On Sunday, Emily and I went out for an exploratory bike ride. No pace or time goal, just a few hours for exploring and easy riding. When I first got injured back in April, I halfheartedly dusted off my bike and did some of Emily’s training rides with her. She was training for a half-Ironman in June, and I tagged along since I was sidelined from running and needed to maintain my endurance. I hated biking, so initially this felt like torture.
Until one day I realized it actually didn’t feel like torture. As the summer wore on, I found myself willingly tagging along on her general aerobic and long rides. When I went back to school in the fall and was handed another time-out from running, I found myself heading out riding all by myself. This past Sunday, as we were trying some new routes and climbing and descending mountains on beautiful back roads, I actually spoke these words:
“I really don’t want to turn the clocks back in a few weeks. I’m not going to be able to get in as many miles on my bike after work anymore.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, Emily and I both cracked up. A few months ago, you couldn’t pay me to take my bike out of the garage and inflate the tires. I realize that most dedicated cyclists probably don’t let a little cold weather or dark evenings cut their rides short. I’m not quite there yet, but I did start investigating bike trainers to put on my Christmas list. Speaking of which, that list is beginning to really seem as though I might actually like cycling and triathlons, since it’s full of things like shoe covers, wet suits, bike computers and riding gear. I’m still a fair weather cyclist, but my interest in the sport increased tremendously over the past summer. 2013 was certainly not my year as a runner, but I made up for it by spending time on my bike and learning to enjoy it.
As we fought the wind and the hills all afternoon, I thought about why I claimed to dislike biking. As a kid, I loved it and spent all of my free time riding my bike with my friends. I had everything from your typical first bike with the streamers on the handlebars to an old school ten speed and a crappy mountain bike (which I still have). It used to be my favorite way to spend my summer days, weekends, and afternoons after school hours. Why did I hate it so much as an adult?
When I got my road bike and began riding, I felt like I should be able to go out and ride upwards of 40-50 miles at a moderate pace every single time I went out. I didn’t know the first thing about riding, but since I was so involved with running I felt as though I shouldn’t be considered a beginner cyclist. I’m a runner, so naturally I should be able to go out and keep pace with people that have been riding and training for years, right? Wrong. I always felt like cycling never felt comfortable and I couldn’t figure out why. I started thinking about how I first began running, on a treadmill at the gym. I remember when 30 minutes of running felt like an eternity. Now, 30 minutes of running sounds annoying simply because it isn’t far enough for me.
The difference is that I started running eight years ago with no expectations except to get in shape. At the time, I don’t even know if I knew how far a marathon actually was, and I didn’t care. I started biking a few years after I began running, but with the expectation that I was already an expert and didn’t need to put in the work. My arrogance led me to try to go out and ride far and fast each time I got on my bike, which resulted in my inevitable frustration with the sport. In retrospect, I hated cycling because I was a beginner with an ego. Since I’ve had to rely on cycling often over the past year to maintain and increase my endurance, I dropped the whole ego. I realized that just like everything else, you have to put in the work to reap the benefits.
I always talk about how different situations humble me. Running and being sidelined with injuries is one way to break down an ego, and my ashtanga practice never fails to put me in my place. Now that I’ve taken the time to appreciate the sport, I am realizing that cycling is also humbling. I’m a beginner cyclist, and once I embraced that reality I began to enjoy the simple act of riding my bike with my friends, just like I did during my childhood. And hey, if I happen to go far or fast every so often, that’s just a bonus.