A slap in the face: Being out of shape

Most people can relate with being, or at least feeling, out of shape. Prime time is just after the winter when all seemingly hibernating cyclists start riding outdoors again. Although another two months before the start of racing season it is already time to assess the damage that had been done over the winter months – how much weight did I gain? Will I be slower than the people I dropped last season? How much has my suffer tolerance decreased?….A lot of questions and concerns about being-out-of-shape after only a few months.

Now imagine that had been nine months or even longer. Unthinkable! Every injured and work-victimized cyclist can relate.
Being out of shape is painful on so many levels. But the most painful part is when you realize how much you are truly out of shape.
With my move to Australia I got the damage report personally delivered on ride day one: 120km with one 6km climb.

120km with a 6km climb? Cant be too serious. I did plenty tougher rides than that.

The start of the ride was easy. I was sitting in the front chatting and was thinking that this is way too easy. Where is the training effect? This was 20km into the ride.
My new riding buddies might have thought the same. The pace increased. And increased. And increased.
At the next stop, I leaned over my handlebars, barely keeping myself upright and looking for a bus stop. No public transportation, dammit! This was km 40. I was done. Exhausted. Empty.

Another 80km to go and we did not even climb yet! I looked around, everyone was chatting and joking. They must be faking it. The last 20km were tough!!!!! I needed reassurance so I asked my seemingly faking compatriots several times in different ways if they thought it was hard too. The statement that matched closest with my expectations was: ” Yeah, we did turn on the gas a bit.” Here you go! Of course, they felt it too. I knew it!

But my renewed confidence in my riding abilities completely disintegrated a few minutes down the road when we hit the climb. And this time the signs were more than clear: If I dont find a new set of legs along the road, this would be a long, detailed and unnecessarily in-my-face out-of-shape report.

With my mindset in the past and my legs in the very present, there was some sort of body-mind mismatch.

An eternity later I was on top of the climb. I was so far behind my riding buddies that Strava doesnt think we were on the same ride.

While my riding buddies picked up the rest of my legs and pushed me along and encouraged me with words like, “you are doing so well, it is a tough ride”, I started cursing in my head in German (nine months in Switzerland do that to you. Swearing in German sounds more genuine anyway than in English).

I stated on several occasions I am out of shape. They nodded. To ensure that they did not forget, I reminded them in five minute intervals.

That was two months ago.

Today was the first test of my getting-into-shape phase: I raced my first road race in Australia.

It was awesome and it showed me once again how worth this love-hate relationship between suffering and cycling is. The adrenaline of racing, the endorphins post-race, the energizing atmosphere and the people make this getting-into-shape phase so rewarding! Cant wait for more!

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