Cycling Survival!

One of my fitness goals this summer is to compete in my first triathlon. For a while, I was flirting with the idea of a trying a full marathon, but I can’t bring myself to take that plunge! The half-marathon I ran last year seemed plenty long enough!

I’m also lucky enough to have a few friends also getting into tris. This gives me some people to get advice from and train with. Of course, come race day, I’m sure there will also be a little “friendly competition” between us!

Last Sunday afternoon, my friend Blair, who did his first “Try-A-Tri” a couple weeks ago, decided to stop by for a little bike ride while our girlfriends were off attending baby and bridal showers (thankfully we don’t have to do that stuff)! Our original plan was to bike the 25km course used in Victoria’s Duathlon in Waterloo. Since I don’t yet own a bike rack for my car, we somehow convinced ourselves that it was not insane for us to bike there, ride the course, then bike back home. We chose a route that would keep us out of the city, and guessed that it would probably be about 75km, round trip.

Now, I just got my bike last fall, and rode it exactly one time before the snow came. This year, the longest ride I had done was about 25km with a couple other friends. Needless to say, this ride was going to be quite the challenge! I haven’t been pushing myself too hard in my training yet, so I thought that a nice long bike ride would be a good way to really get into it!

We set off around 2pm, on a hot, humid afternoon. Fortunately, the sky was overcast, and we even got a nice refreshing light rain over the first hour. We kept the pace fairly easy at first, took a short water break after half an hour, and managed to get to the start of the course by 3pm.
Once we made it to the start of the course, we got off the bikes for a few minutes. Luckily for us, the park we stopped at had a lively cricket match in progress, so we even had a little entertainment while we rested and had our PowerGels! After a few minutes to catch our breath, the real fun began.

Cycling001Since the next part of our ride was used for a recent race, we wanted to push ourselves to see how our times would be. Until last weekend, I really had no idea how fast (or slow) I was on the bike. Blair had warned me that there were three large hills on the first part of the course, but the second half would be fairly smooth. Well, it seemed to me like he forgot about a lot of hills on the back part of that course! About halfway through, I was dying climbing a long, slow hill. Blair must have got a good kilometre ahead of me. Then my chain came off – which I actually didn’t mind, because it meant I got to get off the bike and ease the burning in my legs for a minute. Blair was so far ahead that he had lost sight of me, and so he stopped and waited a couple minutes for me to catch up. We managed to finish the course in about 52 minutes. If you’re curious, check out the results from this year’s duathlon to see how we’d stack up! Did you check? I did – I think I’m going to have to put in some serious miles on the bike to get ready for these triathlon things!

After the course, I was pretty exhausted, and thirsty. I had managed to empty my water bottle by the halfway point. Thankfully, the friendly cricketers had a large 10 litre jug handy, and kindly let us refill our bottles with some nice cold water! At this point, I was about ready to call a cab, throw our bikes in the trunk, and get a ride home! But I couldn’t let Blair know that, so we set off again for the 23km journey home. With about 15km to go, Blair broke a spoke on his front tire. I didn’t realize it, but when we got home, he showed me the result – his tire was warped, enough that it would rub the brake pads with every turn! I thought he was taking it easy on me, but man, I definitely would have been calling that cab if I had been trying to ride like that!! He was basically riding with the brakes on the whole way home!

We made it home shortly after 6pm. My legs felt like jello. I don’t even want to think about those guys in Ironman Triathlons that bike twice that distance, then run a full marathon (and all that after a nice long swim)! So what’s the point of my story? Well, I thought I’d share a few of the things I did to help survive an extend period of exercise:

1. Eat well before! I knew we were going to have a big ride, so had a good sized plate of pasta to load up on the carbs for lunch, a couple hours before we took off. Many marathons now hold “carb-loading” parties the night before, where they serve up huge amouts of pasta to get everyone the energy they’ll need for the race!

2. Hydrate! Probably the most important thing. I drink a lot of water normally, but made sure to get lots into me the morning before our ride, especially since it was hot and humid outside. We also took along a lot of water, and even filled our bottles a couple times. Staying well hydrated is important if you want to finish, not to mention that severe dehydration can have some pretty bad effects!

3. Take breaks! Don’t be afraid to stop and take a break. This was my first long ride. I didn’t expect to do three hours on the bike without stopping. We had a total of four stops, where we got off the bike, got some fluids and carbs (and a little grease), and stretched our legs. After our little breaks, I felt a lot better, and ready to ride some more.

4. McDonald’s! Ok, ok. Not good advice here. But on the way home, we were passing by the big M, and chocolate sundaes seemed like a really good idea after over three hours on the road. While Blair was in getting the sundaes, I was dreaming of some nice greasy fries too. Well, he read my mind, because he came out with two sundaes and two medium fries! I don’t think McDonald’s has ever tasted that good! (Now, that’s not recommended, but we figured that if there was ever a time you deserve McDonald’s, it’s after 3 hours of biking).

5. Stretch! One of the biggest things I learned during my football career was the importance of stretching after exercise. “Ice and stretch, ice and stretch”. Sometimes I think that’s all our trainers knew how to say! But it really works – stretching for 10 or 15 minutes after a good workout like that can really help keep the soreness away!

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any tips for surviving extended periods of exercise, feel free to pass them on to me! Maybe some of you Iromman tri-athletes can share your secrets with me!


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