Swim: 0 m/101,745 m
Bike: 23.5/1,072.2 miles
Run: 9.6/337.4 miles
I’ll admit it – I’ve been cheating myself. I set an artificial goal that, I fear, clouded my better judgment and steered my focus away from the training that would have given me a greater benefit.
Somewhere along the way I was infected with the notion that, in order to be considered a strong triathlete or cyclist, you needed to produce rides with an average speed greater than 20 mph. Maybe it was a subconscious side effect from seeing all the amazing workouts posted on Daily Mile, or just something about that nice, even number. But riding at an average speed of 20 mph became my benchmark goal – the result I sought for months on end. And while you can’t cheat your way to that kind of pace – I’ve ridden 1,000 miles in the past five months and incorporated cycling-specific weight training – there are places where you can cut corners.
I cut those corners on last variable I could control – the course. I looked around for the flattest course I could find, hoping that the lack of topographical impediment would speed my way to faster overall times. I found an 8-mile loop that could be generously described as “gently rolling,” and my standard ride included at least two-and-a-half or three circuits of the course. And it worked. Twice in recent weeks I’ve ridden this course at 20 mph or above.
And now it’s out of my system. I know I can ride that pace in favorable conditions, so I can mentally move forward. It’s time to really push away from those “safe” conditions and out of my comfort zone.
Riding hills is what’s going to make me a stronger cyclist. And the sad thing is that there’s a huge 1.5-mile hill at the far end of this loop – instead of riding it every week I would just turn around before I got there. I was so focused on an artificial time goal that I was neglecting the hills that would slow me down and take me farther from my goal pace – the hills that would have actually made me stronger.
Starting now, I’m aiming to include major hills into every ride. I’m going to push my regular loop longer to include that beast of a climb. I’m going to ride more often in my own neighborhood, which is not only more convenient, but filled with disgusting hills. And I’m not just going to ride the hills – I’m going to attack them. It might kill me, but it also might not, and then I’ll be a stronger cyclist in the end.
I’ll certainly still strive for 20 mph rides, but it’s not my overriding goal. In fact, I included that loathsome 1.5-mile climb in Monday’s 23.5-mile ride of my regular route, and I still finished with a 19.7 mph average speed (and then ran a 3.4-mile brick run at a 7:08 pace).
The rumor is that the bike course of my upcoming Olympic triathlon is hilly, with climbs that rival or even surpass the turnaround hill in my last sprint race. I want to be as ready as I can be. For the next five weeks, I’m going to be on a steady diet of hills.