Yesterday was the day. It was time to put all of my fears aside and get my feet clipped into that bike. As I screwed the new pedals onto my bike again, I thought, “These aren’t coming back off this time.”
As I drove to meet Coach Holly early in the giant parking lot in Thousand Oaks, where our team meeting was located, I watched the chilly 41 degree temp on my car’s thermostat drop another 10 degrees. Yikes. Cold wasn’t even applicable. Freezing was more like it. Was this really Southern California?
By the time I got to the parking lot, I was shivering with cold and anxiety as I prepped myself for our clip clinic. I had long imagined the horrors that awaited me with clip-less pedals (a stupid, stupid name for a clip-in pedal): wobbling out of control in front of oncoming traffic as my left foot pawed wildly for its clip, or being stuck onto the bike as a cougar chasing a wildebeast barreled into my path as I descended a mountain–hey, it’s my imagination, sue me. Holly taught us to clip-in in four steps. In the first step, Holly had us clip in our dominant foot and push off, coasting for two or three counts until we came to a stop. In step two, we clipped in with one foot, coasted, and sat on the seat before hopping down and coming to a stop. Step three, we clipped in with one foot, sat in the seat, and then pedaled with the other foot for two rotations without clipping it in. Step four, we put everything together and clipped in. Surprisingly, it felt more secure than I thought it would–my clipped-in foot providing momentum to keep me from falling or swerving as my left foot sought its rightful clipped-in place. I fell twice in the parking lot while stopping, but came out unscathed.
As we headed out on our 24-mile ride, I noticed that my pedal stroke had more power, that the harder gears seemed lighter. I practiced clipping in and out at stoplights and stop signs, trying to come to a smooth, controlled stop. Things were going pretty well, I thought. Of course, my glow of success didn’t last too long, when I managed to topple over trying to start my bike on an uphill. I banged my forearm pretty hard and had to stand by the side of the road for a moment to “shake off” the pain.
Coach Riz came along behind me and asked if I was okay. She said that the trick to starting up a hill was to put your clipped foot at 12 o’clock for maximum power. I started again and got my bearings a little bit, then began powering through some lengthy climbs. These were not the most fun things, these climbs, and, while I did have more power going up, I still found myself huffing and puffing.
After some powerful hills, I fell again, getting myself to a stop sign. A woman stopped her car to ask if I was okay. SO embarrassing! I’d torn a hole in my bike pants by this time, but I was otherwise fine. I waved her on and thanked her, got myself back up and kept moving, incredibly relieved once I got back to the flat loop area. No more falling, yayyy!
I hopped off of my bike and got ready for my transition run, a 20-minute out and back. Oy, wow, was I feeling it! Not only did my bloodied knee hurt, but also my glutes packed a punch that I was not expecting. I felt a little broken, shockingly exhausted, but pressed on through the run.
On the way back toward the parking lot, a piece of sidewalk jumped up and tripped me, and my exhausted body again went sprawling across the pavement. Unreal. I’d torn another hole in my cycling tights, as well as bloodied the other knee, and my elbow. With that fall, I’d set the record for the number of times I’d fallen in one day. I’m starting to think that a career as a stuntwoman might not be too outlandish an option for me now.
Now home and bandaged up, I realize that I do have a long way to go with my cycling fitness. I never knew it would be so difficult. While I’m proud of myself for getting into those clipless pedals, I still have a lot of homework to do with them. I hope that I’m not in over my head.