"The Silver Strand" is an 11-mile, completely flat, stretch of land connecting Coronado Island and Imperial Beach in San Diego with an awesome bike path. Late afternoon last Saturday was beautiful, sunny, and warm and I was just returning from a two-day client training in Nashville. Tom picked me up from the airport, bikes loaded, water bottles and power bars at the ready. I was happy to be home and anxious to get on my bike for some exercise after sitting for four hours on a plane. What a great idea this was!
But... something's not quite right. I've done 11 miles with hills in my hometown and averaged 12 mph. Today, I'm struggling to do 9. Every push of the pedals feels like I'm pulling a truck behind me. I struggle with my breath. Sweat pours down my face and neck. My thighs ache.
Good grief, how did I let this happen? And why do I always do this? I work hard, get in shape, then slack off, find reasons to justify it, and before you know it... clothes feel tight, muscles weak, energy low. I should have known this would happen and I royally deserve it. I'm erratic, a procrastinator, no self-discipline... I'm an idiot.
After 22 miles round trip, I finally make it ... but it takes a heavy dose of Ibuprofen to relax the muscle cramps in my quads at dinner. I fear I won't make it out of bed tomorrow morning. But I do. And rested and refreshed, I vow to ride again on Monday.
We meet after work for an 11-mile ride we've done a dozen times before - and a repeat of my miserable Saturday performance. I can hardly make it up the smallest of hills and have to get off and walk on the "big one." Walk. I'm embarrassed and disgusted with myself.
As we are putting the bikes in the car and I'm peeling myself out of my drenched cycling jersey, I have the thought, "What if it's not me? What if something else is wrong?" The minute I voice this, Tom picks up my bike, quickly looks it over, and attempts to spin the front wheel... "attempts" being the operative word. He looks up at me slowly, with an expression of dismay and sympathy... "The front brake's been on."
What? The front brake's been engaged against my tire for the last 33 miles??? I feel incredulous, redeemed... and more than a bit ridiculous.
In retrospect, there were several lessons in this moment:
- Listen to your gut and go easy on the self-loathing stuff! I knew something was not right initially but instead of objectively thinking it through, I immediately turned the blame inward, berating and belittling myself. We're such an easy target for ourselves, aren't we?
- Chunk, Review, and Test new information. Tom had given me a checklist of sorts for cyclists when I first got my bike like always check the tire pressure, lube your chain,... spin your tires. But I was bombarded with new information about a skill I was far from mastering and I just couldn't absorb it all at the time. A good reminder that when I'm teaching (or learning) I need to break it down, review it, test it... before moving on.
- Resistance training works! On our next ride the following weekend, I logged a personal best (so far!): Longest ride: 31 miles. Fastest average speed: almost 16 mph (sounds better than 15.8!) Happiness factor while cycling: OTC (Off The Charts!)
Lessons learned... and you should see my quads!