Back in the Saddle

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Cycling has been my constant since I started participating in triathlons back in 2008. Unlike swimming and running, I picked up cycling quickly – mostly because it doesn’t require as much technique as the other disciplines.

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Despite solid progress since I’ve started racing long course triathlons, I’ve enjoyed cycling less and less over the past few years. Between the inherent danger associated with sharing the road and the preparation that goes into each long ride (route planning, nutrition, hydration, etc), I’ve grown to appreciate the simplicity of running – especially on the trail where I can escape from noise and traffic.
 
As much as I hate to admit it, my bike crash in Tahoe two weeks ago has derailed my drive to race Ironman Lake Tahoe. I was less than thrilled by the prospect of riding 75+ miles on Saturday, but I got back in the saddle nonetheless. The plan was to spend roughly 5 hours in the saddle depending on how I felt, and I had a couple of routes in mind based on my confidence level.
 
When I first started riding, I felt extremely hesitant and tentative. I was paranoid about mechanical issues, and dismounted a few times to inspect my bike. After descending a sizable hill from the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, I soon realized that something was wrong – a horrifying screeching sound was coming from the rear tire – again.
 
It didn’t take long to figure out that the rear tire was rubbing against the wheel-well, so I turned back to the shop and had it inspected. A few quick adjustments and I was good to go – for 5 miles. It happened again – I cut my ride and immediately went to the bike shop.
 
Upon further inspection, it turned out that the shop placed the wrong tire on my bike – hence the lack of clearance. It was a huge mistake and could have been just as bad as the crash had I not caught it. They sorted it out quickly, but the day was nearly over at that point; Saturday was a complete wash.
 
I opted to skip my scheduled 22 mile run with my training group on Sunday morning in favor of spending more time in the saddle. The new tire felt much better, and I regained some confidence once I got going. Instead of opting for a flat route as planned, I went for the kill – Alpine Dam: the gold standard for Bay Area bike rides. I’ve written about it before, and figured it would be a good test of my fitness and confidence. The route I chose had 7000 feet of climbing, lots of technical descending, and little room for error – much like the Ironman Lake Tahoe Course.
 
Whether it was a product of the earthquake or otherwise, the roads were empty and I only saw a handful of cars throughout the course of my Alpine Dam loop. The climbs flew by – stark contrast to my last attempt before Wildflower, and I logged a 20 minute improvement over my last loop 4 months ago.
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The ride was definitely a confidence booster. With the Ironman less than a month away, I have enough time for one more big ride before I taper, and I’m hoping to log 100+ over Labor Day weekend. Either way, it felt great to conquer my fear and get back in the saddle.
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