This has been a trying week so far inside my brain.
Monday, Zliten really really really really really wanted to join our new team for a group ride. My original plan was for us to run, and I wasn’t sure how my hip would react to clipping in and out a lot on the bike, but I also know that I always want to pass on those rides because I don’t feel comfortable doing them and the only way I’ll get better is to practice. So I decided I would put on my big girl panties and give it a go. This is usually a good thing.
Unless it’s not.
My hip was not only aggravated by the constant clipping in and out, but it’s the leg I push off automatically at stops, so every time I went to get started I got a jolt of pain. I tried to switch to the other leg, but it felt so weird I couldn’t do it.
Add this to the fact that we were riding in rush hour traffic with a group of 14 other experienced cyclists who don’t ride like triathletes… triathletes generally ride single file and give each other room. Cyclists ride in packs. Even without a wonky hip this scares the shit out of me, but it was too much on Monday. I backed out after about 5 miles (before we went down a big hill I knew we’d have to come back up) and the ride back wasn’t as bad, but that’s because I knew where I was going and it was only me and Zliten.
Let’s add to this the huge ding on my pride. Over the summer, I was both (relatively, for me) fit looking and pretty kick ass on the bike. I placed 4th out of 20-some people in one race. I held a 19.5 mph for an Olympic course. Now I’ve joined this team and their first impression of me AT BEST like “awwww, the new chubby girl is trying so hard to ride her bike” and at worst “crap, I hope that shitty biker doesn’t show up and fuck up our group rides, she doesn’t belong here”. I want to shout from the rooftops that they’re seeing my worst right now and I’d be hiding away until I suck less, except Zliten wants me just to expose all my warts.
On the way back I bitched about it and said I was going to just take up aquathlons and quit biking. However, the answer is more along the lines of “the way out is through”. I am seeking Ironman in about 14 months. The only way you successfully Ironman is to bike a lot. The best way to bike a lot is to have a group to ride with. So, I need to figure this shit out. I need a three step wart removal plan.
First, no riding outdoors in clips until my hip is COMPLETELY healed. This has to go away and the only way for me to do that is to stop poking it. I’m going to have to poke it a little with running until March 5th, so after that, I need to wait until there are no such things as twinges and it feels awesome doing everything else first because this made it feel worse than anything. If he wants to go ride outside, I’ll let Zliten do his thing and I’ll do mine.
Second, my big problem is I’m not comfortable with the move of a) unclipping one leg b) leaning the way and putting one leg down to stop. I unclip both, that way, whichever way I land, I won’t topple over. It works on closed courses or places where there are barely any stops with few people. It’s batshit crazy in a group in traffic.
I need to take my bike somewhere soft (grass behind the track by my house, perhaps) and do that thing where I practice this move over and over until it’s second nature. Every day. For like, weeks. 100 reps per day on each side, or whatever makes sense.
Third, I just don’t ride outside enough, and it’s because there is nowhere around our house that lends to a good workout. During tri season I probably ride outside 3 times a month, and during offseason… please. My bike mostly stays indoors from October to March. I’ve ridden it 3 times since Kerrville outside and for February… that’s actually probably some sort of record.
There are a few ways to get at that.
a) Trainer rides should have a warmup or cooldown of a few miles in my neighborhood. Even if it’s just 10-15 mins riding around the house, it is better than nothing, and then I can attack the real workout inside. I do have a decent course for short hill repeats that only has a few stops, not as pure as indoors, but it would work occasionally as a short workout day.
b) Pack up the bikes in the AM, and drive them out where it’s good to ride after work. We now have a GREAT lighting setup, so we don’t have to worry about coasting in just a little after sunset. We’re visible.
c) Once I feel a little more like the bike is an extension of me, rather than this completely foreign appendage I just want to throw in the ditch because it confuses and frustrates me, I need to be at all the group rides I can. And I need to push myself to get there as quickly as I can because that is where I’ll really get confidence (and get better at the actual moving faster part of biking).
I suppose the moral of this story is sometimes you have to take the long way around even if you see a shorter path. For my previous endeavors – to become a triathlete, even to improve and make my bike my strongest leg last year – I was able to cheat and not learn how to be a good all-around cyclist. I coasted by (badup CHING!) with poor handling skills because I spent all the time increasing my speed/power. However, we’re coming up on a fork in the road where I have to decide to either continue on or buck up and change.
I’m going to have to do a lot of cycling to get to 140.6, it’s the leg where I need the most endurance work. I’ve almost doubled the swim distance and can easily swim at or above it. I’m about to run my 6th marathon in just over 3 years. Marathons aren’t easy, but I’m at least competent at covering the distance. My best cycling effort outdoors is 70 miles – that’s 32 less than the race distance. It is obviously where I need to spend most of my time in the next year.
The question is – do I want to cycle with a group of people that will motivate me or keep doing it on my own with no one to push me? Do I want to spend hours and hours riding outside in the sunshine or hours grinding away on my trainer/in spin classes? Do I want to feel comfortable in races and riding with a group, or do I want to continue to feel a little bit of apprehension every time we pack our bikes up to go somewhere?
I think the answer is obvious. I have probably the most to gain in triathlon by becoming a better cyclist than concentrating on either of the other two sports right now. However, running isn’t scary. Swimming isn’t scary. Biking is right now. I need to change that. This is my plan.