…I had the blog mojo and often wrote about fitness on Tuesdays?
Well, it’s a Tuesday, I’m feeling chatty, and I have a fitness-related thing on my mind.
I told you a while back that I got a road bike in the hope of expanding my exercise horizons this summer. I had a hybrid bike – a very nice one, in fact – that was fine for a leisurely ride with the kids or a spin on my own. It had its limitations, though – it’s heavier, slower, and clunkier than a road bike. Since I’m sort of slow and clunky myself, riding that bike felt fairly laborious most of the time.
My husband is a huge biking enthusiast, and he spends a lot of time in the saddle throughout the spring, summer, and fall. No, he’s not one of those guys – you know, the ones suited up head-to-toe like Lance, zooming through rush hour traffic looking like they are having anything but fun. He’s just a normal guy who likes to get his ride on. As the kids have gotten older, it has become more reasonable for me to consider going out to ride with him for a couple of hours on a weekend morning. So this past spring I decided to get the right equipment for the job and give it a try. I got a nice, light (carbon fork) road bike with drop bars in a pretty, girly light blue. Got some new bike shorts and shoes, and I was set. How hard could this be, right? I was in pretty good shape from running. I used to ride some, before kids, on a decent road bike I had in college. I took lots of spinning classes (no, not the yarn kind – the bike kind) in the earlier part of this decade, sweating my butt off doing jumps, seated climbs, sprints. It never occurred to me that biking would be a challenge.
I was seriously wrong.
I have to tell you, the first few times out were not fun at all. My legs burned. My rear-end felt like I was sitting on nails. My upper body felt weird and rigid, held in a foreign position that made my neck ache terribly. I gasped for breath cresting hills. The most maddening thing was realizing that all the muscle I’ve built from running does me exactly no good on the bike. In short, it sucked. I hated it, and I was humiliated.
I’m fairly stubborn, so I tried again. It hurt again. And again. Then there was a ride on a pretty Sunday morning, when the air had that fresh, new feeling and the wildflowers were everywhere and the sky was so blue. My legs seemed to be working the way they were supposed to (at least for the first half of the ride). We stopped at a beautiful spot by the lake and stretched and chatted. I understood, then, how the lure of the bike might be somewhat addicting. Of course, everything went to hell in a lunchbucket pretty quickly after that – I hadn’t eaten, and I bonked, and I was dehydrated, and my neck felt like it was on fire. It was ugly. There was another brutal ride after that, on a hot afternoon when I felt like I was pedaling my brains out but getting nowhere, while my husband leisurely spun along a half mile ahead of me with seemingly no effort at all. At that point, I wanted to quit. I started to think maybe I was just too old, or too dumb and slow and weak, to figure this out.
Still, I remembered that window of time where I felt great and everything around me was so dazzling. I started reading up on a few things. Like where power comes from when you’re pedaling, and what role the core plays in endurance, and why my neck felt like someone was hammering nails into it when I rode. Oh, and proper hydration and nutrition. I started doing some of the core exercises. I ran the stairs up the bluff at the beach on a run, to work my hamstrings and glutes. I babied my neck, doing some therapeutic moves to get blood flowing to the area.
Sunday, we took another ride. I drank and ate before we left the house. I took two bottles of GU2O along, and put two energy bars in my bag. I concentrated hard on keeping my upper body in proper alignment, and on not craning my neck up and out like a turtle. I drank before I was thirsty. I ate at the halfway point. And guess what? I went the full 20 miles with power in my legs, and my upper body feeling pretty OK the entire time. I wasn’t breaking any speed records, but I the route we took was fairly hilly, and I managed it without falling terribly behind at any point.
I think I can maybe do this, now. I hope I didn’t jinx it by saying so, but I’ll keep plugging away.
Hope your Tuesday is going well so far!