The past few days have involved a lot of ass-in-saddle time.
After a conversation with my coach, the conclusion is that the bike is my tri weakness (duh) and that it should definitely get some extra focus if I’m going to really get serious about racing. Plus, it takes some of the stress off of my running legs. And I flat-out love riding.
Saturday was the second Burrito Ride with Lauren and Katie. These sessions are about a good workout, sure, but the endgame involves stuffing our faces at Qdoba to replenish lost calories (plus more). We headed out from Georgetown toward Great Falls late morning with every intention of covering 50-60 miles, but once we got to River Rd. no one had any interest in doing a bunch of climbing. Plus it started raining. So we turned around and ate instead. Total 33-ish miles.
Easter Sunday in D.C. saw the absolute best weather we’ve had in a long time — sunny, warm and perfect for a solid ride on the Felt. Someone smart told me I should put some decent time in on that bike before Kinetic because 56 miles is a LONG way. Truth. So I hit Beach Dr. by myself because it’s pretty, relatively flat and more or less uninterrupted.
My new ride is FAST.
Get down in aero and that thing flies. It was great to get out on the road and average 19-20mph, something I’ve had a hard time doing at Hains, probably because it’s a loop and has terrible winds every time I go. It gave me some confidence that I can in fact handle this bike well and reassured me that it won’t make me slower. If I want a sub-3:00 bike split in a 70.3, I need to pick up the pace. 30-ish miles, followed by a 5 mile run on Sunday evening.
Monday was another beautiful day — albeit a bit hot — and I was excited to join NCVC (one of the local teams) for their weekly hill ride in Arlington. When I contacted their womens’ team coordinator a few weeks back, she said this is the best introduction to the team because it’s a no-drop recovery ride. Not only do I appreciate the hill work, but I also know that riding with people who are faster and stronger than me will make me better. Plus I can always use the practice riding in a group even though that isn’t relevant in triathlon. So I packed up my bike and counted the minutes until I could leave work and head out.
Well. When I arrived it was me and a bunch of guys (who are SERIOUS), and more kept coming. You know they are all thinking “damn, a girl” because it means someone has to babysit. Thankfully, Katie showed up, followed by another woman who already has plenty of team experience under her belt.
The leader of the ride gave the whole speech about the course and regroup points, etc., but I didn’t listen that closely because I don’t know the area at all — so without a written cue sheet in front of me directions are in one ear, out the other — and I figured I would be able to hang on. I’m a strong climber and all I have to do is keep the last person in sight up to each regroup, right?
In any case, we headed out and I felt great. The climbs were hard, but I managed to stay on someone’s wheel and/or pass a few people each time. Hooray for being light! Then I would fall back a bit on the descents/flats and catch back up somewhere on the next hill. And those climbs kept coming one after the other.
So that was all well and good for about 10 miles, but then after a regroup I took a turn too slowly — yeah, I’m still afraid of fast cornering — and ended up behind. When you’re not with the pack, you’re doing a lot more work by yourself, so I knew I needed to get back on or the rest of the ride was going to be rough. Unfortunately, as we came up over a hill, I couldn’t see the last person in front of me take a turn, so I missed it entirely and promptly got lost. I knew Katie and a few others were behind me, but at that point I wasn’t sure if stopping and waiting would make any difference.
Let me reiterate that I do not know this area AT ALL. I thought we were close to Falls Church but in random neighborhoods, and nothing looked familiar. So I had a moment of panic and realized I could either stop and cry about it or whip out my phone and navigate my way back to my car. I decided on the latter. Thankfully I made a last-minute decision to even carry my it with me and, more to the point, it hadn’t frozen up after getting a little sweaty in my jersey pocket. iPhone/GoogleMaps FTW.
Anyway, I discovered I was only two turns away from home, but unfortunately 1) it was still a long distance to ride 2) it was all on main busy roads and 3) darkness was quickly approaching. Then I made a wrong turn on Lee Highway and realized it only because I basically ended up at Bonzai, which I knew was further out than I wanted to be.
But as I got closer to the shopping center at which we started, things began to look more familiar, and I was proud of myself for behaving like an adult, not getting killed and covering the distance in minimal time.
I’ve never been more excited to see my car.
In conclusion, I learned several things on that ride. First, always carry a phone. Always. Preferably one with GPS. Second, when things don’t go as planned, don’t panic. It’ll make you a better rider if you just calm down and figure shit out. Third, “no-drop” is a relative term. And last, I CAN do this. My Garmin clocked me at 14-15mph going up most of those hills — which is FAST for someone who usually goes 10-11 when climbing — and my overall speed averaged around 18mph even after I got lost. And those hills kept coming and coming:
22 miles. Check. I’ve come a long way from the super-slow girl who last year was afraid to clip in or ride in traffic to a strong and confident rider who can handle stress on the bike.
So I’ll be back next week, if for no other reason than I have to prove to myself that I can hang on. Plus, it’s a great workout and will definitely make me a stronger cyclist and totally ready for the hills in Madison. Bring it on, NCVC. I will conquer your Monday ride.