For those of you who think that sunny Southern California can’t get cold, I’ve got news for you: It gets cold. My car’s digital display indicated 44 degrees F as I pulled out of my driveway to head to early morning team practice in Palos Verdes.
Palos Verdes (or PV, as it is called by frequenters) is a favorite training spot among cyclists and runners. It offers rolling hills, several good climbs, trails, and, most of all, gorgeous vistas to keep a person’s mind off of the pain. We spent a lot of time there in our marathon team, and I became very familiar with all of the running trails. Today, however, I was to be introduced to a whole new side of PV: The bike paths.
In spite of having a great, confidence-building team practice last week, I was still extremely nervous about going out there, facing hills, traffic and other unforeseen obstacles in the cycling wilderness. That we were going out for two full hours made me even more nervous. I am not sure if it was the wind cutting through my three layers of clothing, or nerves, but I was shaking while I prepped myself for the ride.
For the first several miles, there was no real bike lane–simply an extended shoulder in parts. The cars whizzed by, sending lightning bolts of panic up my body. I remembered to keep my hands and torso relaxed, so as not to swerve, but my heartrate and breath started to quicken with anxiety. I struggled to keep my 80-90 rpm cadence up, but also panicked about having such little room to ride in areas where the shoulder narrowed to a sliver. The hills began to rise up, and I struggled up them, panting and rattled.
Then, on one hill, my chain began to slip around on the rear cassette, causing my feet to lose traction. I panicked slightly and came to a stop at the top of the hill. Luckily, one of the cycling coaches was nearby and helped to fix it.
“You need a tune-up,” he said. “But that should be a little better.”
Only over thirty minutes into the ride, I was wondering how I would possibly get through it, with my sliding gears and anxiety. My team mentor, Erin, caught up to me. She asked me how I was doing and I admitted that I was nervous.
“You’re doing great!” She said. “Trust me. Last season, there were a lot of people on the team who weren’t doing nearly as well as you are at this point.”
I took heart in that, and kept going. Erin and I chatted and I started to loosen up a bit. We rode through beautiful, flower-filled, ocean-facing neighborhoods, taking in the clear views over the cliffs, as the previous day’s rain had rinsed away all of the smog. The path had flattened out slightly, and it wasn’t such hard work to keep up. I relaxed a bit, and, as we passed head coach, Jason, he called out:
“Great job, Solange! We’ll have you in clips in no time!”
I smiled and proudly pedaled on. Another forty-five minutes had flown by. The hills began to rise again, however, and my legs were beginning to tire from the high cadence and the maintenance of constant hyper-alertness. Despite my attempts at maintaining proper position, the saddle was beginning to get uncomfortable in front, with all of the downhills, and I began to struggle.
I kept pedaling, seeing Erin and my other teammates get further and further away, as my cadence started to slow. I shifted to a lighter gear to relieve some of the pressure from my fatigued limbs, but realized that the spinning was getting me nowhere, and probably burning me out just as equally. My mind and body were beginning to fight me. Each hill was getting more and more ominous and I felt less in-control with every mile. One hill had such a steep downgrade, that you couldn’t see the bottom coming up from the other side. I wanted to get off of my bike and cry like a six-year-old.
“No,” I told myself. “You’re being ridiculous. You’ve run tough marathons, you struggled through that. You can do this!”
I put the thought of quitting out of my mind and finished. I put my bike up on the car rack, and transitioned for a quick run, to get used to the whole brick workout thing. While my legs felt heavy and wobbly, I managed a 9:00-9:15-min pace the whole way, thoroughly warmed up, I suppose, from that long ride.
We headed back for some strength training and stretching and I had a (well-deserved) cookie afterward. Phew! I made it!
Things learned this week:
1) Don’t give in to the fear monster. Know when your fears are irrational and try your best to relax and think rational thoughts.
2) If you have a used bike, it might not be a bad idea to get a tune-up and look into getting a new chain. Apparently chains also stretch out over time, and getting a new one can help your shifting tremendously.
3) Riding with a friend and/or in a scenic area can help the time go by a lot faster during your cycling workout, and it can help take your mind off of the pain.
4) Cookies probably aren’t the best thing to have post-workout, but they sure do make for an awesome treat.
P.S. Sorry I don’t have any pix this time. It really was beautiful, but I was too white-knuckled and concentrating to take a picture with my camera phone. There will be other PV rides in the future!