Over the weekend, someone told me I was a strong cyclist.
My initial response was to laugh. And then to downplay. “Oh, um, not really. I mean, not outside, so much.” (We were in the midst of a three-hour indoor ride.) “And I’m only really good at hills. I mean, I just started riding a bike two years ago.”
Her response: “Wait, seriously? That’s crazy!”
Yeah, it is kind of crazy. It’s hard for me to believe how much my relationship with cycling has changed in two years. Sometimes when I’m wondering why I have this blog, I remember that it’s a record of my evolution from non-cyclist to half-Ironman finisher. Bringing my bike home, riding clipped in for the first time, my first bike commute, my first 50-miler … it’s all here, and I’m so glad it’s all somewhere.
But even though I can now largely look at cycling with a “look how far we’ve come!” mentality, I’m definitely not at the end of that story. I’m not confident in my abilities on new routes. I don’t often ride with groups. People from my tri club have been posting awesome rides all (sunny, dry) winter long, and I haven’t gone to a single one. I may be able to get myself out the door and to my job and up Twin Peaks and over the bridge (if I really have to), but when it comes to riding with other people, I’m absolutely petrified that I won’t be able to hang.
A while back, one of the club’s coaches posted about a ride she was going to coordinate: two 80-mile days of riding to Santa Cruz and back. All women, all for fun, etc. My heart wanted to say “sign me up!”
My brain, on the other hand, had some other things to say. Like: “You can’t handle that!” “You’ll hold everyone up!” “You seriously think you can ride further than you’ve ever ridden … twice?”
I ended up sending an email (“I love biking, but I’m slow…”) and getting an encouraging response back (basically, “as long as you prepare — which you will — you can absolutely do it and won’t be holding anyone up”). And still, I’m waffling. When I look at it objectively, I know I can; I’ve climbed more, I know the first and last 25 miles of the route pretty well, and while I haven’t actually ridden 80 miles ever before, I’ve a) come close and b) learned what to expect from myself when adding distance on the bike. But I’m still not convinced I’m ready.
Since it’s not a traditional race or ride, I haven’t had to register or commit; I have some time to make my decision. So in the meantime, I’ve done the only thing that I think makes sense: Start training as though I’m going to ride and save the actual hard decisions for later.
So far, training has looked like this:
- One long ride every week
- At least two back-to-back riding days per week
- At least two shorter rides per week
Those principles have played out differently every week, depending on weather and friends’ interests and personal schedules. Last weekend was a 50-”mile” computrainer ride of the Wildflower long course route on Saturday and a 12.5-mile trip up Twin Peaks (not long but plenty of climbing) on Sunday. The weekend before that was all trainer hours during our one rainy spell. Before that, I knocked out my longest continuous ride ever — well, continuous minus a stop in the last hour for pastries — of 60 miles, riding through the Chileno Valley to Point Reyes.
Over the course of the month I’ve been seriously considering this, I’ve seen some progress. Back-to-back riding days are starting to feel normal. I’ve learned the value of having two different sets of shorts with different, uh, seam patterns, but other than that, it hasn’t been as painful as I expected. (The worst part seems to be sitting down on the saddle for the first time on day two; once I’m actually riding, I’m fine.) I finished 60 miles knowing I could ride for another two hours if I really wanted to. And I had my fastest-ever trip up Twin Peaks the morning after the long computrainer ride, which still wasn’t that fast but must mean something.
It’s about to be a lot harder to get in those long rides, since I’ll be captaining for a training group again this spring and arranging my own workouts around that. But I’m actually excited about shifting around all the puzzle pieces — riding longer on weekday mornings once the sun starts rising a bit earlier (… and before it starts cruelly rising later again), riding up to Marin for group workouts (and taking the ferry home!), catching up on TV shows on the trainer after biking home from work.
I’d love to ride 80 miles at least once before the ride, and I’d love to do one bigger (50 mile Saturday/40 mile Sunday?) weekend. I’d also really appreciate if the weather could be nice the weekend of March 22, because one thing I’m still not into at all is riding in the rain. But I’m slowly building the confidence that I can actually do this thing. I realized the other day that it would be roughly my two-year anniversary of clipping in for the first time. What a way to celebrate