Putting in the time on the BIKE….
I have written about swim and run so far…. I know that is out of order, but I felt I didn’t know what to say about the bike. I both love it and I hate it. It is my strength, but it is also my slight fear.
My initial story with the bike is: I hated the bike. I was a runner and had to have knee surgery. The dr. told me I had to get on a bike within first 3 days of surgery to try to move my leg around to get full range of motion. Besides being super painful, I hated sitting on a bike seat on a gym bike, it was like sitting on a bench and just awkward feeling and I hated it (and I just wanted to be running!).
Once my knee began improving, I had to keep cycling per dr’s orders and I was SO DARN HUMBLED by it. How could I be so fit from running and so HORRIBLE on the bike, why was it so hard?! And… in the back of my heart, I was starting to get this curiosity circulating about triathlons. Could I will myself to do something like that?! (remember: I had no experience in the swim and bike- didn’t even have a road bike)!
So…. I was a planner….. I began. My first step was: I borrowed a road bike of a friend to get my feet in the sport and see if I liked it. I began biking the roads of Charlottesville. MY WORLD GREW! Exponentially! I could bike on hills and mountains in the most beautiful land I could imagine. These hills and mountains grew to be so familiar to me and an escape I craved! I would go early and up this one huge hill- could BARELY MAKE IT UP in smallest gears (as is the case with many hills in Cville!), the sun would be over the fields and it was just GLORIOUS. I felt like I was in heaven. It was glorious except for the fact that the bike did not fit me. AT ALL. There were numerous rides where I would start crying an hour in because I could not sit on that saddle any longer. Yes, I literally cried because of the pain. I must have been a sight. I thought about flagging over a police car if I saw one to see if I could get a ride home (there were not cell phones to call anyone for help at this time either). I rode the last 10 miles home one time STANDING UP for 10 miles because I literally could not sit. So…. It pushed me to get my first road bike. My first road bike- a Bianchi. Ohhhhhh the green machine I named it and I grew to love it. I had to learn clip in pedals and they terrified me. I had to bike through some difficult intersections in Charlottesville on my “way out” to the countryside and the roads I loved, and I would honestly almost have nightmares about not getting a green light and having to unclip my pedals and then restart up the hills and clip in….. BUT… I have survived you see, so it all was ok.
Over the years, the bike has become my strength in the sport of triathlon, which has surprised me. My legs are very strong and I know that is a huge part of it- I am able to keep a high level of muscular effort for a prolonged amount of time. And I like going HARD and FAST, so that keeps me fired up to be as good as I can be at this sport. Every winter, I usually have an indoor cycle class for athletes where they bring their bike and we work on INTENSITY. Literally, I think of the hardest workouts and then we do them. I force our legs to go fast on tired, shredded muscles, we sprint after climbing hills, we stand and sprint, we also stand and climb in hardest gear for ungodly amounts of time. We learn how to work and push and what we can and cannot take. I know for sure this has made me better by doing these workouts and also doing them with others. We are saturated by sweat at the end, completely spent and IT. PAYS. OFF. The bike is a nice thing to have as a strength because if you are faster on the bike it can give you time payoffs much larger than swim speed, for example.
I love the bike, but I also hate it. I hate that it is time intensive. To go outside, it really takes a good chunk of time to get in a bike training ride that feels like it was worth it time/distance wise. It takes equipment maintenance- something I really do not enjoy- I don’t want to check chains, lube this or that, wash it after rainy ride, check tires for wear, etc. But you need to do these things, eck. I hate that I sometimes thank people at intersections for letting me go and in my head think, “thank you for saving my life.” I hate that I am always a bit fearful of the bike, knowing that every cyclist will have a crash at some point. I hate that I’ve seen someone get hit in front of me on their bike (by a car) and it was so scary. I hate that I’ve almost been hit, that cars have swerved TOWARDS ME, that other cyclists I have witnessed doing the rudest behavior and I regret that those things give us all a bad name. I hate that I sometimes start a ride and have this weird bad gut feeling concerning safety and then I turn around and come home to ride on my trainer instead. All these things give me a less than full feeling of love for the bike part of triathlon!
But there are these moments that keep me always coming back-these memories that override any hesitancy I have on my bike. These are the feelings of flying through the air (yes, tires still on ground) but it sometimes does feel like flying when you are going so fast and although you are putting forth effort, you know that you can keep this going, that your body is trained and in control BECAUSE of the work you have put in. It is the feeling of being so far out on a ride, with only the sound of the world around you- farms, the hot summer air moving by you, sunshine beating down on my back and arms. Yes, these are the moments I live for. I love being so fit and flying by people on my bike and wondering, “why are they not pushing harder and going my pace?” Sometimes I feel like people must not be trying very hard. But I realize that I have put in the work.
Yes, I have put in the work that allows me to be out in nature for hours and miles… up close and personal. To see mountains, towns, overlooks, that are so amazing and inspiring to be a “part of them” by biking in and through them! I’ve done the winter work to allow myself to be fit enough to be out for 50-60 miles on rides where I can be in complete focus on my ride, my workout, my purpose, or I can dissociate and let my mind totally go blank within the effort and “gain energy” from that release of focus (if that makes sense). This place of surrendering control and just allowing myself see what I see, to be fatigued but to continue with strength. I find myself soothed by the repetitive motion of my legs, breathing and body. I’ve been thankful to have joy rise from within by seeing deer on the trail, bunnies and groundhogs scurrying by the side of the trail. I’ve rolled over snakes and been horrified, but I’ve also seen beautiful flowers on side of road, sunrises, mountains and fields, curvy and delightful roads, steep and crazy hills that are just a miracle to experience! SO VERY FAR AWAY from my typical days! What a VACATION IT IS! A vacation WITHIN my LIFE!
Training through the winter on a bike trainer is tedious. But, it is necessary. It keeps me balanced from doing too much running; it adds to my run ability through greater quad strength, it helps me exercise more with less impact, helps me stay a bit leaner. My tough training days help me just like the intense run sessions with self talk, “lessons of the sport”, learning my body, my limits (both physical and mental). It refreshes me.
There might be only a handful of rides outside every summer where I feel like I am fast, floating, and furious all at the same time. And they make it ALL WORTH IT, they make me love my time training and they override any drudgery of bike maintenance, fear of the unknown, etc. I’m so thankful for the past 20 years on my bike. Green machine: you were the beginning. Blue Bullet: you were my first tri bike that has gotten me my greatest results from 2003-2017. Black Lightening….. we’re still getting to know each other….. let’s put the time in together in 2019!!!