Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Back in the Saddle Again
My bike hung sadly on a hook in the garage, untouched for almost 5 months. It mocked me daily, beckoning me with a sly smile. I knew the bike was not lonely, though, as it was kept company by two others, also abandoned in differing states of disrepair. After a while, we grew apart. The longing looks no longer occurred. The feel of the open road was almost forgotten.
Then suddenly, two weeks ago, I decided to blow the dust off my bike. I lugged it down to the basement for a trainer ride.
I had no idea what to expect. In my entire athletic career, I had never taken that much time off of anything. My fitness was not lacking; I have been running quite a bit and swimming several days a week. I figured it couldn’t be too bad.
It was worse than I could have imagined!
I started with 30 minutes of easy spinning. My legs did not feel good at all. But, even worse, was my tush. After 15 minutes, my sit bones ached. When I rode again two days later I could hardly sit on the saddle for the first 20 minutes. I felt bruised and uncomfortable; I could not find the sweet spot on the seat.
By my fourth ride, I felt ready to try some “intervals”. This time it only took 10 minutes to feel comfortable sitting on the saddle. After another 20 minutes, I was ready to start.
I did a very basic workout, 10x3 min with a minute recovery. I increased my wattage in groups of 3 and did one hard one on the end. It was an utterly interesting workout.
As expected, my watts were quite low. The surprise came in the difficulty I had keeping my watts steady throughout the interval. Even though I hit my target for each interval, I was all over the map. I was seeing 15 watt jumps and drops. My power file looked like the Rocky Mountains.
This was very strange, as I have always been able to hold my rides steady, especially during intervals. My power files are usually very flat, the only variations coming if there is a stop light or a turn.
After several more indoor rides, the weather in Boulder turned beautiful so I ventured outside. It was wonderful to be back on the familiar roads.
I decided to revisit the 10x3 minutes. This time my watts were markedly higher and much steadier. The weather seduced me into riding a little longer than planned. My legs hit the wall about 20 minutes from home. I could barely turn over the pedals and every hillock was arduous.
When I climbed off the bike, my legs and back were aching, but I was pleased with the ride. My ribs did not hurt.
You know that old adage, “it’s just like riding a bike, you never forget?” It is so true. If I take even just a few days out of the water, upon return, my stroke feels awkward. I have had some running injuries that have taken me out for 6 weeks. The initial runs after the layoff feel strange and clumsy. Even after 5 months off the bike, I did not feel uncoordinated. Yes, my legs are de-conditioned and sore. Yes, I had to reacquaint my rear with the saddle. But, even on my first ride outside, it felt like no time had passed. My balance, ability to spin, and feel for the road had not diminished.
Tomorrow is supposed to be 60 degrees. You can bet that I will be out there finding some more cycling fitness.