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Is there value in “junk miles”

Traditionally, Labor Day marks the end of the road and crit racing season and the start of cyclocross.  For me, that means it’s time to shut down the training and wind down for the season.  Most people start easing into the off-season by riding for fun and putting in a few “junk miles.”  I’ve mentioned in the past that fall is my favorite time of year to ride, and this year will be no exception.  Getting away from training is often a refreshing change of pace.

This year, I’ve spent most of the year away from my bike, so there’s no training to get away from.

For the first time in many years, I’ve put in less than 2,000 riding miles.  I’ve done minimal training and I’ve raced fewer times than I have fingers on one hand.  My riding has been limited to 40 miles every 10 days or so.  With that little riding, it’s been impossible to train with any regularity.  I’ve been stuck with short, high-intensity efforts in a desperate attempt to find some form and fitness.  Alas, it was not to be.

This year, my riding has basically been “junk miles.”

Just this morning after a short hour on the deep back roads of NJ, I came to this realization.  I also realized that I have learned something through this year’s lack of training.

Click through and learn what junk miles mean to me and what they could mean to you.

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What Makes a Hill a Climb?

A lot of discussion in cycling revolves around the awesome climbs that separate race winners from also-rans.  Amateur cycling is no different with Sunday group rides and Tuesday Night Worlds all being known for the discussion of the “brutal climbs” on the routes.  But everyone seems to have a different definition of what constitutes a “brutal climb” these days.  So what makes your local hill an actual “climb?”

Read along and see if your regular leg buster is indeed a legitimate climb or if that monster is, by definition, just a bump in the road.

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Pinning On A Number Again – My Return To Racing Post Injury

Most of you are aware that I spent most of the last year on the sidelines after I crashed out of an early season race.  That day started like every other race I’d ever ridden.  I arrived early, checked in at registration, got help from my teammates with pinning on a number (37 it turned out), took an Instagram photo of it to share and then went about warming up.  Fast forward to a few weeks post surgery and my season was as shattered as my collarbone.

While waiting for my fractures to heal and my strength to return, I wondered how I would go about getting back in the pack.  I spent the rest of the year training solo to regain the fitness and form I had lost during recovery.  I jumped into numerous group rides in hopes of shaking my daemons.  In reality, I was hoping to be pinning on a number again soon.

I admittedly had a very hard time with those first group rides after getting back on the bike.  I got dropped on group rides with my teammates that I used to dominate.  My fitness was fine, I just wasn’t holding the wheels I needed to be.  I wasn’t comfortable getting in tight with a peloton, even if it was made of my own teammates.

I had lost my mojo.  And I wasn’t sure how to get it back.

I had always found it easy to move through a pack of riders.  Find an empty spot and claim it.  Use your elbows to assert your claim to your little space in the group.  Don’t be afraid to put your hand on someone else’s hip and let them know you’re there.  These are the things I not only taught fledgling racers, but the things I did every weekend after pinning on a number.

Now I was afraid to do them all.

As the winter wore on, I sat on my trainer and wondered how I was going to get back to racing a bike, an activity which I loved dearly but was now terrified of.

Then I hatched a plan…

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