This weekend, I participated in the MS 150 from Houston to Austin, which means I rode 162 miles – 100 miles on Saturday and 62 miles on Sunday. I rode with a team and had a grand time. I even got to connect at the overnight point with a dear friend of mine from my childhood. But all the fun aside, this weekend was amazing for me because I rode well. Incredibly well. Knock my socks off well. Especially given that my longest ride on the road this season had only been 18 miles, until yesterday.
Between crazy weather and lots of trips to Iowa (for a very good cause), I simply haven’t been on my bike much. I’ve done lots of spinning. I’ve had rainy Saturday mornings where I went to a 9 a.m. spin class and then stayed on the spin bike another two or two and a half hours after the class to get my time on the bike. But is spinning as beneficial as being out on the road? My experience this weekend makes me answer that question with a resounding yes.
Yesterday, I averaged 14 mph on the 100 miler. That’s not terribly fast, but is quite good for me considering the distance and the crowds. Then today I averaged 15.7 mph on the 62 miler, and I made only one stop along the way. I’m floored that I rode that hard and that well after a 100 mile day. I’m in far better bike shape than I thought, and pretty much all I’ve done this year is spin.
Historically, I’ve been incredibly slow on the bike. I averaged 13 or 14 mph even in sprint and olympic distance races, and I rarely rode in groups because I hated the idea of slowing the group down or getting dropped.
In 2012 and 2013, my biking improved significantly simply because I did more of it. My confidence picked up, and I found myself enjoying group riding quite a bit more. I remember last year that my friend MJ, who rode with me and sometimes behind me on one fun Saturday group ride, told me that my legs looked lean and strong on the bike, and then her husband Fred told me that he noticed, as I was riding along chatting with him, that my speed had improved significantly. They are both strong cyclists, and those compliments meant the world to me when they were delivered.
I was worried that I’d lost that progress this year, but I haven’t. I was booking it this weekend. Last time I did this event, I got to the lunch stop at 9:30 on Sunday morning. This year? I beat the team truck to the lunch stop (at roughly mile 32), and I was done with my 62 miles by 10:45 in the morning. That’s progress! I even did this ride on my tri bike without getting into the aerobars because I think they’re terribly unsafe in crowds like we see on the MS 150. What could I have done had I been in aero position the way that bike is intended to be ridden?
This weekend was an enormous confidence booster for me. I’m just over two months from Coeur d’Alene, so I still have lots of time and lots of work to do. But right this moment, I’m feeling quite good about the bike. And even better than that, I’m over the dread and worry that I’d been experiencing about not having done enough bike training. I did what I could given the weather conditions I faced and the priorities I’ve had, and my biking hasn’t suffered. I’m in good shape right this minute, and even better than that, I’m motivated to spend quality time on the road with my bike.
My plan towards Coeur d’Alene is to make the next two months all about the bike. I’m limiting my travel and giving myself permission to ride more during the work week. So, dear Austin friends, let me know if you want to ride sometime. I’m ready.