I rode my bicycle to work yesterday. The day before I was set to do this, I was overcome with a slightly manic, overwhelming anxiety about not being able to do it or not doing it right. I wrote an email to a blogging friend and peppered her with questions about active recovery, foam rolling, whether to gym and ride in the same week, what to eat, how much to eat…..and it went on and on. Maybe “slightly” manic is an understatement. 😉 She came back and, in a really kindly worded email, told me that millions of people bicycle to work every day (and lots of them go to the gym, too!), eat when you’re hungry, get a lot of sleep and ultimately, just put my heart into what I am feeling passionate and joyful about and forget about the rest.
So simple. I will continue my original plan of scaling into it because it IS really hard work and a departure from anything that my body is currently used to and I owe it to myself to respect where I am and the shape I’m in currently. But it felt SO good not to get in my car. It felt so good to have the wind on my face and see the day brighten as the sun came up. It felt great knowing that once I got home that evening, I would be well and truly exercised. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t expect some level of fat loss and muscle gain from pedaling my bicycle uphill three days per week….but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about accomplishing something difficult and out of my comfort zone, it’s about a smaller carbon footprint, it’s about being outside after an entire day trapped in an interior office. It’s about having something that is just mine; something I don’t have to share or include anyone else in if I don’t want to. It’s about doing something that I am feeling passionately drawn to right now.
So as far as the nitty gritty details? Getting there was a bit different than getting home.
On the way there in the morning, I left when it was still a bit darky-dawn out and it was very cold, the exposed skin on my lower calves was burning with the cold all the way there. Ray convinced me to wear a hoodie and a neck scarf because it was less than 3C (37F) but I won’t make that mistake again, the first mini-hill is right outside my front door, I was sweating and steaming up my glasses 5 minutes into the ride. And, of course the weather is just going to get nicer as the seasons progress so I’ll leave the hoodie at home! I managed the same time as my test run on Sunday and there was next to no traffic for the parts where I had to ride on the road; what a blessing! I got to work with 10 minutes to spare, popped upstairs into our little server room, did a once-over with baby wipes (so nice!) and got changed. Worked perfectly; better than I could have asked for.
At 4:30 I changed into my bike clothes and headed out. About one block from work I somehow managed to eject one of my water bottles out of the bottle cage where it bounced through an intersection and got run over by a car. Dammit! I should have seen that as an omen of things to come! The route I chose to go home is slightly different than the one I rode to work on and it turns out that it’s quite a bit less forgiving.
Instead of being “rolling hills”, it’s one massive hill, 575 feet (175 meters) up over 4km (2.5 miles). Once you start climbing there are no breaks, no downhill, not even any neutral. Around a quarter of the way into the hill I went to stop for a breather and didn’t get my shoe unclipped from the pedal as smoothly as I thought I could and instead went down landing on the curb of the sidewalk with my feet still clipped to the bike. That resulted in a little bit of road rash on my arms and legs and a minor scrape on one of my panniers. It also resulted in a smarter approach to resting; I started picking a spot up the way, going for it and then unclipping one foot BEFORE I actually wanted to stop. I found that I did well climbing that way and was less discouraged mentally since it was broken into smaller achievable sections. I also fueled right after my fall and found the Vega Endurance gels to work absolutely amazing! I’m not sure if it was the revised start-stop or the gel that made the second half of the climb more bearable.
Once the climb was over I headed through the park, intending to cut through straight to the far end about a block from our house. I realized a little ways into my “cut through” that I ‘d gone the wrong way and was a bit discouraged, I just wanted to get HOME! Once in the trails going the right way, I pitched the bike over again while still locked into it and I gave up on trying to navigate the trails and just ducked out onto the road and booked it for home.
All in all, the grand total of time it took me from leaving the office to pulling into our yard, breaks, falls and wrong way included was 53:26! Less than an hour. Quite a bit less than an hour, actually! I am really, REALLY proud of myself (can I say that without sounding stuck up??). That was a really hard ride, a complete departure from anything I have done lately and I pulled it off…..not gracefully at all….but I finished!
I was hungrier than expected in the morning and I didn’t really bank on the ride in being enough exercise to actually make me hungry. In hindsight it wasn’t very smart at all because I didn’t want to go into the ride home already feeling a bit under fed. My fuelling for the ride home was a banana 20 minutes before I left and was to be a Vega endurance gel at the 45 minute mark (or as many “45 minute marks” as there were to be). (Vega is a local, completely vegan nutrition company and they have a sport line that has fully clean ingredient lists, all plant based. I know that real food is better than bars/gels/shakes, but I like having the option of throwing their endurance gel in my pannier just in case I need it. It’s a bit hard to pack a chicken around to munch on during the ride! Their main protein source is pea protein and their main “endurance” ingredient is dates and rice dextrins…..none of which is ideal for me personally, but I’m willing to overlook that from time to time in the interest of convenience.) I did find a really delicious looking recovery shake for afterwards that IS made with all real food. It’s water, canned pumpkin (or baked sw. potato), gelatin (for protein), honey, cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg & cloves. I encourage you to click the link as she has a reason for each ingredient in the recovery shake, it’s quite interesting. I’m going to try knocking the ingredients (except water) together in a big batch and then just scooping out what I want, add water/ice and magic bullet it right into my belly!!
I LOVED it. Every sweaty, burning, difficult and sometimes painful second of it. I loved it and I cannot wait to do it again. I had a GREAT sleep last night and I have no real discomfort this morning outside of the spots that I landed on when I fell down. But no sore or weak legs at all! I did throw back 2 tbsp of gelatin and 2 Omega3 capsules as soon as I got home and chased that with a handful of coconut chips for carbs/sodium. Speaking of sodium, I’ll have to use some sort of hydration drink before and during as well because I got severe calf cramps about three quarters of the way through. I am going to invest in a couple of new water bottles that properly fit my bottle cages and I’m going to beef up my lights this weekend. Such fun!
Today I have nothing going on so tomorrow and Sunday I’ll head to the gym for some rowing and some light cycling intervals…and maybe some tanning and a loooooong lay-down in the steamroom just because it feels good!