Swim: 0 m/105,145 m
Bike: 67.7/1,170.7 miles
Run: 21.5/406.1 miles
Remembering how to ride a bike is apparently so simple that it has become one of the most well-worn comparisons in our language. “It’s like riding a bike” – a skill that is so ingrained into our muscle memory that it comes back without conscious thought after years of neglect.
After a dreadful biking month in August, I’ve been trying to get in the saddle as much as I can this month to reawaken those dormant skills. I’ll admit that I haven’t sunk to the level of the woman I saw in the parking lot of our beach hotel this morning, whose husband was offering loving support as she tentatively wobbled forward on her beach cruiser. It looked like maybe she had never learned, or at least never ridden since she was about 7 years old.
But I took almost three weeks off from riding in August, a situation that was mostly unavoidable because of scheduling but maybe partly because I am subconsciously exhausted from living the triathlon life this year. But this week has been a different story – I’ve got limited time before my next race, and new clipless pedals to try out before race day.
Getting back on the bike wasn’t hard, and learning the new pedals has been very easy so far, too. What’s been difficult to recapture is my stamina and my ease on the bike. In my first ride after the three weeks off, I hardly got into the aero position at all, and the same was true for my 42-mile ride a couple days ago. It just felt unnatural, and my already-tired body was telling me that it would be harder to breathe when I was in aero since my lungs would be more compressed. I just felt like aero was too aggressive for the kind of riding I was attempting, like it was more than I could do at the time.
That was a ridiculous line of thought, and something I needed to overcome. Today I felt the same way when I started out, but I made myself assume the position and suddenly found myself shifting into a higher gear and going faster than before. I rode the first 13 miles of the 26-mile out-and-back at about 18.5 mph, but hit the return at 20.6 mph. Suddenly I was feeling good again, both physically as I powered along the pavement and mentally as I realized I had crossed a mental hurdle. Something in my subconscious had been holding me back – maybe I’m more nervous about this race than I thought, and I was thinking that if I don’t allow myself to race aggressively then I’ll have an excuse when my race performance is sub-par. I know it’s going to be a tough course, but that can’t be an excuse to not race to my potential.
There’s more riding to be done in the next 10 days – I still need to practice getting in and out of my shoes while riding the bike to prepare for transition – and I need to hold on to this mindset for the next week and a half. I need to ride hard, in aero, and regain the confidence and comfort that I let slip away.