I announced before Christmas that I will be doing the Etape du Tour (130km ride through The Alps) this year. With 2013 a couple of weeks underway, my training has now officially begun and I have two training rides under my belt. To say this is a steep (excuse any mountain-related puns) learning curve for me would be an understatement. I thought I’d share with you how my first two rides went.
On a nippy early January morning, my bike mentor showed up at my house ready to take me on my very first ride. She had to meet me at mine because I was too scared to ride by myself to meet her somewhere – that’s where we’re starting from here folks. I was told we’d be headed to Epping Forest, which, given that my geography skills are woefully lacking, I blindly agreed to without much thought. Turns out, from my humble East London abode, this wee jaunt to Epping Forest, turned out to be about 60K. Talk about throwing myself in there at the deep end. But alas, I’ve gotta get these miles in my legs, so I shut up and got on with it.
I should probably stress, the only other time I’d been on the bike prior to this outing was when I went around the block five times trying to get used to the clip-in pedals. Had I have known the route beforehand or the kinds of roads we’d be going on, I probably would’ve told my bike mentor, Collyn that I couldn’t do it, that we should maybe stay local or just do a few laps of a park or something, where I couldn’t come into contact with other vehicles or risk the embarrassment of falling off the bike while stationary at a traffic light. But I trusted in the forces of the mighty Collyn and before I knew it, I was on these massive roads, going around huge roundabouts (which terrified me – my coping mechanism was basically to just scream the whole way around. It seemed to work). Somehow, Collyn had totally Jedi mind tricked me into thinking I could actually ride like this, confidently on the big roads. About half way into the ride, I managed to loosen my death grip on the handles and relax a little.
As we rode around Epping Forest, I was attempting to learn some of the finer points of cycling, the things the pros make look so easy such as, taking corners, going downhills, riding out of the saddle – all of which are much trickier than they appear.
My second ride, this past weekend, was a 43-miler to Southend. It was a cold day and the wind was bashing us in the face the whole way, which was a little uncomfortable, but I felt good on the ride. This time, a couple of inclines were thrown in – ahh inclines, those are the buggers I need to get to grips with. One of them, I got up, though my heart and lungs almost didn’t make it with me. The second incline, I had to tap out part way up – I hung my head in shame as I walked the rest of the way up. In fairness, I was told that none of the hills in the Etape would be as steep as that particular one (the one of that ride was 20%, the largest incline on the Etape is 8%, but it goes on for 11K *sobs*). However, there is a technique to uphills which I have not even begun to delve into yet. When I know how to handle it physically, I can mentally get to grips and will never have to dismount part way up again. I will not be defeated!
The main thing for me at the moment, as silly as it may sound is simply getting used to having this piece of equipment and learning to get it to move with me, as one. As a runner, I’m just using my body – all of a sudden having this extra thing (and by ‘thing’ I of course mean my ridiculously lush Team Sky bike) to deal with is throwing me off a little. It is imminently more dangerous. I am constantly conscious of the fact I could fall off or get knocked off or any number of things could happen that could wind up with me being seriously injured. There is a safety in running – nice safe pavements, not the constant threat of a car plowing into you etc. I need to learn to master the delicate art of balancing fearlessness and caution. This may take me a while to figure out.
But having covered 80 miles in my first two rides, I’m happy with the way my training has started and am looking forward to delving into the finer points as I progress.