Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Dumpster Phil Effect

When my husband a was a collegiate cyclist at Ball State University, he had a teammate that all his friends refer to as "Dumpster Phil". I personally have never met the guy, but I have determined three things about him from Adam's stories:

1. He was "dumpster" (the favorite slang adjective used by Adam and his clique).

2. He rescued our cat Campbell from the middle of the road as a kitten and gave him to Adam as he was already at his pet quota (very un-dumpster of him).

3. Most importantly, he had a way of sabotaging himself before hard rides and races so that when they ended badly he had an excuse. For example, he would drink milk before a hard ride so that it was no surprise when he through up, or he would purposely ignore routine bike maintance so it was no surprise when he dropped of a race "due to a mechanical" when the going got tough.

So towards then end of my beginner mountain bike season in 2006, I came up with "The Dumpster Phil Theory". With the exception of the last race of the season, SOMETHING went wrong every single race that gave me a perfectly good excuse as to why I was getting my butt kicked. Of course, I knew damn well that it was mostly the fact that I just wasn't a very good rider yet, but most of the time it was easier to point to my flat tire or the puncture wound in my leg and go for the sympathy vote. Consciously, I was doing everything right (except sticking to a consistant training plan), but every race something got screwed up anyway. So I decided that I must be subconsciously sabotaging myself to have so many things go wrong.

In the 2007 season, I came back must stronger and more skilled and while I was still getting my butt kicked by the regulars, I also beat a few people myself. I can't say I had an ounce of bad luck, and had two or three very satisfying, well-excuted races. Then 'cross season came all of the sudden it was getting sick and missing my pedal at the start. Hmm...

The point of all of this is that right after my pedal came off ten minutes into my ride today, I realized that the Dumpster Phil Effect has been taking hold again the last couple of weeks. After two months of brilliant, clockwork-like training, things mysteriously start going to pot when I get to the meat of the training plan, instead of the namby-pamby, 6-hour-a-week, prep work.

Not that it's a huge deal; it's just a realization I came to. After a screwy training camp week followed by five days of doing nothing, I finally got myself out for a ride yesterdat I suppose it can be argued that anytime one ventures out to ride bikes in 12 degree temperatures, that they're asking for trouble. I was supposed to ride for four hours, and took my mountain bike out to Brown County to get in some rare winter singletrack time. There was snow on most of the trail, which made riding difficult, but I wanted get practice over rock obstacles since I will be encountering my fair share of them this season at the Ouachita Challenge and the Shenandoah Mountain 100. So I headed straight for the most technical parts of the trail system. O course, riding snow-covered rocks is harder than riding regular rocks, especially when you wear yourself out climbing the snow-covered hill to get to them. So I was dabbing all over the place and my left cleat finally iced over so much that I couldn't clip in. Riding technical trails with one foot loose was darn near impossible, so I ended up walking my bike back to the nearest road intersection and riding back to my car on the road. Getting 2.5 hours in that kind of a weather is nothing to sniff at, but after my screwy weak I was really wanting to go into the weekend swinging.

Today was 18 degrees and I was supposed to get two hours in. I planned to ride the rail-to-trail out to the local mountain bike park, since that seemed like the slowest and most sheltered route to take in the cold. I was feeling good and staying toasty with the five pairs of charcoal warmers I had stuck to various parts of my body, but not long after getting to the trail, my right pedal came off. I couldn't even screw it in enough with my fingers to ride it home. So I had to one-legged drill the whole way home, which was uphill most of the way. I couldn't deal with going back out after that so it left me an hour and a lot of quality short for the day.

So with all this evidence that the spirit of Dumpster Phil is taking over again, what am I going to do? I'm not really sure. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, so I guess I have that part out of the way.

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