I saw “Man Of Steel” this past weekend with my Ironteam buddies, on the Friday night before our long Saturday practice. Good lord, that man is attractive! — Sorry, I digress. It’s actually kind of hilarious how, after all of this training, even fictional superheroes don’t seem to impress me as much as they used to. This whole experience has changed me forever.
Still, I felt that familiar lump in my stomach while prepping my gear Saturday morning for our longest bike ride to date: 90 miles. I worried about what sort of pain and mental anguish I would encounter today. Lets face it, because every ride thus far had given me some kind of grief, I wasn’t naive about the possibilities. I hoped for the best, told myself to “just enjoy yourself” but had to prepare my mind in case the bad stuff came.
Right before we took off, Coach Amy pulled me aside and said, “Your assignment for today is not to think about what anyone else is doing. This is your ride. It doesn’t have to be all fun, you’re going to have to work hard, but just try to enjoy as much of it as you can.”
The lot of us all started out, as usual, in a pack, but everyone’s quickly sped away from and passed me as I wheeled up the hills. Something felt weird to me, like I had less power in my legs than usual. It was early on in the ride and I just could not gain any momentum.
My inn thigh and glute began burning. As the ride progressed, this burning became cramping.
What is wrong with me? I whimpered to myself.
Why do I suck at this?
Clearly, Amy’s assignment had gone out the window. I was wheeling and cramping and whimpering myself into Self Flagellation City, Population: 1.
Ding! A stupid cyclist’s bell interrupted my pity party. I scootched to the right to let him pass.
Ding! Ding! Ding! He didn’t move forward, but pulled up alongside me.
“How are you doing?” It was Coach Jason.
“I’m cramping,” I whimpered.
He asked me where it was and when it started, and asked me if I could ride to SAG, which was another mile and a half up the road. The cramping was searing and horrid. I focused on pedaling with my left, non-cramping leg until we got to the SAG stop.
Jason made me stretch several different ways before I hopped back on the bike, telling me to pull over and stretch if I felt the cramping again, rather than try to ride through it. I ended up pulling over to stretch about every five miles for the first 50 or so miles of the ride.
The pain was a slow build, from a subtle burn to searing pain over the course of a sustained climb. It felt like a devil’s paw gripping around my glute and thigh.
“Ow! Ow! OOOWWW!!!!” I screamed over and over again, with such a venom and ferocity while climbing a gradual incline to Los Posas along the PCH, that I even scared myself, not to mention probably a group of cyclists who had stopped to enjoy the ocean view in a little gravel lookout area near the side of the road.
I hated the pain. I hated my bike. I hated everyone on my team for being naturally fast. I hated myself for being slow. I hated that I couldn’t get any faster, no matter how hard I tried. I was beside myself with anxiety and anger.
The ride to Los Posas seemed to take forever. When I finally got there, I stretched again, ate a Bonk Breaker, and took a moment to snap out of crazy hysterical mode. I was going to finish this ride, no matter what it took.
Mile 50-75 found me able to go a bit longer between stretches, about every 10 miles. I saw the majority of my teammates on the home path, back to base at around mile 70, hour six for me. They all finished 90 miles in the time it took me to finish 70. Wow, I am terrible at this, thought the bad student me.
I was out there, completely alone, and, strangely, there was something wildly freeing about that. I had no one to keep up with, no one to chase, no one to worry about on that course but me. And you know what happened? I flew! Well…no…I didn’t fly, nor did I cycle insanely fast on PCH hills, but I averaged about a 15-16 mph pace on the way back, with stop lights and stopping to talk to Jason (he was worried about me and drove back to find me). It was fast for me.
When I got back to Zuma Beach, my teammates had already run and were relaxing in the parking lot. They cheered when I came back in. Sure it felt a little bad to be so far behind, but overall, I felt accomplished. I didn’t quit. I kept going. And I even ran for an hour afterward!
In the end, I discovered that I’d paced overall at over 12mph. While that’s a pretty slow overall pace, my constant sustained stops and the occasional stoplight add up. Best of all, to finish Vineman, I’ve calculated that I need to keep an overall pace of 13 mph or more, so, as long as I stay consistent, I have got this!
This is the lesson in which I learn to quit worrying about other people, that my accomplishments are my own. I rescued myself out there, I found my inner Woman of Steel, dug deep, and kept going, in spite of all that the Dark Lord of Pain could throw at me. I say, who needs a superhero when you can be one yourself?