Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What's this? A bike, you say? Hmmmm

As Bold would say, "Peps, it's all about the bike!"

And knowing that has made for a little triathlon anxiety in the past few weeks. You see, all winter I've been happily spinning my wheels on my trainer in the basement watching so much Nip Tuck that I actually had a dream about the tranny from Season One. Not a bad dream, but she was there, giving me some kind of empathetic and sage advice about something.

But what I found when I finally wrenched my bike away from the grasp of the trainer and out on the road was the I was no longer in charge! Something had happened over the winter -- something ohsonotgood.

I felt top heavy and wobbly. Clipping in and out was almost fearful for me -- and trying to do it around traffic was awful. My front wheel would go left and right and left and right without my telling it to do so -- as if possessed by some evil cycling nymph. I just didn't feel as if I had any level of control. And that, of course, got worse when I decided to PEDAL the stupid thing! Each stroke made me feel less in control, until I got myself up to hurtling speed, where it didn't matter anyway because I was now being distracted by how much it would hurt if I fell. Even going down hills fast was frightening -- I nearly burned off my breaks during the Taxing Metric for fear I would launch myself directly into a roadside tree or inconveniently placed road sign.

This didn't make sense -- I've done triathlons and centuries and even rode from New York to Boston in three days for goodness sakes!!! The bike has always been my strength. ALWAYS. What happened? Where did my confidence go? When did my riding skills just slink away? WTH?

At first I was just freaked out, and then I started putting two and two together. First, I had changed some things on the bike over the winter that hadn't been road tested yet. (And, clearly they were NOT passing the test!) Also, I had been training my body over 700 + miles on that trainer that I could push and pull at will, without any need to worry about my balance or my environment. (Way back when, I have a vague memory of Mighty M -- previously a Cat4 cyclist -- telling me that rollers were a better idea than the trainer...something about being a better estimation of road riding and forces you to retain your lateral balance...orsomethinglikethat.) On the road, I had an awful lot more to worry about.

And then the kicker. My aeros. The just simply were too heavy and too awkward. Maybe just fine for someone with more upper body strength. Maybe on a different frame. Maybe on the planet Mars. But not on my Banana.

So all of these problems had to be solved immediately -- without delay, pronto, asap. I dreaded my rides so much that I was willing to put them off and mess my schedule up, just because I had no confidence that I would come back from a ride with all four limbs and a full body suit of skin.

So I made the DRASTIC and RADICAL decision to...

remove my aero bars

(gasp)
(murmurs of shock and surprise)

I know, I know. But I am a triathlete! I do triathlons! How in the world can I do that without my trusty aeros??? My thought processes was this. If I'm too anxious to get out on the road for more than a dozen miles at a time, then there's no reason to have the comfort of aero position. If I'm tentatively breaking downhill, then the aerodynamic benefits (which I understand really amount to nothing until you're going 17 - 20 mph) are worth squat. And my priority is to improve my fitness and get my mileage up to weekly centuries.

And, clearly, it's not going to get done by itself. Not. At. All.

So, now I'm riding naked. I untethered my CatEye from the bars, unscrewed the whole apparatus, and now I'm riding just like a roadie. Kind of going back to my roots.

And let me tell you guys...

OH THE DIFFERENCE IT MADE

My first ride out -- Average speed: 11.0 mph

My last ride out -- Average speed: 16.7 mph

Now that's a little more like it.

Now I look forward to hitting the road. Now I'm not terrified of the monster hill I have to mount before I can access all my training routes -- a 12%er that I used to be so concerned that I couldn't control the bike as I geared my way up it. Now I actually feel like the bike is an extension of my efforts, rather than an opposing force. I'm no longer zig-zagging my way up steep inclines and I don't dread intersections. I am, in a word, back. In fact, I even texted Mighty M that very sentiment after a recent ride. I'm Back.

And with a little more time in the saddle, I may actually become a threat. You never know. ;)

And now that I'm out more, riding naked, I'm looking forward to a little weekend challenge coming up. This Saturday I'm joining up with the Quad County Metric and choosing...ah, yes, I said choosing...to do the "hilliest" route. The total elevation climb is 3500 ft and the grades, I hear, are a real challenge.

But I really think it's going to be a good experience. Not just the distance, but also the hills. (If you look at the elevation map for last year's 65 mile route, it's really just about getting through the first 30 miles. After that it's just making sure I don't swallow too many bugs on my screaming descents!) And I now, finally, feel like I'm connected with my bike and in control of what we do out there.

Me and My Banana. Kicking arse and taking names.

12 comments:

Jeremy said...

Sounds like you are really dialed in sans aeros...good work in making that adjustment. Keep kicking arse!

Comm's said...

last year at IMAZ i spoke with a man from Chicago that rode his trainer all fall and winter to get ready for the april race. He had not been outside on the bike since September. He told me he got to town and went on his first outdoor ride the Wednesday before the race and promptly fell over since he had lost his balance for the exact reasons you mentioned.

Laurie said...

Makes sense to me!

Good luck with the metric this weekend.

Spokane Al said...

What is important is that it works for you! I will be looking forward to the kicked arse pictures and the list of names.

Bolder said...

something about having my name, a tranny, and something removed in the same post that just is not going to have me sleep well at night!

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BIKE!!

GET 'ER DONE!!!

John said...

Rollers instead of a trainer? I may be able to get one free and save myself some money. Thank Mighty M for the idea and enjoy your ride this weekend.

ShirleyPerly said...

yeah, I've heard that too much time on the trainer can make one lose "road feel". Do whatever it takes to get it back. And have fun at the QCM!

B Bop said...

Good move to get ride of the aero bars. I think they are overrated, especially for long distances, unless you are really, really competitive.

You might find that aero bars would work better for you on a tri specific bike. Isn't the bananna a road bike? I have a bright yellow road bike as well...named after a sun goddess :-)

Good luck @ the metric.

Duane said...

Good luck and have fun!

Mallie said...

Being comfortable on your ride is more important than any "tri-norm". You did the right thing. Looking forward to hearing about more of your enjoyable rides!

Tony said...

I think it was a good call. I can't even reach my aero-bars because of my belly. Have a fantastic time on your ride.

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

nope - this was definitely a good plan. You gotta do what works.

You may, in the future, consider some aero-bars with arm pads that fold up -so you can ride roadie or tri when you feel more confident.