We all have these words, or simple phrases, that we use to describe our riding on any particular day. Since our riding tends to follow a cyclical pattern of highs and lows, these run the gamut, a full spectrum between good and bad. We hope there are more good than bad, and we strive to make that so. The bulk of the days fall within a range around an adequate median; every so often there will be days far better, and others far worse.

"Sloppy" is one of those descriptive words that infrequently creeps into my vocabulary. However rare its application may be, I never-the-less loath it for what it means. Generally speaking sloppy days come out of the blue, without warning, or at least none that I have been able to discern. The effect is like being hit by a pound of ground round, slathered with special catsup sauce - all over the place. Sloppy days are characterized by a sense of awkwardness, poor rhythm, mashing squares rather than turning circles, shifting in the saddle. Little things that nag. Sloppy days can make it difficult to find the sweet line through that turn you know as surely as you know the date of your anniversary. Sloppy days wear on you minute by minute; once the thought takes hold, it roots and blooms, then fruits like a self-fulfilling prophesy. At that point there is no escape.

Sloppy days may be accompanied by a lack of energy, and leave me feeling as if my fitness is off, or that I am riding slowly. Funny thing about that last, though, I can flatly state that there is no correlation between slop and slow. In fact, sloppy days tend to result in slightly higher average speeds. My guess is, I will ride harder on sloppy days in an effort to shake free of the malaise. Or, could it be the other way around? Does the effort of pushing harder, exerting more, lead to a feeling of slop? I have always suspected the former since good days should be those during which everything clicks along smoothly - the days in which I ride in "the zone". Since sloppy days tend to carry a slightly higher average speed, it is hard to call them bad days. They are just sloppy. There is a subtle difference. I can say to myself "man I am riding sloppy today", and then ride another fifty miles. A bad day I might say "geez, I'm riding bad today", and call the day done at twenty miles.

Sloppy days tend to be solo days - I don't think I have ever had a sloppy day while riding with others. There is probably some scientific explanation for that - you know the group bringing out the best in us, or something along those lines. It may also be due to the greater prevalence of solo days, after all the annual run of sloppy days can usually be counted with the fingers of a single hand.

While a sloppy day may show up without warning, there is no question that they are symptomatic of a greater problem - inconsistency. Inconsistency is the antithesis of proper training, and unlike sloppiness, inconsistency is a problem which will ultimately affect performance.

Interestingly, sloppy days only ever seem to last a single ride / day, there is no spill over into a second twenty-four hour period. However, because they are symptomatic of inconsistency if irregular riding continues for multiple weeks, sloppy days can appear multiple times during that period - just not consecutively. Since sloppy days depart as quickly as they arrive there is little concern associated with them. More than anything they are simple brief annoyances. A shrug of the shoulders, and then back to the riding.