The outcry came from my 23-year old daughter. I was resting on my bed after a hard ride when she sauntered in to chit-chat. In midsentence, she noticed my hairless legs. Eyes became moon-like; mouth agape with shock.
“Mom! Dad shaved his legs!”
(My wife from down the hall) “I know. What do you think?”
(to me, almost in a whisper) “They were so hairy.”
I wonder if this is to mourn the loss of machismo or a “thank you Jesus!” praise. I merely smile, always the best option when you’re not sure how to save face.
She fires another question: “Why? To be faster?”
I’ve heard cyclists chant this as the #1 reason to shave and, until recently, I filed their mantra under the “Biker Bullshit” category. However, research shows shaved legs are more aerodynamic.
“It’ll help but that’s not the reason.”
“Okay, so why?”
I researched this topic extensively before launching Operation Wooly Mammoth. I learned that pros shave primarily for post-ride massages or for cleaning road rash wounds. These didn’t apply to me since I wouldn’t be getting any messages nor did I plan on crashing (Ha! Who does?!)
Was it to appease my Rogue Racing teammates and their habitual razzing about me being the only member without shaved legs? Nope. I turn a deaf ear to them and file their complaints under “Biker Bullshit.”
So what did it?
Signing up for the 2018 Tennessee Senior Olympics, June 23-24.
I’ll be racing a 3-mile TT and a 13-mile road race (I was surprised at how short these are) in the 55-59-year-old category. Based on the results from 2017 races, the winners were serious cyclists with impressive speeds.
It was time to step up my game…big time.
By shaving, I was jettisoning my laissez-faire stance on racing (“Yeah, I’m on a team but I kinda dabble in it so…”) and embracing it 100%. Some would state that I’m caving in under pressure; becoming a conformist. I’d argue that because I know the competition will be tough, I need my mindset to be tougher. Gone are the excuses, the head games, the “Yeah, I’m on a team but I kinda dabble in it so…”
Win, lose, crash, or burn, I’m all in. Shaving, as silly as it may sound, makes me feel (and thus act) like a racer.
Shaving my legs will only go so far in getting me prepared; I needed to adjust my training strategy, too. Teammates confirmed this by encouraging me to focus less on big mile rides and more on building speed, power, and short-sprint bursts.
Last weekend, I did a test run of the TT course (which is only 8 miles from my house!) I did better than I expected but also realized I need to improve. It’s not called the “ride of truth” for nothing!
I committed to riding with some fast Chain Gangs. One in particular rides on Tuesday nights and I’ve enjoyed the challenge.
And there are my teammates. Since I’m the oldest and slowest, anytime I ride with them I’m pushed; I’ll add this to the menu as well. I’m also tossing in indoor trainer workouts that focus on high-intensity. I’d rather be outside, but seeing the fruit of such labor from winter training, I’m taking my Marine son’s advice: “Embrace the suck.”
Do I have a shot at winning?
Per the TT, probably not; my physique isn’t built for power BUT the course does work in my favor as a climber. It starts with an uphill ascent that’s not steep or too long and will be my opportunity to take advantage of those that are heavier.
In regards to the road race, I think I can hang with the main field. But as anyone who has ever raced knows, it only takes a missed opportunity to spell the difference between finishing strong and finishing last.
Either way, I’m going to be ready, give it my best, and look like a champ with my shaved legs!