Downshifting

For the past few weeks, I have found myself starting to really dislike biking. Like almost to the point of hating it. I hate the terrible Milwaukee roads, I hate moronic drivers, I hate following a workout that tells me to spend 40 min spinning over 90 rpm. You get the picture. I felt any enjoyment that I have ever gotten out of biking just draining out of me. It was very disheartening, given the amount of time I need to spend in the saddle in preparation for Ironman. I found myself dreading the workouts, and just counting the minutes until I was off the road and back home. The 60 minute ride I had last week was no exception. I was on the backside of my out-and-back, just eager to be done. Then I stopped and thought about it for a second. It was a beautiful day and I was outside with the wind in my face getting exercise. I realized that I was actually in fact, sort of enjoying the ride. That’s when it hit me. I had to remind myself that I was enjoying myself. What is wrong with this picture?

I am not a fast biker, and I have never felt totally comfortable and completely in balance on a bike, especially since I have started riding with aero-bars. I will never average 20 mph on a long ride, biking is  just not my greatest strength. I have been pushing and pushing on the bike, and yes I have gotten stronger, but my progress is slow. It’s frustrating to be out there pedalling away for over 3 hours, bored to death and feeling like it will never end.

This past weekend I had a 2:15 run on Saturday, in which I managed to cram 16 miles. My legs were tired and sore on Sunday morning, and the thought of riding for 4 hours was less than appealing. I started out spinning easy to try and loosen my legs up a bit. I told myself it was ok to take it slow for a bit, to just downshift and take it easy. It wasn’t a race, and I didn’t have to push if I didn’t feel it. A funny thing happened about an hour into the ride. I realized I was loving it. Once I got far enough north of the city, it was peaceful. I peeled my eyes off of the road in front of me for once and took in the scenery. I could see rolling farmland and Lake Michigan in the distance. I actually got a little overcome with emotion, a lot of which was relief. I was enjoying the ride, something that hasn’t really happened since I started training for this thing.

It took me 10 min longer than usual to hit Port Washington, and I allowed myself not to care. I hopped on the Ozaukee County bike trail and just kept going. I felt like I was flying down the trail, and instead of counting down the minutes until I could turn around, I ended up going farther than I had to just because. It’s amazing what happens when you stop and smell the roses, to be a bit cliche about it.

On the way back, I started to reflect on my Ironman journey thus far. I asked myself why I wanted to do it in the first place, and the answer was not only that I wanted to push myself to the limit, but also because I enjoy it. I had gotten to the point with biking where I was no longer enjoying it, and that goes against why I am doing it in the first place. I took a step back decided that I want this journey to be fun. If that means averaging 16.5 mph on the bike and enjoying the scenery, then so be it. It’s not like I’m out to win the thing. Of course there will be times when I have to force myself to get the training in, and I won’t love every workout, but that is just the nature of endurance sports. It’s a fine line to balance between being dedicated and becoming obsessed. This journey is as much mental as it is physical, and it’s a huge learning process. This breakthrough on the bike put me into a great place mentally, and I am excited to see what lies ahead in the next 8 weeks.

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