Thursday, April 14, 2011

My bike and I (1.5)

While I was out on my bike on Sunday, I thought about how it would be interesting to periodically document my feelings as a newbie cyclist and see how they change over time.  I can kind of remember how I felt in my early days of running, but I would love to have it all written down.  I'm sure it would be quite funny to read.

"My bike and I (1)" should have been written back in February before my first time on my road bike.  I didn't write anything down at that time, but I can tell you that would have gone something like this:

Fortunately I have survived those first few rides and no longer feel completely uncomfortable on my bike.  I am now reasonably confident that I can stop and dismount without wiping out.  The first one or two times out I stopped pedaling well in advance of stop signs and rolled slowly to a stop.  I wasn't sure I could reach the brakes in time to stop if I was going at "full" speed.  I also used the bottoms of the pedals for a while, instead of the toe clips, because I couldn't really get in and out of them.   I stayed on Hains Point for a while (flat, wide road, safe), but have finally ventured out out onto the Mt. Vernon trail.

I am still completely clueless when it comes to gears.  Yes, I understand the general concept/principles, but I still don't know what I am doing when I am actually faced with hills/flats.  I think it's something about the combination of two sets of gears.  If there was just one set I'd be fine, but it's figuring out the combinations that has me totally confused.

I am slow.  I don't have a fancy bike computer or anything like that, but I've been using the bike mode of my Garmin and it doesn't lie.  If I get about 10mph it is miracle.   Other cyclists fly past me and I pass no one.  Only some of them are on road bikes.  I want to yell at them as they go by, "Help, I have no idea what I am doing.  Do you have any tips?  Am I in the wrong gear? I like your fancy clothes!"  Actually the passing no one is not totally true.  The other week I passed a guy who was riding his bike and walking his dog at the same time.  Had the dog not stopped for a potty break, they probably would have stayed ahead of me.

The fact that I am slow doesn't bother me, but I do get frustrated with the fact that I am sure that with some technique changes I could be going faster.  I KNOW that I am not riding effectively or efficiently.  At the end of riding I do not feel like I have really gotten a good aerobic workout, elevated my heart rate, or really broken a sweat.   This is pretty much how I felt when I started running.  I was in good shape from swimming, but running was a whole different experience.  I would have to stop for a walk break after 15 minutes.  I felt like my legs couldn't keep up with my expectations.  I often felt worse (at least mentally) when I finished.  So I'm trying to remember that as I start on this journey with my bike.

I also know that it took a long time for me to consider myself a runner.  I ran inconsistently for years and never really enjoyed it all that much.  I only ran because I had signed up for a race and wanted to be able to finish.  It was only after I signed up for a marathon and trained on a regular basis for almost six months that I actually started looking forward to going running.  So if I'm honest with myself, it will probably take a similar effort to feel the same way about biking.  We'll see...

looking uncomfortable, post-ride on Sunday

Knee update: During my ride on Sunday I hardly noticed my knee at all.  There were one or two twinges on the biggest hills, but I couldn't tell if there was really any pain or if I was just making it up by constantly checking in with my knee to see how it was doing.  Needless to say, I was quite excited at the end of the ride and sure that my seat adjustments had done the trick!  Unfortunately, later in the afternoon I had pain in my knee.  It only hurt when it was completely bent (calf touching hamstring) or almost to that point.  It was pretty similar to my post-ride pain last week.  The pain is gone now (Thursday), but the slightly "off" feeling lingered around for a while.  I'm hoping that maybe it was still recovering from the week before and not a sign that I am destined to abandon cycling before I even really get started.

After some thinking, I've come to the following conclusions:
      - I think I have probably overestimated the amount of time I can cycle and may have pushed it a bit too much.   An hour to an hour and a half seems perfectly reasonable for a workout, but I have to remember that I'm new on the bike.  Just because I CAN work out for that long doesn't mean that I should.  So I'm cutting back the time on the bike for the near future (at least at one time).  I think I need to increase my frequency and stick to shorter distances.

      - I'm heading back to Hains Point and going into a lower gear.  I think I had the resistance too high and need to get my legs spinning faster.

     - I'm putting the triathlon decision on hold until I can be sure that my knee can handle the biking.  I'm not willing to compromise my running for a sprint triathlon.   I was hoping to sign up for two tris this summer (one in June and one in July), but that may be too ambitious.  Maybe I will just do one in July or none at all.

     - I may not ride this weekend.  I'll see how my schedule ends up shaking out, but it may be for the best to give my knee a little break.  In some ways I feel like I am overreacting, but I also know that there is no need to rush things.  I have no race on the calendar so I can afford to be slow about this whole process.


Liz said...

It takes a while to get used to biking and using the gears. I think it helps to ride with someone really experienced. I've done a few rides with my dad and he literally tells me exactly what to do.

Beth said...

Its possible that you just jumped in too quickly, but don't give up! It takes a lot of practice to get used to the gears and pedals, but soon it will become second nature and you will love it!

Rachel said...

i could have wrote this same exact post! i feel the same way about cycling, and i feel like like a poser when i'm out there. but you make a good point about how running was once new and difficult, so i guess with time cycling will get easier, too. as far as gears go, my coworker is an avid cyclist and said that beginners often "mash" their gears and should instead be "spinning" in an easier gear. maybe easier said than done! hope your knee feels better soon!

Katie said...

legs spinning faster = better, so you've got that right. your knee might hurt from mashing the pedals down. i'll ride with you if you want! i rode with a lot of awesome folks when i first started and it helped a lot.

Gupi said...

I love you!! So proud of you! Will bring my bike up from my parents soon after i tune it up, and we'll go together :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you didn't crash and die!

When I used to bike, I did notice my calves would get very tight and pull on my knee. I really tried to concentrate on the spinning part of it! Hope it works for you!

amy said...

I can so relate to this, and actually am not that much past it. Once my marathon is done, I'd love to ride with you!