Milestones - my "first" 30 mile ride

Disclaimer: I wrote this post as a retrospective on my first 30 mile ride....only to realize after the fact that I actually rode 30 miles nonstop in August of 2016.  I even blogged about it.  Whoops!


Saturday’s 30-mile ride left me feeling conflicted.  It was a team ride, and my second time going to a Team Z ride this season.  We met in Harwood, Maryland, with people riding from between 17 and and 80 miles.

The good stuff:

30 clipped in miles! 

Tipping over and getting bloody last summer, but it was okay because Stacey took awesome care of me.

Tipping over and getting bloody last summer, but it was okay because Stacey took awesome care of me.

I’ve never ridden a nonstop 30 miles while clipped in before.  The closest I’ve gotten was last summer when I rode with Stacey’s group ride, then she and I went out on the W&OD for a few more miles.  That was also the time I forgot to clip out, fell over, stood up, and almost passed out.  Interestingly, that incident was the start of my adventure with doctors, finally landing on the POTS diagnosis.  This ride on Saturday was much hillier than I was expecting.  I’ve never been a strong climber, and the decline in my strength and increase in my weight this past year has only made them harder.

 

I nailed my sodium

POTS means I have to take in a large amount of sodium so that my blood volume is high enough for me to remain conscious.  I tested out some Skratch Hyper Hydration before loading up the car.  It has 1700mg of sodium in a single serving, and it’s basically like drinking palatable saline.  I took on another 500mg of sodium during my 2.5 hour ride, and arrived back without any dizzy spells, and I wasn’t crusted over with salt like I usually am.

I hydrated on the go

This one is huge!  I’m anxious on the bike, often getting numb hands and neck pain because I have such a death grip on the handlebars.  Coach Ed suggested I switch over to a hydration pack rather than trying to reach for bottles.  Even grabbing for the straw made me nervous sometimes, but I managed it, and even got more confident as the ride went on.  I’ll definitely be wearing my pack at Rev3 Williamsburg next month.  Such a game changer until my balance improves.

The rough stuff:

I am agonizingly slow

I kept falling so far behind my group that I couldn’t see anyone, and my planned Z2 ride wound up being more of an extended Z4 effort.  It was kind of heartbreaking.  I’d finally catch up to my group at a stop sign, and I’d only have a moment to catch my breath before they were ready to set off again.  I’m sure if I’d spoken up, they would have been more than willing to wait longer to let me rest, but I was too embarrassed.  How ridiculous is that.  My Z4 was 12 mph, by the way.  I know speed shouldn’t matter, and this should all be for fun, and now this is a place to grow from…. but man.  It really hurts to have a hilly race pace of 12 mph.  I didn’t realize that was possible.

30 miles was too much

I had originally planned to do 25 miles, but no one else on the team seemed to be doing that distance, and I didn’t want to be alone.  Instead I did the 30 and wound up being mostly alone anyway.  Cue the pity party.  To be clear, I was never dropped.  The girls always waited and were nothing but encouraging when I did catch up.  I just went to a negative headspace couldn’t get myself out of it.

Not enough calories

While I think I took in plenty of nutrition during the ride itself and recovered properly, I didn’t eat breakfast.  That hasn’t been a problem in the past, but I guess 30 miles at that effort burns a lot more than 15 miles at an easy pace, huh?  The aftermath of getting behind on calories and the effort caught up with me the next day.  I slept almost the entire day, missing my planned long run.  As J pointed out, instead of a long workout, I basically did an unplanned and under fueled bike race. 

Handling mishaps

I got sloppy during the back half of the ride.  This was evidenced by increasingly rough stops, culminating in a clip-out-left-lean-right-catch-self-with-a-stem-to-the-abdomen.  Ouch.  I also had some trouble getting up to speed after stops in the last five 10 miles, resulting in one instance where I zig zagged across the road and got rather close to an oncoming car.  Whoops.  Fortunately, I returned to the ride start with a bit of wounded pride, but nothing worse.

 

So, there we go.  Am I happy?  Yes.  I got out there, got it done, and next time will be better.  Onward!

All smiles, because what else is there to do on a day you get to play outside?

All smiles, because what else is there to do on a day you get to play outside?

Lessons Learned in 100 Miles

Recently I passed over the 100 mile mark for miles ridden outside on my road bike.  In honor of this milestone, I thought it would be fun to chronicle some of the lessons I have learned about bike riding.  

And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.
— Albus Dumbledore

Gearing

One of the first things that struck me about road biking was the gears.  My bike has gears in the front and the back, with the left hand controlling the front and the right hand controlling the rear.  Yes, I do remember this by thinking “right in the rear” and make myself giggle.  Unlike an internal hub, with a derailleur you can’t change gears while you’re stopped, otherwise very bad things happen.  You also can’t change gears when a lot of weight is on the pedals, so you have to think ahead.  Thinking ahead can’t happen when you make a turn and find a steep hill, so then you find yourself muscling your way up a 4% grade hill as though it were a proper mountain.  As an aside, people who helpfully try to tell me to downshift and spin up the hills are under the impression that I have more leg strength than I actually do.  There are never enough gears!

 

Maintenance

Bath day for my steeds

Bath day for my steeds

Did you know that you’re supposed to pump your tires before each ride?  Well, now I do.  Also,  the tire pressure you pump your tires up to is conveniently written on the side wall.  Convenient if you don’t suffer from terrible eyesight, that is.  Bike tires have inner tubes inside of them, so if you get a puncture, you actually change the tube, not the tire.  If you need to change your tire, you’re having a really bad day.  Bikes also need to be cleaned, to include de-greasing the chain and re-lubing it.  Pro tip: when hosing down your bike, remove the electronics first, so you don’t fry an otherwise perfectly good cadence sensor and then get a bit of a lecture about why you can never have nice things.

 

Accessories

Everything I need fits in this little bag.  I can even put my phone and keys in here!  Plus my lights fits on the back.  total win!

Everything I need fits in this little bag.  I can even put my phone and keys in here!  Plus my lights fits on the back.  total win!

We’re not talking apparel here.  I’ll save that for another day.  This is the stuff it turns out every cyclist should never leave home without.  I have lights, a multi tool, levers, spare tube, patch kit, money, ID, my cell phone, and a pump.  My pump fastens right next to my water bottle cage.  The lights go on the frame, with the white in the front and the red in the back.  Everything else fits into a little bag that goes under my saddle.  Also, you call the seat a saddle.  No one knows why, but when you do, it's like a secret password to the cyclist club.  Okay, actually one thing about apparel.  Sunglasses, as it turns out, are not just for the sun.  They also keep out bugs and dust and stuff.  Very handy!

 

Drivers

I spend most of my time on the rail trail, not on the road

I spend most of my time on the rail trail, not on the road

Even for someone like me, who rides predominantly on a multi use trail, you have to get there.  While I’ve seen some people in my neighborhood put their bike on the car and drive to the trail, I think that seems like a hassle, so I just ride the 4ish miles there.  Naturally, that means I ride with the drivers for 8 miles out of every ride.  Drivers in Northern Virginia do not understand traditional cyclist hand signals, so you should instead point emphatically in the direction you want to go.  Drivers will also pass a road cyclist wearing Spandex much closer and faster than they pass a city cyclist wearing street clothes  Setting your lights to flashing during the daytime makes you stand out, and drivers will give you a bit more clearance and courtesy.  The first time a driver honked at me for no reason, I was so scared I peed my pants.  I understand many seasoned triathletes struggle with peeing on the bike in long course racing, so I’m happy to be excelling in that area.

 

While I imagine some people, my future self included, will look on this list of “lessons” with a bit of a smile at my ignorance, I think it is important to accept how little I know.  There’s something comforting about being on the march toward middle age and continuing to learn new things and take on new adventures.  I still know so little about bikes, but these are the things I have learned in the last 100 miles.  Here’s to adventure, and many hundreds of miles more.