There's an ongoing debate right now in endurance sports, cycling in particular, about whether to train hard or to train long. New research suggests that interval training--and we're talking intervals of one minute, not 20 minute tempo blocs--has a significant effect on aerobic capacity. One study I read found that after 6 weeks of intense training, mid-level cyclists putting in only 4 hours a week achieved more substantial gains in VO2 capacity and watt output than those who trained 10 hours a week at varying levels of intensity.
This is good news for those of us with jobs, school, laziness standards, and social lives, er, drinking habits.
On the other hand, riding like Satan himself is chasing you is painful.
Cycling is supposed to be relaxing, floating along at 17 mph, looking at the dogwoods and feeling the accomplishment of going places. I love the 40 mile loop out MacArthur Blvd. to River Road and through Rock Creek Park. I like to talk to people when I ride. I like to look around and let my brain chill. Cycling is both leisurely and fat-burning--and that's what distinguishes it from other sports.
Yesterday I did intervals up Tilden hill in Rock Creek Park. If I'm killing it, I can make it up the hill in 1:45. I did it four times, my times running between 1:37 and 1:56. At the end I had a headache and felt like throwing up. My legs felt like they'd been run over by a truck.
Two teammates rode by on their way to the hills, and we chatted a bit. "How's the ride?" they asked. I'm not on a ride, I wanted to say, I'm on four two minute gut busting shit-kicking tendril popping brain blowing chest heaving eyeball inflating sledgehammer to the gut slaughterhouse genocide journeys to the center of hell.
Course, we all suffer when we ride hard, and we all know it, and that's one of the things that we share and the muggles, to borrow from J.K. Rowling, know nothing about. It's what keeps us from being the blobs from Wall-e. As the non-ambulatory Captain says, "I don't want to survive. I want to live." If avoiding the fate of the human-like blobs on that spaceship means 2 minutes of hell a few times a week, well, so be it.