Back in 2004, Michael and I bought road bikes. In his pre-Iowa life, Michael rode and raced a lot, and he thought I’d like it. I was game to try, as we both needed a way to take mini-vacations from the farm and get / stay in shape. I’d always enjoyed biking, but I’d only ever had a low-end mountain bike, which I rode on roads; it was slow and heavy, but I didn’t think I could handle a skinny-tired road bike. Back to 2004: after many test rides at many bike shops, we settled on bikes. Mine was a Kestrel Talon carbon bike, and I think it’s fair to say that it changed my life.
It did take me a while to get used to the skinny tires, curly handlebars, and clipless pedals. Getting down our half-mile gravel driveway was a major feat for the first couple of years, which I accomplished by swearing a blue streak as I navigated around the potholes and aimed for the hardest-packed areas. For all that, I never once wiped out on that driveway. Apparently I was waiting to do it right. 🙂
More than that, road riding was my first foray into endurance sports. I wasn’t in awful shape – the farm work was active enough to keep me moving – but I was not in endurance shape. I’d never really felt pain in my legs the way I did climbing the hills around our house, and I’d certainly never breathed as hard. At the bottom of it, I was scared that exerting myself too much would hurt me, that I really wouldn’t make it to the top of the hill or end of the ride, that the pain in my legs and lungs was bad or threatening. I hadn’t learned to differentiate between constructive pain and destructive pain…
In one of my moments of fear and crabbiness, Michael told me, “You have to start thinking of yourself as an athlete.”
I laughed. Not a fun laugh, but a “yeah, right” laugh. I was many things, but NOT an athlete. I’d been the kid who would rather read or watch Little House on the Prairie reruns and eat Fruit Roll-Ups rather than play outside after school. I’d been the kid who always finished last in the mile run, who couldn’t touch her toes, who psyched herself out so badly that she got demoted to the middle school volleyball B Team, even though she started the season as a decent server. Through high school and college, I’d started exercising some – biking, hiking, and canoeing – but as far as I knew, athletes wore uniforms and had coaches. All I did was get outside and move around.
So I kept getting outside and moving around – first with my road bike and then with my super sweet Cervelo P2 tri bike that Michael gave me last year. Somewhere along the line I started thinking of myself as an athlete; maybe when I started entering bike time trials in Iowa or when I started mapping out a training plan with the help of Joe Friel’s books. And now that I’m working with Train-This, I have a coach and a uniform, so I MUST be an athlete. 🙂
Since my crash, though, my experience with training has helped me progress fairly quickly with my Physical Therapy. I was already used to seeing my body adapt to training loads; I already had faith it would get stronger if I applied the right kind of stress and gave it the right kind of fuel. However, until the past couple of weeks, my swim, bike, and run-substitution workouts were focused on just getting my leg to come along for the ride. I wasn’t focused on heart rate, power, or time much; I was just getting the machine moving again. In the last two days, that changed!
On Friday, I took my watch to the pool for the first time. I had finally worked up to swimming 8 laps straight, which is 400 yards, the distance we usually measure for test times. I warmed up and then swam a couple of laps. 2:14 for 2 laps. That’s a 10 minute 400, which was my time when I first started working with Coach Mary. Yuck. But if that’s what it was, that’s what it was. So I swam a 400, mentally prepared myself to see 10:XX or even 11:XX on my watch, and was thrilled when I saw an 8:58! I must have counted wrong! I swam another 400, and this time it was 8:43! Still definitely slower than pre-crash, but not bad considering that I was not swimming all-out. (For you swimmers reading this, I realize that this time is still fairly glacial in the scheme of things, but it’s good for ME.) So now I have a baseline, and I can improve from there!
THEN, this morning I had my first indoor trainer ride on my TT bike. (It had been hanging out at the Geneva Bike Center since the fateful day.) Felt so great. And I could finally measure power; I got solidly into my zone 1 (lowest zone) of power for a full 20 minutes. Felt fabulous. Even better, I was able to return the trainer to its original tension setting; the leg is coming back!
And as if that weren’t enough, after my ride I got to join a couple of teammates, Coach Mary, and her son for a carbo-load breakfast at IHOP! I don’t have much to carbo-load for – besides volunteering in the rain at tomorrow’s Finger Lakes Tri – but it sure was tasty. And carby, which apparently gave me enough energy to clean out, vacuum, and steam-clean both of our cars this afternoon.
So – to FINALLY sum up this, my longest post to date – now I can both work out like an athlete and start eating like an athlete. I like it.