The anticipation of a long-ride is exciting.
Typically, my long rides are on Sundays. Today, I was determined to ride longer than 30 miles, my current record. My training plan has me on the bike for 2 and a half hours. So, with an average speed of 15 mph, a 35-40 mile ride is doable within the time constraints.
The local triathlon group that I typically ride with on Sunday mornings was planning an unusually ambitious day. Their sights on a 65-mile ride. Not only were they going to double my personal best, but their average speeds are considerably faster than what I’m comfortable doing for any extended period of time.
Now, I look forward to Sundays and the feeling of camaraderie during the group rides. However, once I realized their plans for the day, I immediately felt the sting of disappointment. They were going to ride both too far and too fast. Regardless, I was resolved to hit my goal, so I planned to ride alone. To prepare, I used Strava to create a 40-mile round-trip bike route. In the morning I packed my nutrition, two bottles with an electrolyte drink, a few new energy gels, and a bonk breaker nutrition bar. I was all set and ready to ride.
I didn’t ride alone
The triathlon group gathers at a local park (read: a playground with ample parking) between 5:45-6:00 am with plans to be “wheels-down” by 6:15. Even though I planned to ride alone, I decided to show up and start my ride with the group. I’m still a new face, so some of the riders introduced themselves and we discussed average speeds and the planned distances. Some even encouraged me to ride with them because they were planning to ride only 40 miles. I responded that 35-40 miles was also my planned distance. But, I would not ride as fast as they typically do. They average between 19-21 MPH whereas I average 14-16 MPH. That’s a huge difference when riding for an extended period. I could keep that pace for a little while. But, riding that hard would be an anaerobic workout and I am building my aerobic endurance. As badly as I wanted to say fuck-it and go with them, I had to remember to “ride my ride”….the Ironman is an endurance event. Some of them even offered to ride slower so that I wouldn’t have to be alone. It’s that type of inclusive, supportive attitude that makes me want to spend more time training with them. But, I know the truth….they’ll start slow and then feel the urge to speed up and I’ll get left behind. Or, I’ll feel bad because I know they are holding back so that they don’t leave me behind and feel compelled to ride beyond my limits. So, I opted to stick with my plan and ride alone.
I began the ride with the pack. However, as anticipated, I quickly fell behind. One of the strongest riders even dropped back to check on me. I told him that I appreciated his gesture, but he should go ahead and ride with the group because I was going to ride alone. He nodded and was gone in an instant. It was still dark so I could see most of the blinky tail-lights get smaller and smaller as they pulled away. As the main pack turned off on a side street, I noticed two riders maintaining the course and riding a bit slower. So, I caught up with them and we chatted a bit. They were planning a 35-40 mile ride and said that they average 15-16 mph. Bingo!
Great! Let’s do this
We ended up together for about 2.5 hrs, riding on some beautiful-ass back roads. I had the presence of mind to enjoy the moment and even watch the sunrise. What a magnificent way to begin a day! I felt so calm and grateful to be able to engage in such a wonderful activity. I am loving the time with like-minded souls while savoring the peace, growth, and self-reflection during the rides. #lifeisgoodontheroad
Then came the inevitable… I started to struggle with the discomfort of the seat about 1hr 30min into the ride. I stood up, leaned left, and leaned right. It just kept getting more uncomfortable. But, that’s part of the acclimation to becoming a cyclist. It’s literally a pain-in-the-ass! Fuck it, there is no growth without discomfort.
Like many multisport athletes, I use a Garmin 945 multisport watch. Last night, I’d programmed my training heart rate zones and some useful alerts. So, instead of having to manually keep track of my heart rate, the watch would tell me when I was in or outside of my training zone. So, while riding, as my heart rate went above or below the pre-set parameters, I got alerts and thought that I knew what was happening. I would speed up when my heart rate was falling too low and ease up when it got too high. The goal was to stay in zone 1…build my endurance.
We didn’t stop for a break until we were about 5 miles from the starting point (35 miles into the ride). Riding nonstop is unusual for me, but it forced me to take in my hydration and calories (bonk bar, and gels) while on the bike.. leading to the development of another critical skill. Which is, getting confident enough to ride with one hand while eating and drinking. For a short ride (1 hr or less), the nutrition is not so important, but in the Houston summer heat, hydration and electrolytes are a must-have…unless you enjoy cramps. So, when on a multi-hour ride, eating and drinking at regular intervals is an essential skill that I must develop.
Pure excitement from a personal best and then a dose of humility…
After completing the route we returned to the park and ran about 2 miles. Moving immediately from one discipline into another is called a “brick” workout. It’s a way to simulate what happens during an actual race. Transitioning from the bike to a run is the most difficult (I described this in a previous post). Finishing with morning with the brick was joyous, I felt so incredibly accomplished. I rode for 40 miles, did a 1.8-mile brick and felt great. I was super thirsty, my body was exhausted, but mentally, I on top of the world. All before 9 am too!
I felt so proud.
Per my usual routine, I uploaded the post-workout bike and run data to my training calendar so that Johnny could review it. He read it and was very direct in his assessment of my ride. He sent me the following message:
You spent most of your time not in zone 1. If you don’t use it, you lose it. In addition, when getting out of zone 1 you’re inhibiting the use of fat as fuel and fat loss. Remember the bigger the base the faster you’ll be able to go. BUT you have to stay in zone 1 to get the desired training effect. Not average in zone 1. 🙂 There are many variables that affect heart rate. Temperature is one of them. If you had coffee then the struggle is real. Once you get a power meter for your bike it’ll be much easier to stay in your zone. You did a solid good training session by trying to stay as close as you could to zone 1.
Again, like running, I became fixated on achieving a certain distance and less concerned with building my endurance by sticking to the training plan.
There are many pieces to preparing for this big-ass endeavor…Ironman Texas 2020 #thestruggleisreal