Put me in, Coach I'm ready to play today.
John Fogarty, Centerfield
Dr. Jagoff and Mr. Hyde prefer science fiction
THE ECONOMY CAN'T BE ALL THAT BAD, no matter what you read in the papers. Everybody who can afford to buy a bike in Colorado Springs these days seems to have sprung for a coach to go with it.
This could be peculiar to Colorado Springs after all, an Olympic Training Center sits where NORAD once kept its electronic eyes peeled for commie rockets, and Carmichael Training Systems is one of the daily fish-wrapper's top-10 local companies to watch this year. Whatever the reason, our training rides have more data-gathering power meters, computers and heart-rate monitors than a "Star Trek" retrospective in a nursing home.
Ponderous masters racers with asphalt burns all over their bodies chart their heart rates without a thought for how their erratic riding affects mine. Cat. 3 back-markers turn the paceline into a Slinky while squinting at data from high-tech hubs that cost more than my whole bike is worth. If you get shelled, or puncture, it's "Hasta la vista, baby." The Terminators show no mercy. Their programming can't be rewritten.
But all their numbers must add up to some Bizarro World variety of new math, because instead of logging base miles at a fat-burning pace in the early weeks of the new year, most of these bozos are chasing each other around like turpentined cheetahs.
Watts Up, Dude? Truth is, I'm glad to see the burgeoning coaching industry prove that there's life beyond racing for retired pros and inspired amateurs.
But I've had my share of coaches, and I would rather ride a Litespeed tricycle in the state cyclo-cross championships than have another. I already have one focused little martinet telling me what to do and how to do it. We celebrate our 13th anniversary come May.
Having so much instantaneous feedback available at home, I decided long ago to simplify my life on the bike. I removed all the cyclo-computers, let the batteries in my heart monitor run down and quit keeping a training diary.
Coaches don't like this. It indicates a lack of seriousness. Sorry, coach, but I've been running a seriousness deficit for years, and bicycle racing is the littlest pig in that barnyard. "Ride lots" was good enough for Eddy Merckx, and it's good enough for me.
The Science (Fiction) Of Swimming. My high-school coach was as serious as cancer. He swam like an anvil, yet felt entirely at home strutting about the deck, ordering repeats of various distances on a few seconds' rest until someone's Cheerios were bobbing in the pool like so many tiny life preservers.
In contrast, my summertime coach at a tennis-and-pool club, Beer Belly Kelly, held both a butterfly record at a local college and a style so laid back that it was frequently horizontal altogether. "Be a monster," he would urge us with a wolfish grin before disappearing into his tiny trailer behind the locker room with his girlfriend, Pussy Willow.
As a swimmer of average ability, I appreciated Kelly's anarchic approach (as a subpar masters racer, I think even more of it today). The way I saw it, I could go to coaching hell and suffer the tortures of the damned, maybe knock maybe a second or two off my 400-meter-freestyle time, or I could be a monster. I always liked science fiction more than science, anyway.
Thirty-some years later, I'm still mostly Dr. Jekyll. But every now and then Mr. Hyde makes an appearance, as he did today, when I rode a couple of training buddies off my wheel, climbing a hill into a head wind. Coaches? Mr. Hyde don't need no steenkeeng coaches.