Friday, March 14, 2014

my inner belgian hardman

There's a concept in road cycling called "the belgian hard man" - it seems it's a kind of guy fetish in its "true" context where there's some deep respect for stories of riders who go out in all kinds of inclement weather and nasty roads and just BIKE (see gals to left getting sprayed by passing flemmish truck: complete promo vid here).

 Somehow, doing it "getting it done" all that stuff gets big respect points. As bikesnob notes in his wonderful book Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling, there's a big celebration of suffering with road biking, and the cult of the Flahute seems to epitomize it. But what if that's all a ruse? and these folks are having FUN!

For example: today, i went out in real british shite wind blowing rain pouring bleck at about high noon with good light. With the miracle of modern technical fabrics - and some clever use of traditional ones (like wool - nothing like it) - i stayed, well, comfortable. And as such, i was delighted with the ride: few people on the roads; fewer on the limited bike path areas, and the delight of saying "yes" to a training ride rather than turning around and saying i'm baggin' it; headng for the trainer. Truly, v. little in the way of suffering here other than bits of the ride designed as a test of current levels.

And then that test fell apart. I'd had it all nicely programmed so i wouldn't have to think about it: could just read a screen and see data recording, and then it seems i'd mis-set a 1 min interval to an hour forty. IT did seem like something was a bit off. So there's my test ride sozzled - For those who have done these, you know part of the point is to build up to a particular intensity for a test phase. So having to stop figure out what's wrong, try to reset etc - it's not optimal.

Now, i could get all annoyed as i'd built a week up towards this effortful thing, but what would that do? And the joy if it all was it seemed in the first half of the test when i wasn't sure what had happened, i'd actually ridden out further than i'd thought would be likely. That's a Good Thing - may mean i'm a wee bit better tuned than i'd anticipated. Anyway more miles under my belt right now - and more get Fit minutes - it's all good.

So, with a real head shift for me, i let go of the test, and focused on seeing how well i could enjoy the ride home - focusing on tempo and the such like - where the wind and rain were excellent resistance for assessing power, pace, heart rate, etc. And heck, really, what fun. I'm outside - outside is good.
One of the things about outside being quite so good relative to inside is that quite often it calls more systems into play than inside - we have to be aware of stuff. On a bike, it's still life and death (you should see the UK stats). Balance, cognitive challenge of awareness, strength, effort.

The main thing: the ride was FUN.

And this got me thinking about the whole belgian hard man thing - maybe it's fun for them too? maybe the suffering thing is either inaccurate or a cover?

I mean, it COULD be miserable - if i'd been wet and cold that would have been crap. really - i don't find that a great celebratory experience - or particularly intelligent. So perhaps what i'm suggesting is that what looks hard to southerners perhaps or west coasters looking at belgian guys riding in the muck - ain't so hard to people raised in that terrain. It might even be fun.

I admit: i could have this whole thing wrong. Maybe the belgian hard man revels in misery, and  my belgian state of mind to love whatever the envirnoment presents is not a belgian hard man of the mind.
But i figure, today, out pretty much alone on the roads, going for a training test so pushing hard, and finding a love in the elements as a help rather than a hinderence - that was sweet. It was unexpected and fun and heck, i did it - and that means i'm actually, measurably, perhaps also spiritually better for it.

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