Yesterday my lungs underwent the first change in the season. After weeks of riding 3+ times a week (1-1.5 hours at 18-19mph average) I literally felt the transformation in my chest — one moment I’m focusing on the road and the next it feels like the tension is gone from my lungs and it seemed like they had twice the capacity.
Easy breathing has meant an easy 1mph average speed gain over the hilly course and a noticeable reduction in muscle cramping.
Generally I poke around the park at about 18mph which is fast enough to get a workout, but slow enough for a pack to catch me so I can jump on for a few laps. As it turned out, yesterday I was feeling too good to go slow. As I flew around the park I picked up a few stragglers and led a train around the park for almost 4 laps with nobody taking the lead (the draft lines work a little differently on the East Coast — instead of the leader dropping to the back and rotating like migrating geese, whoever is feeling strong bolts up to the front of the pack and takes over. I was waiting….).
Being at the front of the pack and “feeling no chain” is great, and touches on my theory of the relative *size* of your spirit (you can “hide” in your body or you can project or enlarge yourself beyond the boundaries of your being) — you can almost *feel* the extra power given to you to keep the train steady by the pushing of those behind you. Of course science will tell you it’s the other way around; you’re cutting the wind resistance of those behind you and decreasing their energy output needs by up to 30%.
At the front of a pack you are the pilot, it is your job to keep everything smooth and steady — any big changes in speed could leave everyone (who is just inches from each other’s wheels) behind (think cars taking off from a stoplight) or cause a massive pile-up.
You think of all of your movements in terms of a jet airplane, not a car with a 6 speed manual and a clutch — you see a lane change ahead of you and glide the group into it, you near an incline and drop gears and ease the throttle up a little to maintain speed over it, you increase it one more notch to keep the speed as the grade increases one more step — knowing that all the horsepower you need is right there for you without any exursion needed.
If you do want to leave everyone in your contrails then you can start thinking in terms of being on the ground, and the traction between your tires and the pavement. From your steady speed drop the gears down two or three sprokets (into higher gears with more resistance), jump out of the saddle, swerve dramatically to the far side of the road (breaking the benefits of the draft for those behind you) and PUT THE HAMMER DOWN. Within 4 pedal strokes you could be doing over 30mph and be gaining distance on the field (depending on how well they react).