Cycling is something I have always wanted to do in addition to running for a few reasons:
1. I have been inspired by triathletes while volunteering for Ironman Races in Louisville and Panama City Beach.
2. Attending Spin Class at the Southeast YMCA, under the instruction of Paul and alongside wonderful people like Steve increased my passion to want to cycle.
3. Knowing several cyclists who love the sport because they can no longer run based on sports related injuries.
4. To have longevity as an athlete with a sport that is less damaging to my body compared to the continuous pounding of running.
Over the past few years, I never got into the excitement of getting a bike until I was guided by someone, who is deep into the sport of triathlons. I picked out a 2018 Trek Émonda ALR 4 in California Sky Blue.
My pedals were originally the type where I could have the option of clipping in or wearing a regular shoe. It was odd for me to have to purchase pedals in the first place. That is like buying a running shoe without laces.
After practicing clipping in and out in the grass and eventually pavement, it was determined that I need the straight clip in pedal that would be easier. I remember riding for blocks and being frustrated about not finding my left clip. The new pedals are much easier.
My second official ride was with a women’s only group in Louisville. It was my first time on a group ride, and I was very uncomfortable with being on busy streets and clipped in while the other women were in sandals and sundresses. It turns out that the group is more of a social club that will bike 5 miles to a bar, drink, and bike another 5 miles to the next bar.
It was a total waste of my new, and only cycle kit. A cycle kit is the jersey with pockets and shorts with padding. I never knew all of this until now. Running gear is so much easier, and less expensive!
Anyway, after the first bar stop I knew there was no way I was drinking and cycling all while having two foster kids at home and having to be up at 4:30 a.m. to run. I ended up riding back to Tyler Park alone via Bardstown Road in the Highlands. Thankfully, I purchased lights, so I was more visible as the sun set.
I ended up falling twice because I was unable to clip out when I needed to. I scrambled to get up the first time because there were a lot of people around. The 2nd time was on a residential street as I was trying to go up a hill. I cried out of frustration, but I made it to my car and home to treat my bruises and scrapes.
At this point, I learned about the Louisville Bike Club and options for various distances and experience levels. My next opportunity to ride and gain some experience was on Labor Day weekend. I did a 9.5-mile ride in just over 40 minutes. That is slow in the cycling world, but it took me a few miles to feel comfortable around a bunch of bikes.
I considered the Hike, Bike and Paddle as training for the Oldham County Parks and Recreation Sprint Triathlon on September 9th. After making this investment, I want to dive into the sport and not let my bike collect dust.
The last time I swam laps was during spring break down in Lakeland, FL. The distance for this swim was only 400 meters, so I wasn’t worried too much. I still run at least four days a week, so I was unbothered by a 1.86-mile course.
My greatest fear was the bike portion. I watched transition videos on You Tube and mentally prepared for the transitions during my meditative runs. Ironman volunteering also helped prepare me.
I arrived in Oldham County at the crack of dawn to set up the transition area. Athletes were complaining about how cold the water was. The air temperature was about 52° and the water was around 58°.
Everyone was making their comments on how long its been since they’ve raced and how poorly they expected to perform. I had to focus on my race and not the things beyond my control.
Due to a late race registration, I was one of the last athletes to start. I saw several people get into the pool and get out due to the frigid temperature. I was determined to swim those laps regardless. I didn’t come this far to quit before I began.
When they called my name on deck and said to get in, I was like “WOW!” The water was cold! When I began my freestyle, it was a brain freeze. It took four laps for me to block out the shock. I could feel my triceps engaging as a reminder of what 5 months without lap swimming feels like.
Getting out of the pool was almost as bad as being in it. I took off my swim cap and goggles as I ran to T1. I put on my helmet, cycle socks, shoes, gloves, glasses, and half a GU and walked my bike towards the mounting area.
Again, I was freezing cold as I faced winds in a wet tri suit. I saw several people with jackets and immediately regretted not having one. I felt comfortable with the clips. My deal with cycling is knowing the mechanics of the gears and brakes. I did good for the first few miles and passed several people.
I was in a heavy gear and was not able to gear down as I hit a steep hill. The pedal was too heavy. I was losing control. I unclipped my left foot and laid the bike down, because it was tilting over with or without me. I attempted to get back on, but it was still in the heavy gear. I said screw it and walked the bike up the hill.
Again, I wanted to cry but I knew I had to stay focused. It was my race, and I was going to finish. I lost at least 10-15 minutes walking in the grass so I would not damage my shoes. The same people I passed were going by and asking did I need assistance and if I was OK. That just made me even more upset. I wanted to have a meltdown.
Finally, I reached the top of the hill and clipped back in. The course was open to traffic in a rural area. There was traffic behind me I thought, “Why don’t they just go around me?” It turned out to be a truck with a trailer and he needed enough clearance to pass. The situation was nerve-racking.
I gained some confidence after the turnaround. I did good on the flats and passed the same people again. My core was engaged, so I knew I was doing something right.
On mile 8 of 10, I hit another snag. My gears were stuck in a super easy mode. I felt like Ice Cream Jones from the cereal commercial. I said forget it. I was not fooling with the gears. It would be stuck on easy for the last two miles.
T2- I had to change from the
men’s church socks cycle socks to my running socks, and out of the Bontrager circuit shoes to my Brooks Glycerin. A volunteer was encouraging me and suggested I use a bucket to sit on next time. I also got a compliment on matching my gear with my bike which was VERY intentional.
It felt so good to be on solid ground for the run. It took a moment for my quads to adjust. Although the run portion was a short 1.86 miles, it was similar to a cross country course. It was pavement, gravel, and grass with a lot of turns and minor inclines. One guy said, “I see you made it off that hill,” referring to my bike portion. I told him I didn’t have a choice and passed him as he struggled on the run.
Overall Place: 63/99
Gender Place: 6/8
Swim Time (400m): 9:10.3, Rank 3/8
T1: 2:35.4 (4th fastest of my age group)
Bike Time (10 miles): 47:42.2, Rank 6/8
T2: 2:00.1 (slowest out of my age group)
Run Time (1.86 miles): 15:34.7, Rank 1/8
Clearly, I had the edge on the run, and the swim was good for me not having any training. If I would have not lost so much time on the bike, my 6th place would have easily been a 2nd place age group award.
The only accomplishment I felt was completing my first triathlon. I felt nothing physically because I did not give full effort on any portion. Most triathletes say swimming or running are their toughest areas. Those are both the easiest for me, especially swimming. I am confident that once I master my bike, I will be winning medals. This is just the beginning.