One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, as runners, is that of another sport.
First of all, this didn't start out as a quest or an all-encompassing challenge. What seemed to be an unassuming (kind of spontaneous) ride on June 9th, morphed into a weekly ritual. It became a routine, lasting for 20 weeks (ending on October 20th), that taught me even more about my grit, perseverance and determination (or stubbornness LOL) than I could ever have imagined.
I've ridden this route numerous before, but it had been almost a year since my last such ride. After my stress fracture diagnosis last summer, I was allowed to ride as much as I wanted...I just had to keep the gears moderately low and avoid hills (to keep the strain/pressure on my injured foot at the minimum). So when my friend, Amy, invited me to meet up after work and ride out to Rock Creek, I knew what I was getting into.
In thinking about the past 20 weeks, it's pretty surreal to believe it all happened. These weekly rides were something I looked forward to and dreaded at the same time, LOL. Amy and I just wanted to do some weekly training (on wheels) to enhance our weekend long rides; neither ever dreamed it would encompass the entire summer and some of the fall. Barb, my main running buddy, even joined us on several occasions (as did my hubby and Amy's hubby, too). The more the merrier!
Here are some thoughts and takeaways from those 20 rides...
1 - These weekly rides didn't start until after Fritz (my new hybrid bike) had joined the family. This was more by chance than a careful act of planning. My mountain bike (Gustavas) is a much heavier bike, so riding Fritz on all those crazy hills made for a better experience. Don't worry, Gustavas still saw plenty of action on the other non-bike-path days.
2 - Most of these rides were done as part-2 of my Double Workout Wednesday routine, therefore, all happened after work (usually 12ish hours after my #5at5 run). Yes, that did make for a long day...but I slept quite well on those evenings and treated the following day as an active recovery day (no running or intense cardio).
3 - I did not go all out with a full cycling "kit" for any of these rides. I often times wore a biking jersey and/or biking-type shorts, but that was more for access of pockets to carry my phone. You can't see them in many of my pics, but I wore my Chacos hiking sandals for most of these rides (I do not wear the traditional clip-in cycling shoes; I'm too klutzy and my knees don't like being "locked" into a stiff position). Late in the season, I did splurge on some better quality padded shorts, so I did wear them on occasion, but not for every ride. Personally, I don't think full cycling gear is really necessary for "shorter" rides such as this. That said, I do think the bike jerseys are pretty funky and colorful!
5 - Almost all of these rides were windy. What can I say? Momma N can be rather menacing at times. More often that not, the wind would be out of the southeast, which meant we had a strong headwind in our face on the return trip. The route goes east-west, with a short 1/2-mile north-south segment about halfway out (and then about at the halfway point, on the return trip).
6 - And, needless to say, all of these rides were hilly! This bike path starts about a mile from my house, and the actual "route" itself goes out (and back) to the lake at Rock Creek State Park. It's an approximate 14-mile (roundtrip) endeavor, but I usually tack on an extra mile (for a cool-down) after returning to town.
7 - My leg strength increased by leaps and bounds. These weekly rides (ironically?) started to become a thing just about the time I was entering my training for the Air Force Marathon (scheduled for September 18th). I devised a training plan that swapped out a mid-week semi-longish run for these hilly bike rides. I'm not a fan of mid-week long runs, but I do like semi-long bike rides, so this was the best of both worlds. Also, due to the increased leg work of the hills, these rides served as my main lower-body strength/resistance workouts throughout the summer.
8 - Little did I know, these hills (and wind) were grooming me for my first-ever RAGBRAI (recap HERE), a week-long organized bike ride across Iowa. Riding 88 miles (in one day!), with numerous hills and plenty of wind, wasn't a big deal with all the hill-training I'd had for the two months prior.
9 - All of these rides were with friends. Amy, Barb, and I (and our hubbies, on occasion) logged a lot of miles together over the summer, and many of them were on these very hills. It's nice having accountability partners to pedal, sweat, laugh and (often times) curse with each week.
10 - Although each of these 20 rides were challenging, they all left me feeling like a badass upon cresting the final hill each week. I even brought a cow bell along (in the final weeks) so we could take turns ringing it after finishing the last climb.
So, a runner turned cycling enthusiast. Me! Whodda thunk?
Although I didn't do a lot of racing over the summer (or even this fall), I can really tell my running has improved. I don't think it's a coincidence that the biking has played a major role in that. I now utilize biking for recovery, and all of the hill training (via these 20 rides) have really upped my running (and racing) game.
A few related posts :
Do you use cycling/spinning for cross-training? Ever taken on a challenge, similar to this?