So I abandoned the blog back in August and, at the time, I was still riding though not as much as I would've liked. I have been a little discouraged and overwhelmed because 1) I've put some weight back on and 2) it turns out riding 100 miles is HARD (not that I would know from firsthand experience or anything).
So let's fast forward through the months.
September - I continued to ride for most of the month, but as the mornings got colder, I returned to the gym - where I grumbled and got depressed because I wanted to be out riding.
October - I pretty much stopped riding outdoors completely except for one glorious fall ride (my first ride outdoors in October). I then signed up with a cycling coach and spent $350 on an indoor trainer, $90 on a heart rate monitor and $40 for a bike computer with a cadence monitor so that I could train three days a week ALL winter long with other cyclists who really just want to be outside like me.
November - I start my indoor training sessions and boy howdy does it hurt. By now I've gained a good ten pounds since my first post on this blog - I'm depressed, self concious but, remarkably in pretty good physical condition (at least cardiovascularly) thanks to my consistent summer rides and one hour elliptical love fests at the gym.
What I'm learning.
- I haven't been pushing myself hard enough - my workouts don't really include resistence training and I've never worked on my core)
- I'm eating more and not really tracking it - thus, the weight gain. As of today, I've started tracking my calories again and also trying to curb the cravings. I guess that means weaning myself off of coffee again.
- I'm filled with negative self-talk and it's killing my cycling buzz. I really like working with a coach because he pushes me, but he also encourages me. I'm now doing core training three times a week (well, today was the first day) and it hurt like hell but my coach told me that I'll start to see improvement really soon if I keep at it three times a week. I love the idea of that - a strong core! However, every part of my body hurts right now which is the inspiration for the title of this post
- I can do this. I can learn about my bike, and my cadence and my core and I can be an actual athlete (or an extremely athletic person).
If you want to learn how to ride - I mean REALLY learn, then I highly recommend you find an indoor cycling group, invest in a trainer and ride as much as you can all winter long. It's really good for the soul.
Well, it's the middle of August and I'm happy to say I'm still riding as much as ever. I'm a lot more comfortable on my bike than I was in May when every gust of wind was a source of terror. I'm still not where I hoped I'd be by now, but I think that's more a factor of being a working mother than anything else. I just don't have the luxury to ride 5 or 6 days a week - there's always something conspiring against me. Like rain and...sleep.
I'm trying not to dwell on what I haven't accomplished though, because I really have come a long way from those first wobbly weeks on the road bike. Here's a list I'm proud of:
- My average morning ride is about 18-20 miles (up from 12-15 last year) at a speed of about 14 mph (up from 11 mph last year! but this is as much about the road bike as it is about my massively powerful thighs.)
- I'm less terrified when I go down hills. I mean, a lot less. As a result, I've experienced speeds that I never thought I'd achieve on my bike. On one particularly long drop, I managed over 30 mph according to CardioTrainer (my tracking app of choice)
- I'm standing up on the climbs now. I mean, not consistently or particularly gracefully (it takes actual core strength to hold your ass over the seat while maintaining cadence during a climb) - but I'm doing it and sometimes I can even maintain 3-5 seconds of coordinated standing before the bike begins to list to the side or veer back and forth and I'm forced to sit back down in shame.
- I've got the clips thing down - mostly. I don't have to think much about clipping in and out anymore. This is a big step when it comes to longer rides because now I don't fear intersections - and, you know, there tend to be lots of those on 20 or 30 mile rides.
Now, I don't want to harp on the stuff I need to work on, but if I frame it as a goal - something I strive for - then I'm hoping to put a positive spin on what may otherwise sound soul-crushingly negative.
- I'm still terrified. I know, I know. I said I wasn't as scared on the road bike as I was in the beginning, and this is true. I was beyond scared when I first got the bike. I mean, I was close to giving up riding altogether, to be quite frank. I've gotten past that and I'm happy to say that I'm enjoying riding as much as ever, but I'm still really scared. Trucks scare me. Idiots who don't know how to pass a bike scare me. Those four dogs in that black sedan who barked a mere three inches from my head as the car passed me scare me. I also fear getting stranded or lost. As such, I'm sticking to the same three 20 mile loops for every ride and they're getting damn boring. I need to go out farther and I need to explore new roads. I think it's time I actively seek some cycling buddies because, while they can't prevent me from getting rear-ended by a reckless, texting-while-driving teenager (another fear), they can at least peel my cell phone off my bike and call 911 if it happens.
- I want to be faster. I really want to average more like 16 mph rather than 14 mph so I can keep up with a group ride. I think this is just a matter of pushing myself harder and training more (neither of which I'm particularly motivated to do.) Can't I just get good with minimal effort??
- I still haven't ridden the drops. I'm ALWAYS riding the hoods and this isn't the most efficient position, particularly when I'm cruising downhill. I'm scared of riding the drops, okay? There, I've said it. I need to get over that.
- And speaking of my fear of letting go of the handlebars, I still haven't tried drinking from my water bottle while riding. I'm able to ride one-handed as long as the hand that's holding on is my left hand, but I'm afraid to attempt to drink while moving. So dumb, I know, but there you have it. I also suspect I need to get comfortable riding one-handed with my right hand.
I've decided to train in the winter with a local cycle club so that all the progress I've made this summer doesn't fly out the window once I stop riding (which will likely be at some point in September because I hate riding once the temperature drops below 60 degrees).
My goal is still to ride a century . Baby steps...
Dear Guy Driving Large Truck,
I appreciate that we're all in a rush and that it can be an immense inconvenience to come across a cyclist on a windy country road. I really do get that we all have to be someplace in the morning, and I sympathize with whatever deadline you were under when you passed me in the most inconvenient of places and then subsequently pulled into a parking lot a mile down the road.
First of all, I didn't see your face, but this is roughly what I remember you looked like..
So maybe my reaction of sheer terror was a bit visceral and overblown, but I think you can understand that given our size difference.
I want to be clear about what happened today, just in case you come across this blog or someone else in an extreme hurry to get absolutely nowhere reads this.
I was going down hill, at about 25 mph, on a windy road. That means you had to speed your MASSIVE truck up to at least 35 MPH to pass me and move that hulking beast into the opposite lane. Did I mention the road was windy? Well, it was - this means there was no visibility and if someone had been coming towards us they would've been dead. I likely also would've been dead, but you would've probably been fine.
You forced me over too far to the right and my tires hit broken asphalt (the road was choppy here) which caused massive veering and near loss of control of the bike. If you've read this blog at all, then you know I'M NOT GOOD AT THIS YET! I honestly don't know how the bike remained upright. Oh, and did I mention the huge deer that your truck startled which was directly to my right? Well, there was this deer...oh just forget it.
Somehow...SOMEHOW...I didn't wipe out and got through the turn once you'd passed me. Luckily for all of us, there were no oncoming cars. Imagine my surprise when I saw you pull your truck off the road only three minutes after you passed me. I can't help but wonder why you couldn't slow the fuck down until we were past the most dangerous part of the road. I mean, it wasn't like I was going 10 mph - I WAS GOING 25 MPH!!
I hate you because I'm now afraid to ride on that road for the rest of the summer. I hate that I saw my life flash before my eyes and I hate that it all happened because you had to get your fat ass to a parking lot 2 minutes sooner for no apparent reason.
I guess some people are just assholes. But, I do want to thank you for reminding me that I'm glad to be alive. I kissed both my kids when I got home.
Angry Mommy Cyclist
A few things occurred to me while I was out on my bike this morning. The roads were wet, it was muggy and hot so I was sweating buckets and it was slightly busier (car-wise) than usual due to the holiday, but I still felt wonderful. Why?
- I was actually doing it! It was the first ride that, at times, I actually felt confident and in control of the bike. Once the terror receded, I began to notice lots of other cool things which leads me to the next realization...
- Speed! I was going so fast! I mean, really, really fast! This is, of course, based on my experience on my hybrid. I was maintaining 16-17 mph on flat road and as much as 20-22 mph on hills (gently downward sloping hills - I still squeeze the brakes in terror on real drops)
- I'm so happy I discovered cycling. I mean, I'm happy I've had a lot of success getting in shape and losing weight, and a lot of that was due to Weight Watchers plus going to the gym, but cycling played a huge part in it. I don't love spending 40 minutes on an elliptical machine and I hate lifting weights, but it's all so much more doable when I have the end goal of getting out on my bike to look forward to.
Building enough stamina to ride my bike 15 miles a day feels like a huge personal accomplishment. I've been sedentary all my life - but now I realize that I don't HAVE to be sedentary just because that's how I happened to define myself for the last 25 years.
I never pictured my 40-year-old body flying down a country road (on a bike) at 20 miles per hour. I never thought I'd LOVE the sound of road bike tires gliding on asphalt. They make a kind of hiss when you get the gears just right and the chain doesn't click. You just know the sound is absolutely RIGHT.
Suddenly being in shape means more than just fitting into cute jeans and getting up and down the stairs without panting like a St. Bernard - it means I get to ride, and ride farther and father and explore the roads where I live at eye level. And, well, those are just some really cool perks.
Well, it had to happen sometime. I turned 40 three days ago. I'm happy that, at 40, I can ride 15 miles on my bike but I'm riddled with a plethora of insecurities and angst about lots of other age-related things.
First of all, even though I exercise at least an hour a day for 5 days/week, my weight has been creeping up on me since last July. I'm now up 14 pounds since my low of 116. I suppose it's because I've gradually been eating more and I really need to just cut back on the calories, but I'm reluctant to do that because I LOVE FOOD. And, if we're going to be honest here, 116 is just a tad too low to maintain for me, at my age. At my AGE! (sob). But I digress..
I was eating around 1200 calories per day on Weight Watchers and when I switched to counting calories, I moved to around 1600 calories per day. The end of the cycling season also coincided with this increase in calories and even though I went to the gym at least 3-4 days per week all winter long, I just don't burn as much when I'm not on the bike.
I love my size 2 jeans more than food though, and I also love feeling strong and fit. So...after this holiday weekend, I'm going to suck it up and start being more disciplined again. However, I don't think my metabolism is really working with me on this goal. Stephanie Dolgoff of Formerly Hot calls this "The Big Metabolic Fuck You" in her book of the same name, "Formerly Hot, Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young." It's when the metabolism just plain slows down and you have to work way harder to stay in the same place.
I agree with Stephanie that it's a real bitch to have to work twice as hard to maintain a weight I'm happy with, but I also really, REALLY like feeling fit and strong probably for the first time EVER in my life. I mean, I was effortlessly thin for most of my life until I had my first child at the age of 30, then the weight slowly crept up on me. I didn't actually work out (much) to maintain my weight and I took it for granted, particularly in my 20's, that I was always going to be thin (and young).
I could totally relate to Stephanie's book and I'm completely addicted to her blog - but I also feel so incredibly lucky to have discovered the joy of cycling at the ripe old age of 37. I'm now 40, with my first road bike, and I am totally having fantasies of riding that century in the next couple of years. Imagine being 42 and riding 100 miles on a road bike. Imagine!!!
I'm starting to think that I can really do this. I went out yesterday and this morning and rode two 15 mile rides (ish) - it was more like 13.8 miles yesterday and 14.8 miles today, but let's just round it up since there were a ton of hills and it's pretty much a miracle that I'm not dead by now anyway. Both rides took me about an hour, which isn't bad (from my perspective). By comparison, it generally took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to do the same ride on my hybrid.
So, I'm learning a lot about what I need to work on. Spending an hour in the saddle each day is probably the best way to do that. I think my biggest challenge is figuring out how I can comfortably descend a steep hill without looking like this:
Just pretend the steering wheel is (are?) the handlebars of a bike and that the screaming woman is me, and you get the idea.
I'm still not comfortable standing up on the bike when on a steep climb, so I've avoided steep climbs for the most part, except for this morning and then I sat the ENTIRE time. I thought my heart was going to explode, but I made it up. Then I was too scared to go down the way I'd come up, so I took an alternate route home on a busier road. The road has a shoulder, so I thought I'd be fine but it turns out that the very edges of roads are a lot less smooth than the center of the road. So, I ended up going down a fairly steep incline, in the midst of traffic, and hugging the side of a road riddled with potholes, cracks and debris. I can't avoid this stuff, I know, but I can learn how to handle it better. So....I emailed a bike coach and asked him if he can go for a ride with me next Wednesday and give me some professional feedback. I fully expect this to be a humiliating experience, but hopefully I will learn a few things that will keep me from making some newbie mistakes.
Speaking of getting good advice, I stumbled upon this great article by Jim Langley, a cycling expert. It's full of really good advice for newbies such as myself. I plan to spend more time exploring his web site and, of course, I will add a link to the blogroll.
Well, I did it. I bought a new road bike last Wednesday (and it hasn't stopped raining since). It's an Avail 1 from Giant which I got at a local bike shop. Here's a picture of my new glorious chariot.
So that's exactly it - I even got the dark blue (it also comes in white). Notice it doesn't come with pedals. I had to BUY them separately even though the bike retails at $1200. You heard me right. And this is just a starter bike (according to the guy at the bike shop who then pointed me to a bike that easily retailed for $7500. Okay...whatever).
Now, there are a few things that a newbie cyclist such as myself did not know about moving to a road bike from a hybrid.
- The "clipless" pedals I was so excited to get take some getting used to. As in, you are guaranteed to fall when you first try them. Which I did. Twice.
- The super lightweight construction of the bike takes some getting used to. As in, you will find yourself flying down the road faster than you ever did on your 40 lb hybrid and clinging to the aerodynamically-designed handlebars for dear life. Which is not cool, by the way.
- The gears/brakes/handlebars take A LOT of getting used to, particularly when you're used to riding a hybrid bike. At this point, I still don't quite trust that the strength in my hands (which are small - I'm only 5'1') will prevent me from hurtling at top speed to my death, should I need to apply the brakes suddenly.
- There are lots of new things to be terrified of! Potholes for example - the slim tires on the road bike do not handle them well, so I tend to veer out widely into the road in order to avoid them. Not good, nor safe - particularly considering how unstable I am on the bike so far
- The seat...well...the seat is an unforgiving, inflexible plank that doles out punishment with every single bump and groove in the road. So...I need to get myself some proper (expensive) cycling shorts and something called chamois cream (also expensive), which I'm too embarrassed to explain at the moment. Google it.
So after a week of owning the road bike, I'm more than a little intimidated by it and I can't really get aquainted with it until the biblical rain subsides (it's supposed to clear up by Sunday - woo hoo!) Then I can back on the bike and try for a 15 mile ride which is so NOT a century but you gotta start somewhere.
So I took a big step today and sought out a cycling coach via my good friend Google. It turns out there's a cycling club only 7 miles from me and the leader of this club is a certified personal trainer, cycling coach and long-time cycler. I emailed him and explained my goal of riding a century (eventually) and expressed my desire of not dieing in the pursuit of this seemingly impossible dream.
He called me within 30 minutes of my email and said first thing's first, I need a bike. So guess what? He's going with me to help me choose a road bike! I'm so delighted!! It's like when I was 20 and my dad went with me to buy my first car and he was so intimidating and immovable he had all the salesman completely freaked out. Only this guy sounds much nicer than my dad was, so I hope he's really tall and somewhat imposing.
The cycling club trains all winter indoors which i wish I would've know two months ago. He also said that outdoor cyclists can develop bad habits from spinning class. I hope that means he won't want me to stop spinning! I loves me my spinning class!!
I don't know how much this guy costs yet, but I hope I can work with him just a little while until I feel comfortable on the bike and confident going more than 20 miles out on the road. I'm also really excited about joining group rides with this club. It's way more fun to ride as a pack than going solo.
I'm not going to post my weight every time I write a blog entry anymore because, frankly, I'm getting really obsessed over it and more often than not it just bums me out. I'm tracking my calories on FatSecret.com, working out 4-5 times per week and really focusing on my goal of riding at LEAST 50 miles this summer.
In terms of riding a century, I'm really freaking out about it. It scares me to think of riding for 7 hours straight. Plus I have no idea what I'm doing. I feel like I can just focus on one step at a time and right now that means training at the gym and reading everything I can about how to complete a 100 mile ride. I also think it may help if I have a trainer that rides and can take a few sessions with him/her in the spring, just to learn about proper form on the road bike and, oh I don't know, first aid in case I drive off the side of a mountain.
I can do this. I CAN do this!
Weight: 127.6 (or possibly 127.8, I can't remember)
Excercise: Spinning ~50 minutes
Well, I'd like to say I ACED my workout this morning, particularly since I rarely get my butt to the gym on Sunday morning, but alas, it was not one of my finer moments. First of all, I woke up all crampy and fatigued due to my Aunt Flo coming for a visit. She's such a bitch. Natural bodily functions and/or body parts make me feel embarrassed, so my infrequent references to them will always be punctuated with cute and/or campy nick names (e.g. spinning hurts my "va jay jay"). I apologize in advance for how utterly repressed I am.
Anyway, I did manage to get my bike seat back (I'd left it at the gym yesterday) - so hooray for saving $25! But things went rapidly downhill from there. Mostly this is because I ended up giving my bike to a woman who didn't have bike shoes (most of the bikes have an option that lets you use sneakers or bike shoes with clips.) However, her bike only had clips (the shoe thingies were broken). I'd already sized the bike I gave her and was waiting for class to begin, so I hastily sized the new bike, but did so incorrectly. Namely, the seat was a smidge too high.
To anyone out there considering spinning, make SURE the seat is the proper height before the brutality of spinning class begins or you will..."sorely"...regret it. Bad pun intended. To make matters worse, the spinning teacher informed us that we were going to do sprints, which is when you pedal really fast on the bike while either in a seated or standing position. Standing sprints aren't a problem if your seat is a bit too high, but sitting and sprinting on a bike when your ass is too far from your feet hurts like a mo fo.
And so 20 minutes into the class I seriously considered just hopping off the bike and resizing it, but the bikes are squeezed in really tight and I didn't want to upset my neighbors. I suffered through it and was eternally grateful when we did two sets of standing sprints that lasted about 10 minutes.
I don't think I got as good a workout as yesterday. I purposely slowed down my cadence while sitting and had to turn down the resistance so as not to start crying. I did sweat a bunch and my heart rate was up - so there's that. It just goes to show that every workout can't be perfect. I plan to take tomorrow's 9:30 a.m. spinning class which will hopefully make up for today's fail.