Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things learned on a 40 mile bike ride

Last Saturday I did my first-ever charity bike ride. It was 40 miles, more than I've ever ridden at one time. The course was all flat (one of the few reasons to prefer New Jersey over Seattle) except for two big bridges over the bay to the finish line at the shore.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. I knew it wasn't a timed event and that nobody would be left behind, a van would be available to pick up stragglers or people who just decided they had had enough. I knew I had a good bike and was in better shape than ever before so the distance didn't really worry me too much.

After the first 10 miles I thought "I could actually rest at the end and then bike the 40 miles back if I needed to". At 22 miles, or "The site of the incident (more in a minute)", I thought "40 miles is just about right for me, but I could have done 65". At mile 39 I thought "Where the HELL is the finish?" but as I pulled in I knew I would have been find with the 65 and look forward to finding a century ride after the triathlon is over.

I thought I would be riding in a pack of riders and was pleasantly surprised at how spread out we were. I was alone for nearly the entire morning and had plenty of time to learn a few things along the way.

Look for the signs : When we checked in we were given "cue sheets" with the route written out in turns and distances. I didn't think I'd need it so I stuffed it in my pack and headed out behind a few riders. That worked great for a while and I learned to follow in the paths of others Then they got away from me for a time or I would get ahead of them and suddenly I learned sometimes following a prescribed plan is not such a bad idea. I got little panicky when I couldn't see any riders and there were not a whole lot of signs up for us. In fact, after the first three intersections where I saw no signs for our ride, I got a little concerned and wondered if I might actually be able to get myself lost. That's when I learned the signs are all around you if you just look in places you hadn't noticed before. At that fourth turn in the route I suddenly realized that there were pink arrows spray painted on the asphalt and I had been seeing them all morning. On closer inspection, what I thought were little fishes were actually arrows with the initials of the race.

There's only one way to finish : I think this kind of sport, an endurance ride, is ideal for single moms. We know beyond a doubt that the only way to get through a challenge, or a day for that matter, is to just get started and keep going. Setting out on my bike I knew my car was waiting at the finish line and the only way I was going to be able to get home was to start pedaling and the longer and harder I worked the sooner I'd get there. Knowing this helped me to just sit back and enjoy the rewards of my pedaling.

It's OK to let the bike do some of the work : Admittedly this is a lesson I don't ever learn quickly enough. Life isn't supposed to be hard. Everything doesn't need to be so difficult. In the high gears, each pedal gets you a little further and you share the work with the bike. True, the pedaling itself is a little harder, but you have to do less of it to get anywhere. So, as in life, you dig in a little deeper, not so much that it finishes you off, but enough to know you're working, and you cover more ground. That said, at those huge bridges I was perfectly content to drop back into "granny gear" and remember that sometimes it's just a collection of baby steps that will get you to the top of a hill.

Take your feet out of the cage: Nothing metaphorical here. My latest injury is a 10-color bruise the size of a football on my right knee. On Saturday it was also the shape of a large orange but I'm happy to say the swelling has gone down. We came to the first rest stop about 22 miles into the ride. It was a very humid and hot day so I knew enough from the Broad Street Run that I should stop and rehydrate. I pulled into the stop and I'm sure the message "Take your feet out of the cage and step on the ground" fired from my brain to my feet, but my legs didn't quite know what to do with that information after pumping continuously for so long. I stopped the bike and gravity did it's thing, sending me to the ground and the bike on top of me. Embarrassing for sure but nothing severe.

Because of the bruise I was not able to do my run the next day and because of my school work I lost a second day of training which I hope to make up with a double workout this Friday but I'm happy to report I was in the pool this morning for 1500 yards and the knee did just fine. Looking forward to tomorrow's run and getting back to my regular punishments.

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