Training Wheels Off

It’s as if I’m back to square one. Though I’ve been riding bikes for years, and clipped into my road bike for two years, now I’m experiencing that first time feeling all over again. Her name is Barb, and you learned a few posts ago that she is my brand new tri bike…my first ever tri bike, and as pretty as she is in a picture, she is pretty darn overwhelming when attached to my body. But no one said this was ever going to be easy. And if they did, I bet I wouldn't have listened anyhow. 

Last weekend’s race - the South Beach Triathlon - was a fun one. It was also the last time I would ride my road bike C.C. in a race. At least that’s the plan. I knew I was most comfortable with her so she’s the one I chose to take down to FL, and I repeated the ever-so-popular phrase “nothing new on race day” to my coach as he shook his head in disappointment. It was and will always be the right move. And though she was starting to weigh on me (literally, she is made of aluminum so she’s no lightweight) we had a good run…uh, ride! :)

Barb enjoying the sunrise over Central Park.

So this week when C.C returned from her road trip from South Beach, I took her home for good. She will no longer live at T2 where I ride indoors. It’s her time to rest. From here on out, I'll spend several days a week with my new tri bike on the road in the mornings and on my indoor trainer at home in the evenings. I’ve been riding her on the computrainer, adjusting to the shifting of the gears which you control at the tip of the aero bars, not the handlebars. And I’ve tried to adapt to the high seat, flat back and most of all, change in weight distribution. The seat tube angle is larger on a tri bike, so your legs are straighter over the pedals than with a road bike. This little change helps in making me a more aerodynamic cyclist but I can feel the difference in the muscles being used with that slight increase. But either way, I knew, this week it must begin…off the trainer and on the road again…

So this past Friday morning, at 5:30am, I picked up Barb the tri bike from T2 for the last time as well. I was taking her out to ride the roads, but made sure to let her know she’ll only be back to T2 for occassional indoor rides. So I got her off the ceiling, pumped her tires and headed out to meet the team for a Brick workout (bike+run). I was actually scared to clip in en route to Central Park (the whole 15 blocks) so I rode her on sneakers. (slowly but surely, ya’ll). When I got to our meeting spot, the team was already out riding. So I pulled over, put my cycling shoes on, and left my backpack with shoes alongside the watch dogs (teammates have to sign up every so often to watch everyone’s things while we ride). They watched me ride off for the first time clipped in and quite nervous. The trainer was behind me, and ahead was fear but mainly focus.

The moment I met aero.

I did one lower loop of Central Park to ease my mind, skipping hills as I adjusted to shifting new gears. It’s good I can grab my water bottle on my road bike, because it is essential to have solid handling skills and coordination if you want to ride a tri bike. So, after a couple lower loops, I upped it and conquered some of the bigger hills in the park. The new body positioning was felt as was the speed…I was kind of flying, and I kind of loved it. BUT, I was still not in my aero bars…because, UGH, that’s just too scary. I tried a few moves to get me closer, like going into aero on one side or removing my left hand to touch my arm pads (my left arm is my shakiest). I still was too scared to make the move, more so because my ego was too proud to allow a fall to take place, though we’ve all done it plenty of times before.

Eventually, I got back to the team meeting spot because we were nearing the time of our run. Coach was there on the Central Park Mall, which is a nice flat and long stretch. Because it was empty and I still hadn’t conquered my aero fears, he told me to set out on that stretch and do it. I kept saying “I can’t” but because he was watching I felt forced to try…so…I did…and….I DID IT! On the first try, I got down on those aero bars and I was cycling with a huge smile on my face. It was like going back in time to when my dad took my training wheels off when I didn’t want him to, and he pushed me, let me go, and off I went. Sometimes when someone’s watching you, waiting for you, and believing in you, you go for it and you get it. For me, I want to make someone in my life proud…outside of just myself. It was a good feeling. 

What I DO have control over: the run, my favorite. 12 miles with some of the Terriers on 4/26.

After a few miles of running with my teammates, I clipped back into my bike and rode home. Saturday morning, I got up at 6am and set out for a solo ride in Central Park once again, this time to up my speed and get more acquainted with Barb. I didn’t have a friend or coach beside me to yell at me to get into my aero bars, so I never quite did it that morning. I only had a few chances because for now I just want to do it on the straightaways. But I left myself down a bit that morning, and I know it was just nerves. Also, I was so cold with 30-degree temps that I also couldn’t feel my fingers. So I took Barb to T2 to finish our fun on a computrainer. 3 hours total of riding was still some great quality time together.

As for the newfound fears, they will continue, which I have to accept. I signed up to test myself and prove what I am capable of. I never wanted easy…I never liked easy. So someone made this hard for me, and I will suffer falls and setbacks and beating hearts because they will all lead to my will to succeed, to fight, to keep those eyes on the prize. I’ve got 7 weeks until my next Ironman 70.3 and 8 weeks after that is my 140.6. I WILL GET THIS. And I will one day laugh at this post, but mostly smile. 

We all start somewhere. What training wheels must you shed?

Aero or bust,