Cycling update

I haven’t written about my cycling in quite a while, and my training blog is dead at the moment — I haven’t posted there in over a month.  That’s largely because the blog was meant as a way to record my adventures in triathlon training, and those adventures have stopped for the moment.  I’m still riding, but I’m not running, and only if I’m running does it make sense to me to swim.  I’ve just had so much trouble getting over my most recent running injury, that I’m wondering if running is ever going to work for me, or if I’m willing to be patient enough to make it work.  My injury from last fall has gotten steadily better over the last couple months, and right now it appears to be gone, but I’m not entirely sure it won’t come back if I try to run again.  I did sign up for a couple triathlons for later this spring, and I can still train for them, although I won’t have time to train well, but I can’t decide if I want to.

So I’m in a holding pattern for the moment, waiting for the desire to do one thing or the other to surface and make itself known.  My feelings about bike races versus triathlons are still the same: I think I would like triathlons better because they are more individual — I can race against my own best time — whereas bike races are very much about group dynamics and whether I can keep up with everybody else.  I also like the idea of being proficient in more than one sport and using different sets of muscles with each one.  On the other hand, triathlon training is very time-consuming, more so than training for bike races alone.  Even if I train the same number of hours each week for triathlons as I do for bike races, it still takes up more time, since the total number of workouts is higher and the training involves trips to the pool, which means some extra driving time.

I’m also really, really bad at doing strength training and core exercises, which I desperately need to keep me in good running shape and to be a good swimmer.  I think a weak core is the main cause of my last running injury, and I’ve tried lately to do core exercises, but I just can’t seem to make myself keep it up.  I tell people that I’m really, really undisciplined when it comes to exercise, and they laugh at me, but it’s true — if it’s not 100% fun, I don’t do it.  Core exercises are not 100% fun.

So that’s that.  As I see them, here are my options for this year:  1. pick up the triathlon training again and give it another go, 2. stick with the bike racing and just deal with the fact that I’m not fond of how bike races are run, or 3. ride my bike mainly as a recreational rider and race only if I really, really want to.  I’m training right now as though I’m going to do #2, although I don’t plan to race until a little later in the season than usual. I suppose I’ll keep doing that until I decide to do something else.

I went on a really great, if totally gross, group ride today.  It’s the 50th birthday of the local bike shop owner, so he arranged a ride to celebrate.  About 30 of us did the beach loop, which is a 50-mile trip down to the Long Island Sound and back.  I had a lot of fun, but what made the ride gross was the fact that the roads were thoroughly wet from rain and melting snow, so pretty much from the first minute out, every one of us was covered in mud.  Every time we rode through a puddle, which was often, I got a spray of muddy, gritty water in my face and all over my clothes.  I know better than I’d like about the taste of mud.  We stopped at a coffee shop about halfway through the trip to get something to eat, and we must have been quite a sight — 30 wet, muddy, hungry riders invading the small, clean, quiet place in search of food.  It’s all just part of the fun of late winter riding, I suppose.

14 Comments

Filed under Cycling, Triathlon

14 responses to “Cycling update

  1. I’m so impressed by the training you’ve done and your willingness to take on such difficult goals. I’m wondering here about competitions. Reading you, I wonder how you feel about doing a sport that isn’t quite so linked to competitiveness – is that a really dumb thing to say? I suppose sport is always competitive in some respects. Only triathalon strikes me as presenting you with three times the number of competitive situations as does the bike racing, and that must be consuming of time and energy on so many levels. Are there other ways that tempt you to keep fit and healthy but don’t involve you pushing yourself enough to get injuries or signing up for races that don’t suit your personality?

    But remember, all this comes from a sport ignoramus!!

  2. How about a team triathlon to start where your work with two others and just take the one leg (swimming or cycling I guess)?

  3. It is very hard to maintain the “I do this for fun” mindset at some of the rides & races with those uber-competitive folks, but hopefully you’ll know soon what to pursue and what to let go. Just group *riding* was so competitive that it turned me off for a while, but with some time away, I’m looking forward to getting back to it. And this year, I’m not afraid to say no to the rides I know are going to turn into a race!

  4. The mud sounds like fun — which is what I hope you find in any of these three options. As for the core training, I only do that sort of thing when there is someone else there to do it alone with me. I’m terrible at sticking to stuff like that if I don’t have a partner.

  5. Best of luck in making your decision. Maybe not racing until later in the season will help and you will get some oomph back and enjoy racing a bit more? Or maybe you can find a partner to do core exercise with so it isn’t such a drag. Any way you can drag Hobgoblin into it?

  6. I was wondering how the cycling and other training was going. I admire your tenacity to stick with something that you might not be enjoying as much as you’d like. I still think a triathalon would be cool to do, but the competitive bike racing would be hard. Good luck sorting things out and getting ready for the season so start. And hopefully sunny and drier weather is on the way.

  7. Kellyv45

    I have had similar feelings and concerns about racing and triathlons. My career started as a triathlete, then competitive cyclist, next triathlete, and now…. Because, I became so burned out on my intense training scedules and plans, I took a few years off from competitions. During these last two years, I chose to do endurance events but not focus on “winning”. So, I did the NYC Marathon, Biked the STP (Seattle to Portland) and biked across Missouri on the Katy Trail. These events have given me time to reflect on my career as a competitor. I realized I needed a break from all the pressure. Which, was coming mainly from myself. I began to enjoy each sport again and what each had to offer. Anyway, it helped me “rest” and gain new found vigor. Good luck. I know it is a hard decision.

    By the way, has anyone read “Outliers”?

  8. Litlove — thanks for the comment; I’ve been thinking about it a lot. You are absolutely right that competitiveness is the issue. I’m totally uninterested in competing against other people (at least in this area of my life — not in every area, for better or worse!). The thing is, triathlon allows me to compete against myself, something I DO enjoy (I could compete against other people in a triathlon, but it’s much easier to ignore everyone else and just go for my own best time). Bike racing, on the other hand, is all about competing against others and it’s nearly impossible to make it individual and compete against myself. I’m not sure the three sports thing makes a difference in terms of competitiveness, but it does make a difference in terms of time, which is a problem. So there are good things about each sport, but I can’t seem to combine the good things and exclude the bad. The attraction of my option #3, I suppose, is that it involves giving up racing entirely, unless I’m strongly motivated to do it. I could compete against myself in terms of number of miles ridden a year, or fastest average speed for particular rides, or whatever. But there is something very fun about racing too … and I’m talking in circles!

    Jodie — that’s definitely a possibility, and thanks for reminding me of it. I haven’t pursued that option very much, but it sounds like a lot of fun, if I found the right people to race with!

    Debby — I agree that group riding can be way too competitive sometimes, with the wrong group. I think it’s very important to know something about the group you’re riding with, so you can guard against that sort of thing. I’ve tried to get better about not caring if other people want to get competitive — that only works if we play along, right?

    Bloglily — yeah, I need to think about what’s fun and use that as a guide. Although it’s complicated when races are both fun and difficult — or difficult at first and fun later, once I’m in the middle of it. Great idea about working with a partner — I should get Hobgoblin to work with me.

    Stefanie — well, Hobgoblin and I went to yoga class today, which is a start; it’s not totally focused on core strength, but it helps, and we can probably drag each other to class regularly. And yeah, taking it easier early on might help — at least keeping my expectations low and not worrying about making decisions right away.

    Danielle — amen about the weather! Yeah, doing a triathlon would be really cool, and I still may do it, who knows? I suppose I should be glad to have lots of possibilities out there instead of feeling like I don’t have any options. It would be much worse not to be able to train at all.

    Kellyv45 — how interesting to hear your story. I can definitely see that intense training would lead to burnout. Perhaps I’m fortunate in my inability to train that intensely — I need lots and lots of time for reading, which helps to keep me balanced! It’s great that you found a way to enjoy your various sports again. The long distance events you do sound great! And no, I haven’t read Outliers. Something I should look for?

  9. I don’t blame you a bit: core exercises? Ugh! I can’t bring myself to so much as lift a finger, if it isn’t something fun. That bike ride, mud and all, sounds like fun, though (if I were in the bike-riding shape to do 50 miles).

  10. zhiv

    I was hoping to find this cross-posted over at the sleepy training blog–it’s seems like a better venue for a quick pep talk. Seems like you’ve got some winter fitness blues going on, which will get better when the snow starts melting and the sun is shining. But the false beat I find in your argument is when you say that “only if I’m running does it make sense to me to swim.” How so? It seemed like you were making fantastic progress in swimming, which seems like it should be its own cross-training reward, and a way to get fit and stronger even while you can’t run–especially when it’s snowy and muddy and cold and crappy outside. Between the bike and swimming you have two great (fun and rewarding) activities, and the running will come along when it’s time.

    Swimming is also good for the core strength (and upper body)–especially if you’re doing something else that helps you focus on your core. I find that trying to do core exercises on my own is impossible. They’re just no fun, very difficult to keep up. Yoga is a little easier to do on your own. But I would do nothing (core philosophy) if it wasn’t for classes. Pilates mat classes are the best, yoga classes are good but you don’t get the same focus on the core. But trying to do it on your own is virtually impossible, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. The key is to figure out a plan, which you did, and you just have to get your momentum back. Your training blog records of your progress in the pool were inspiring, and you shouldn’t let a running tweak cut that off.

    “Do nothing” applies to the decision process about your competitions this year. There is a big gray area between all three of your options, and you seem extremely ambivalent about pushing through on #2 again when already you know the season and the races so well. The “recreation” in #3 is the key, and should apply to both #1 and #2 somehow–have fun!

  11. I’m plagued by running injuries as well, but I love it too much to reconcile myself to the idea of giving it up altogether. I do fare much better when I’m serious about strength training to keep my gait solid. But unless I’m working out with a trainer regularly I tend to get lazy and drift away from the routine. I’ve recently begun reading a book titled “ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running”–I’ll let you know if it lives up to its subtitle!

  12. My goodness! I greatly respect your dedication and perseverance. Take it easy until you’re totally healed, okay? Maybe #3 is a better option right now…

    I should send you an article about female athletes and injuries. Women are injured more often than men and start retraining WAY before they should, thus increasing the probability that they’ll really get hurt during future competitions. Just be careful. (I sound like your mom, don’t I)?

  13. I really admire that you can race. I just hate how frustrated I get by losing at stuff (any stuff), so I would hate riding if I were racing (if that makes sense). But when I focus on just enjoying the ride, or trying to ride a bit faster up a given hill or over a given course, then it’s like the freedom of a 12 year old playing on a bike with the benefit of an adult salary to buy the bike.

    It sounds to me like you don’t enjoy the swimming part for itself, but do enjoy the biking part for itself? I think that would guide me.

    And can I say, I’m totally consumed with jealousy about your ride. I haven’t been outside on my bike since before Thanksgiving. :( My bike is sitting here on the trainer, and I am too lazy to get on and just pedal because it’s not fun.

    Anyway, go you! mud and all! go you!

  14. Emily — it seems I’m not alone in hating core exercises. And yes, the bike ride was a lot of fun (although it wouldn’t be, if I weren’t in decent cycling shape, that’s for sure!).

    Zhiv — thank you very much for the pep talk. I agree with everything you say about swimming … and yet, I just can’t muster up quite enough enthusiasm for it to keep it up. I think it’s the trek out to the pool that does it — I have to drive 20 minutes there and back, and it’s just enough time to make me think twice. I did enjoy swimming … and yet I think I’m so used to covering a lot of ground on the bike that I balk a bit at swimming laps. If I’m not training for a race, I find it just a bit dull. I did like the feeling of improving steadily, but I’m afraid it’s not enough.

    The good news is that I’m going to be riding with some women friends/new acquaintances of mine, both of whom are considering possibly doing bike races, so if they do it, I’ll feel more motivation to do it myself. It’s not a competitive feeling in the least — more of a feeling of solidarity. That possibility has made me more interested in racing. I just wish my local yoga studio also offered pilates …

    I do love your “do nothing” philosophy and if I follow its spirit, I think I’ll find myself going to yoga sporadically, riding mostly for fun, agonizing a bit over races but going and ending up having fun anyway.

    Kate — oh, do let me know how the book is! I can only imagine what it would be like not to be able to ride, so I sympathize with your running injuries. They are so frustrating. Working with a trainer is one possibility, but I don’t quite have the money yet. Maybe some day!

    Chartroose — I need someone looking out for me, as I do tend to be a bit reckless! I’m surprised that women are injured more often and start back sooner. Aren’t we the ones who are supposed to be more laid back about athletics and competition?

    Bardiac — yes, that makes complete sense! If I hated to lose, then I would truly hate racing — I haven’t won a race yet, after all, and am not likely to, frankly. And you’re so right about not loving swimming for itself. I like it okay, but I don’t love it enough to keep it up. And yes, I can’t stay off the bike… I realize I’m relatively lucky when it comes to weather. If I were just a little further north, I would have a much harder time riding in the winter. As it is, it’s not exactly safe, with the narrow, windy, hilly roads, the lack of a shoulder, the ice patches, but it’s just mild enough that I can get outside most weeks.

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