2. Group rides. I've gone on at least 5 or 6 group rides that included either drafting or larger groups, and each time I've felt a little pushed outside of my comfort zone in a good way. Through riding in groups I've gotten stronger and learned a lot about how to ride, what not to do, and the importance of bike safety.
3. Learning to get comfortable out of my comfort zone. There have been a lot of days that I've been scared to death to do something. Whether it was being nearly in tears before riding 65 miles on the road, scared out of my mind before going on the group ride pictured above, or wanting to swear off my bike forever after taking my first falls in clipless pedals, I've realized that with each time I choose to push through my fear I feel better and more confident at the end. I still get nervous before going on a lot of rides, but I've gotten a lot better at managing and reducing those nerves.
Since buying my bike in March, here's what I've learned, overcome, and added to my bike repertoire:
The day I got the bike shoes and clipless pedals, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. People told me I would fall, and that everyone does. I was so nervous and careful on my first ride and swore I wouldn't fall, and I didn't. But the ride was straight and on a trail. It was on my second ride that I fell--and twice. I then fell two more times after that. It happens when you least expect it. It's not when you're riding but when you're stopping suddenly or not paying as much attention as you should to what you're doing.
I'm definitely not even an intermediate at clipless pedals, but I'm less scared to death of them than I used to be. It's now in the back of my mind to quickly push my ankles out to unclip before I try to stop anywhere. I'm sure there will be many more falls, but each time I fall I realize that it's not as bad as I make it out to be in my head.
2. A bike trainer.
I asked my husband for the Cycleops fluid 2 for our one year anniversary. Thankfully he knows I've lost half my mind and obliged. Since I got it in July I've ridden it twice a week without fail. On Tuesdays I do my interval or tempo rides on it, and on Thursday I just get saddle time. If you use it the right way, I've learned, a trainer can be a really useful tool. I use it in combination with my heart rate monitor to make sure I'm not just spinning my legs aimlessly. I'll also credit the speedwork that I have been doing on Tuesdays with building speed through my training.
3. Aero Bars
After I signed up for my 70.3 (so soon!!!) I really started wondering if my intro level road bike was going to do the trick. I knew it wasn't in the budget to buy a new bike, so I started doing research (which is my strong suit). I came across an article about the cost per MPH and that best use of funds in improving speed, and it ranked aero bars as one of the best improvements for the cost. Sign me up! Jesica rides a road bike (though levels higher quality than mine), and she had recently gotten aero bars and said they were a game changer. I literally asked her what she had, went to the bike shop I go to, told them what I wanted, and had them installed within a week or two of deciding.
I went with the Profile Design T2 Plus aero bars, and though I still know nothing about any others, I'm happy with them. It took me a few rides to get used to riding in them, and I still won't do it when I'm around others (because you have less control when you're down in the aero bar position). But, I do find that they add comfort to my ride and increase my speed a little bit because of wind resistance. I'm glad I went with this option, and I know I'll use them on race day and during my many training rides. I stay in them during most of the time I'm on the trainer to get used to being low on them.
When you ride 12"-24" behind the wheel of the person in front of you, you reduce resistance and pick up their draft so that you don't have to work as hard to maintain their speed. They say that it can reduce effort up to 30%, but the closer you are to the wheel the more advantage you'll get from it. When I first learned about it it made sense and didn't scare me because I'd just do it with one person. It wasn't as scary to draft off of one person with no one behind you, and it wasn't as scary to ride with one person behind me when no one was in front of me. It was when I started riding in larger groups that I started getting more nervous.
I experienced my first bike accident when someone behind me wasn't paying attention and rubbed my wheel. He went down (as usually happens when one person rubs a wheel in front of them), and I didn't. But it made me so aware of the fragility of drafting. You have to maintain a constant speed and you have to maintain a constant focus so that if the person in front of you does slow even a tough without mentioning something, you can adjust your own speed. I'm still working on getting the hang of this, but every time I do it I get more comfortable with it. My ride on Sunday helped a lot.
So here I am with 7 months behind me and a lot of months in front of me. I often feel like I'm playing dress up, and in no world anywhere do I feel like I know what I'm doing. I still load my bike onto the back of my car for rides (Tori and Patrick gave me a bike rack that stays firmly planted on the back of my car) wondering what each one will hold for me. I still get nervous thinking of turns and slowing and unclipping, and I'd still consider myself a newbie. I still wear a Target helmet and haven't removed the reflectors from my wheels, but I feel like I've learned a lot and have grown during my period biking. I look forward to seeing what the next seven months brings me. And then the seven after that.
I think I owe you all a post on running. Triathlon required a lot of juggling, and my focus on cycling has been reflected in my blogging (or lack thereof). I'm still running (a fair amount), and I'm still being careful. I'd still like to get faster, but I'm still nervous of injury. I'll share more another time, but I did run 3 tempo miles in a 5 miler yesterday at 8:10 pace. It's no Kara Goucher, but it's getting me back to where I was before I got that pesky injury in March.
What/who can you credit with your improvements in cycling or running?
How long have you been running or biking?
Is there anything else I haven't talked much about that you'd like me to share? I don't know what/how sometimes to share my training, but I love reading other bloggers who do so I'd love to know what you want to hear more/less about...