It has been over 12 years now since I was introduced to my first road bike. My bike has literally changed my life, and in more ways than one. Over the years, it has been challenging for me to maintain consistency in my fitness and nutrition. The last couple of years have been particularly difficult as I committed far too much energy and time both to support my husband’s intense career path, and to my own career oriented commitments. I often found myself on the cusp of getting back to where I wanted to be, only to find myself going in the wrong direction once again. The intensity and level of stress that I chose to be part of was greatly impacting my health.
Finally, a transition was made, and we had an opportunity to take a small break and do some cycling. Immediately we plunged ourselves into fairly challenging rides that were probably not too realistic given the state of my health. Some of them went well, others went quite poorly. At one point I was cycling very slowly straight into a head wind in the middle of the desert, and I found myself repeating the words to a song through my head to try and soothe myself. This one line, ‘I walked through the desert with a horse with no name…la laaaaa laaaaa la la la la’, repeated itself over and over in my head, as if a broken record was playing. I shed many tears during those few weeks as I struggled through rides that used to be completely palatable for me, but had now become very challenging.
During the following months, I made a strong effort to build myself a reasonable schedule, and to stick to the rides and other types of workouts that I had planned. I set very specific goals for my cycling, and each week I would execute different types of rides oriented towards one of these goals. I did start to see progress, but I was still experiencing some really rough rides. The inconsistency in my performance, and thus my experiences on the bike was killing my confidence. And I already struggled with confidence as it was. Then, I ended up sick for the last part of the short summer that we would have. I finally had no choice but to take a break completely.
There have been times in the last couple of years when I wondered if the intensity of our situation would be worth it. I worried about my own health, and my husband’s. When our lives took on a real transition, we found ourselves with an opportunity to finally take a more extended break. I think this change was more important than I realized at the time. It ended up giving us both an opportunity to truly nurture ourselves, and get our health back.
A few days ago, I had an absolutely fantastic day on the bike!!! It was a simple, 54 km time trial down the Silver Strand and back. This is a paved bike path alongside a busy road that offers the opportunity for cyclists test out their flat and fast cycling skills. The trick was to stay with my cycling partner, James, as much as I possibly could. The pace out was very reasonable. The whole way, I kept thinking how good I felt. After our big transition, I had rounded out my routine for a while. I decided to train for my first real running event, and thus cycling took a smaller presence. After the running event, I had struggled with a transition to focus more on cycling again. The first couple of weeks after my first real running event, I committed to getting on the bike. The first week back on the bike, my legs literally felt like they were on fire the minute I started pedaling. The second week back on the bike I felt like I was really slow, and like every ride was really hard. However, I was committed to finishing each ride. Then I battled a disgusting cold and coughed my lungs out for a good two weeks before I could even attempt any activity of any sort. Finally, I was back on my bike again. Another week of sluggish rides went by. I simply committed and did them. Sometimes I knew they were a little more than I may have been ready for, but I also knew that they were doable. I adjusted my pace accordingly to push myself without introducing a relapse of illness.
Day after day, ride after ride, one at a time, I just kept on going. Finally, on this simple time trial, I felt good. I felt really good. On the way back, we found ourselves battling a head wind. I put my head down and dug deep to stay with my cycling partner. He kicked it up a notch, but it was still a very doable pace if I concentrated. I stayed with him, until we passed another rider. This other rider in turn kicked it up a notch, and passed us. Then it all happened. Off he went, my cycling partner in pursuit. He passed the guy and made it look easy. I decided I needed to try as hard as I could and see how small I could keep the gap. I laid it all out, straight into that wind. I grinded away, I could see the gap closing between me and the other cyclist. I just kept digging and digging until I finally passed him. Of course, he saw the pigtails waving at him in the wind, and he wound it up another notch again. I couldn’t hold it. We were nearing the end of the strand. Completely spent, I took a breath, then dug deep enough to stay with my cycling partner back the few kilometers to home.
I was elated. I felt so good. My body was finally coming through again. Mentally I felt nothing but positivity and belief in my abilities. This place is one of the most wonderful places to be. It certainly does not happen all the time, and for me, it takes a lot of work to get here. It takes ride after ride after ride. It takes commitment, and grinding it out until slowly the improvements start to show themselves.
The next day, I would have another really strong ride from Torrey Pines to Oceanside and back. A good 80 km coastal ride with a decent amount of climbing. Again my body and my positive attitude showed up. I was so elated. I know that every ride will not be like this. But, working really hard and staying committed results in these moments when it all comes together.
Wherever you are at today, just do what you can. Finish whatever it is you committed to, even if you are slower than you want to be, or it doesn’t go as planned. If you do the work, it will pay off.
‘Of course it’s hard! If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it!!!’