Triathlon is a solo sport. You can train with friends, be on a triathlon team, and even do a relay, but on race day it’s up to you to compete. One of my favorite things about this sport is that it has forced me to be brave and to take on more solo adventures.
Take last weekend, for example. My training plan called for me to complete an 80 minute bike ride. I had been indoors all week, so I decided to take it outside. But rather than load up my bike on the car and take it to my normal safe, flat bike path, I decided to explore a new route near my neighborhood.
It. Was. TERRIFYING.
First off, the route was primarily on a major four lane road with fast traffic. There was a bike lane on the side of the road, but still- cars come flying around the corners. It made me nervous. I also had to cross a major freeway onramp which I drive every day, so I know how aggressive drivers are on that road. I made sure to stick to the right side of the lane I needed to end up in and signaled my intent to fellow drivers. It doesn’t hurt to make eye contact, give a little smile and awkward wave, and then point to mime your direction. Basically, anything to say “Hi I’m a human scared out of my mind please don’t run me over.” I’m still alive, so evidence suggests this strategy works.
After I crossed the freeway I had to climb. And climb. And climb. The next 5 miles were practically all uphill. Having driven this road to visit my veterinarian, I knew what I was getting into, but boy was it painful. I kept it in a comfortable gear until it got too tough to move, then dropped it down one, repeating the process. When I hit the flat I immediately cranked the gear back up to get comfortable keeping up speed and giving my legs a workout. Eventually the road leveled off, and I discovered that the road was going to dead end. I noticed a sign pointing to a bike route headed east so I decided to take the route and see where it wound up.
Best decision ever.
As I headed down the road trying to figure out a) where I was and b) how to cross back over to the road that would take me home (and downhill), I noticed an onramp for a different freeway. Again, having driven the area I knew that this freeway wasn’t exactly right by my house, so I was floored at the distance I had covered by bike! I also happened to see a paved bike path running along the side of the freeway, headed in the direction I needed to go. So I pulled a U turn, got on the bike path, and paused for a selfie.
Okay, not just a selfie. I also took the time to hydrate and eat a quick snack before remounting my bike and enjoying the beautifully paved path in front of me. Sadly, it was over too soon- the path was only a kilometer long, but I did get a chance to practice riding in my aero bars (not a good idea in traffic) and give my nerves a rest. It was the boost I needed to finish off strong.
Coming off the bike path I decided to head right again, and realized I was on a major road that would intersect with the road that would bring me home. I made a left there, and rode all the way back those 6 miles of hills (downhill is WAY more fun) and back to my own neighborhood. All in all, I rode 16 miles that day. Nothing exactly epic- friends of mine rode 41 miles this morning for ironman training- but the mental victory was so much bigger than the physical one. I am not what you might consider a cyclist. I do not have a fast fancy bike, an aero helmet, or clipless pedals. I don’t even own bike shorts. But when I get outside on my little crosstrainer and ride in the bike lanes on a busy route and come home windswept and sweaty and alive, I feel like a cyclist. Even better, I feel like a triathlete, training for a race.
Later this week I’ll cover the basics you need to conduct your own solo bike adventure. Stay tuned!