Secret Training Rides

An Expose' by Tom Sheffield

bicycle chain

During the past year I’ve noticed that some Road Dogs have many more "friends" when they return to the pack after a few weeks absence. When questioned, they explain their amazing performance with inane statements such as "Fresh legs", "Passive recovery", or "Cross Training". This expose’ suggests that such a dramatic improvement can only be attributed to "Secret Training Rides".

In the spring of ’98, my first attempt to ride with the Road Dogs was a 50 mile time trial (for me) known as the "Assault on Mt. Energy". To be honest, we did start out with the obligatory "warm-up", but after we left the parking lot I was in oxygen debt until we got to the NC96 Western Wear store for a break. I was riding in a large group on a long hill near Wilton when I noticed that about half of the pack had dropped me (as though I had a mechanical failure). At the time, I didn’t know that they were just being "friendly" and I wondered to myself "Where can I get some of whatever it is that they have in those bottles?".

I was new to the group and I figured that after riding with them for a while I’d eventually become stronger. Through the rest of ’98 and the winter of ’99, I rode with the Road Dogs as often as possible, and I was quite pleased with my perceived improvement. That is, until the "Earpsboro Excursion" ride last spring. One moment I was in the pack, and the next I was alone. Shortly before dropping this group "off the front", I realized that there were many unfamiliar faces in the crowd. As I pedaled toward the break in Bailey, I wondered where these hammerheads had been all winter. During the break I introduced myself to a few of them and asked them how they maintained their fitness. Their replies ranged from ludicrous to lurid. Can you imagine lifting weights on a regular basis during the off-season? Yeah, right! (I lifted weights one day and it made my legs so sore I couldn’t ride for 3 days.) Tell me another one! OK! Can you imagine riding an indoor trainer at home, or participating in spin classes at a heath club? Talk about gruesome! Besides, both locations have too many distractions for any serious training to take place.

When I left the break that day in Bailey, I was mystified. It was clear that I would have to become a better detective to determine the secret behind the strength of these Road Dogs. One day, while riding under the influence of Cytomax, the answer came to me. Those hammerheads are doing "Secret Training Rides". The answer was so obvious that it completely evaded me for over a year. Just think about it. How many times have you been driving in your car, far from the normal Road Dog habitat, when you pass a cyclist that looks familiar? You can bet that’s one your best "friends" on a Secret Training Ride.

Encouraged by this startling discovery, I began my own series of STRs. I’ve found that stealth isn’t always necessary. Since my absence from group rides (at least in the early stages) might be noticed, I found that an STR is possible by dropping the group "off the front" and riding alone. You might think that this is no different than the rides described earlier in this article, but when you’ve been dropped, it’s less demoralizing to look at it as an opportunity for an STR.

Before starting your own series of STRs, you should prepare for chance encounters with other Road Dogs. You need to have your excuses ready, because such meetings can be very disconcerting for the unprepared. Here are a few that might be acceptable, under the right circumstances:

Now that I’ve shared this secret with you, I’m sure that you’ll all use discretion in planning your own STRs. I hope to see many of you "off the back" during a ride this winter. While there, we can plan to attack the hammerheads during a ride next spring. If we’re unsuccessful, we can always pretend that it was just another "Secret Training Ride".

Page maintained by Tom Sheffield and last revised on Monday, November 8, 1999.
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