I chased a rabbit last week. I’ve never chased a rabbit before—and it was it fun! At the north end of my River Road loop, I was dragging along, working against the northwest wind and planning my way through the next few days off the bike. Not a good way to enjoy a ride.
Then as I turned back south, a cyclist on County Road 33 looked at me coming, and pulled out just ahead onto the River Road. Did I really look that slow?
I sized him up. He was on a road bike and carrying a backpack, cadence slower than mine. Usually, if it’s a guy, I’m done, but why not try to keep pace, at least? It was work, but I was able to keep him in my sights and even gain a bit through the rises and falls of the road. As the gap started to close, I knew I could overtake him, but if I did it too soon, then I’d be the rabbit.
So I settled in and paced my way until a few kilometres before the end of the course. There’s a really rough section towards Lock 23. After getting run off the road there by the Coca-Cola truck, I always take the entire lane into the ess curve. Just as I moved into the centre of the road to take the corner, my rabbit stood to stretch his legs and I was gone. Not much of a catch, I admit. But beat my course PR by 57 seconds.
Sometimes it’s good to seize the moment. But I have to keep reminding myself that to continually improve, I need to have a more disciplined approach to my rides. It’s like practicing the piano. Just like it’s great to chase that rabbit and go fast on the bike, there’s a certain high to playing and performing a piece you know well on the piano. But that doesn’t help you through the slow, detailed hours learning something new and more challenging.
When I ask my students how they should approach their practice on a tough section of a piece, they’ll inevitably make a face and come up with “slowly?” We all want to be there already, even when we’re learning something new. I’m now facing up to the same challenges with my cycling. Every time I record a slower overall time on a route, I feel like I haven’t made the most of a ride. I just have to get over that—learn to practice!
My rabbit taught me this. For a couple of weeks I’d been putting in the kilometres, doing a few more hilly routes and taking time to enjoy the view along the way. It was not time wasted. When I got the unexpected chance to test my racing legs—to perform—the slow practice paid off.
Maybe all I have to do now is harness my inner piano teacher on the bike!