into view. Time to attack.
Competition can surprise you
You never really know your competition. When this rider first pulled out of a sideroad in front of me, I just naturally assumed that he was a week-end warrior and not a serious cyclist. I was wrong. The guy could ride. Pushing high speeds on a bike is not easy. It takes years of training.
Competition separates performance
I could not catch this guy. I came close at times. Perhaps within four hundred metres or so. I’m not even sure that he knew I was behind him. He was setting his own pace. And he was setting my pace. If he was not in front, I would have been spinning 2 or 3 km/h below his pace. After 10 kilometers, I knew that he was a faster rider than me.
Competition has an emotional impact
I have to admit that I was disappointed in myself when I relaxed the pace. I had set out to pass this rider and I did not make it happen. In a strange way, it felt like a failed ride to me even though it was the best ride of the season to date. Fastest pace. Terrific tempo. Focused and in the zone. When I got home, I resolved to train harder in the weeks ahead to see if I can get the pace up a bit more. Which leads to my last observation about the ride.
Competition can motivate
Seeing what is possible helps to drive personal development. To improve. To get better. Just not as intense as Anthony Hopkins.