Thursday, May 26, 2011

Patience (My bike and I - 2)

This is my second post detailing my attempt to become a competent cyclist (with an eye on triathlons).  You can read the first post here

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to most of you when I say that I have been pretty frustrated with biking.  I still don't feel like I am really my bike using it to its full capacity (or my full athletic ability).

I think most of this was hinted at in point 3 of my Three Things Thursday two weeks ago.  I had a poor ride that morning and just wasn't sure if I wanted to keep scheduling time on the bike, something I would have to do if I committed myself to a triathlon.

After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that even though I was saying that I knew that I needed to be patient and that progress was going to take time, I wasn't acting or thinking that way.  I was expecting to transform myself into a strong cyclist in a matter of months on one ride (or less) a week.  I only have to look at my experience swimming and running to know that it's going to take a lot of hard work and time to get better.


I started swimming relatively late, at least when you consider most competitive swimmers start at the ripe old age of 5 or 6.  I joined the summer team at my neighborhood pool at 11.  Our team was actually highly competitive and had so many kids interested in swimming that there was an A and B team.  I spent four years on the B team, swimming in the developmental meets and making slight improvements, but coming nowhere near the speed I would need to make the jump to the A team.  I finally had a breakthrough (and a bit of luck with age group slots) at 15 when I finally qualified to move up to the A team with my 50 breaststroke time.

After my summer success, I decided to join the high school team my sophomore year.  My freshman year I had "played" on the freshman basketball team, though I use the term play loosely since I spent most of my time on the bench, and really had no shot at making the JV team.  I struggled with the jump to racing longer distances, but saw slight improvements in my times by the end of the season.  I didn't make another big leap forward until my senior year when I decided to join a USS team and was practicing six times a week.  I had decided that I wanted to have to option of joining a (Div. III) college team and knew that I needed to get better in order to do so.  I did end up swimming on my college team and saw more progress after an intense practice schedule that included doubles twice a week and regular weight lifting.
conference championship, my senior year

So what does my swimming experience tell me?  That it took a lot of yards and time in the pool to see improvement.  I got faster after years of work, not weeks or months.

I've shared a bit of my running background before, but although I first joined the track team in middle school, I didn't consider myself a runner until two years ago.  Which, if I really think about it, means that I was running (inconsistently) for almost twenty years before I felt like a runner.  When I was flipping through my college photo albums looking for a decent swimming picture, I was reminded of the fact that I was on my college track team for two years.  And yes, I honestly forgot that.  The team wasn't extremely competitive (at least on a team level, some of the individuals were very good) mainly because of the small size, so they were welcoming to everyone.  One of my good friends on the swim team was a pretty good runner and convinced me I should join her for outdoor track.  So I did, because I had done multiple sports in high school and was used to having some kind of practice on my schedule.

After college I ran sporadically.  I would sign up for races and then train for a while and then slack off until I registered for another race.  I think part of it was figuring out how to adjust to exercising on my own schedule since I was so used to having everything laid out for me.  I'd always had a marathon on my "list" so I decided that 2009 was going to be the year.  It was through following a training schedule and running on a regular basis for almost six months that I finally fell in love with running.

Marine Corps marathon 2009

Baltimore Marathon 2010

For the last two years I saw slight improvements in my times, but it was not until the beginning of 2011 that I really made a giant leap forward.  Obviously I don't know exactly what lead to this breakthrough, but I have a strong hunch that it was all of the running that I did in 2010.  I ran almost twice as many miles in 2010 as I did in 2009.  It seems that my large base helped me to pick up the pace for shorter races.
So where does this leave me with cycling?  It's pretty clear that my successes with both swimming and running have taken time, as well as consistent and frequent practice.  Realistically, I'm not going to be able to get out on my bike 5-6 times a week.  But I think I can get out there 2 or 3 times a week.   I may not see all that much progress this summer or even next summer, but I'm going to stick with it.  If I work hard enough and put in the time, I know that I will see improvements eventually. 


Sarah said...

You cycling will get better I promise! If you were want to ride with me let me know! I'm still learning and trying to improve myself

amy said...

Yes! Stick with it. I'm with you 100% on this - it takes time but each ride I feel a little more comfortable out there and a little bit stronger. I can't wait to see how you do on an open bike course this weekend. It's so much different than the on-your-left-fest on the trail or commuting through the city!

Stephanie said...

How was MCM? I am running it this year, my first one. Are you running it again?

Beth said...

Your cycling will totally come along. I think with cycling, more so than running or swimming, its just about pushing past your comfort zone. Keep pushing forward and going farther every time.

Rachel said...

i love this post, and it's so true! i have to remind myself of these same things (but for me, for swimming and cycling!). keep up the positive attitude!