What the hell am I doing?

That's an old pic of my bike - my SPD pedals are on it now, as are my 23mm tires.
And yes, the reflectors are still there, too :p

The bike - friend or foe? I'm not quite sure.

I had an eye opening experience last night. I'm still digesting it and trying to work through the experience. Maybe you can help me out.

Last night I met my gym's Cycle Club for a ride. It was an absurdly hot day for central Ohio - in the mid 90s at 6pm with fairly high humidity. I chugged my last Zico prior to the ride due to what I knew would be a hott one. For some reason I had in my head we were doing 25 miles. Come to find out we were doing more like 30+, and the slow people who were there the couple of weeks before were nowhere to be seen - well, except me.

Our group has a no drop policy. They won't leave you out on the road to die. And I am beyond grateful to our cycling coordinator (who happens to be my spin instructor) who made sure that this was the case. He dropped back a couple of times to keep me company and provide me a draft. For this, I am forever grateful - absolutely and truly. He was encouraging, supportive and more than you could ask for in a group leader.

Anyway, we started out, and I couldn't keep up within the first mile. I finally managed to catch up about three miles in but soon fell way back behind within the next couple of miles. Thanks to the snazzy new bike computer I have installed, I noticed that even as I was chug chug chugging along trying to not get left in the dust, my speed rarely dropped below 18mph. In fact, it was in the 20s a fair amount of time. It would drop down to 14 or so on hills, but then back up to the 18+ range pretty quickly. (and yes, it's calibrated right - i got the same mileage at the end as everyone else in my group)

In all honesty, I felt like a total and absolute loser for a good chunk of the ride. I know that by no means am I fast - at running, swimming and obviously biking. But holy hell- to be that far behind and struggle to not lose them was absolutely humbling and at times kind of humiliating. And the crazy thing is, that was absolutely the fastest I have ever ridden my bike - ever.

I looked down at one point and the computer said we had only gone 11 miles. ONLY ELEVEN MILES? I had to hold back the tears. At one point I actually considered just turning off and heading back to my car. But I didn't - I pulled up my big girl britches and kept going.

After about an hour in, I started feeling a lot more comfortable with the pace - I was finally able to hold pretty steady with the group the last half of the ride - again maintaining speeds I had no idea I was capable of holding. And by saying "with the group" I mean - I could actually read the text on their jerseys because they were just close enough to not be specks in the distance. But it was, by far, one of the toughest experiences I have had to date in training.

In the last stretch we ended up having a scary run in with a truck that evidently thought it would be funny to plow head on towards a group of cyclists at 60+ mph. Luckily we all managed to break, steer, cuss and navigate our way out of a tragedy. How none of us ran into each other, toppled over into the ditch or ended up under that damn truck, I have no idea. But I am extremely grateful that I'm here typing a whiny post about being slow on the bike rather than talking about a bike tragedy.

It was really the last thing I needed to happen at the end of that damn ride. In hindsight, I'm proud of myself for sticking with it. I rode faster and harder than I ever have before - I put myself way out of my comfort zone and now have a vivid reminder about much work I still have to do. But the whole thing had a down side, too. Now I have this little nagging question floating in my head: WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?

I'm not a fast runner. I'm a slow swimmer. I'm not a talented cyclist. Why am I paying money to register for races and spending 6-7 days a week training for something that I will probably never be all that good at? Or will I be good at it? Yes, I'm showing improvement. But I'll never be (as they say) "a contender." It's all stupid I know - I'm doing it because it makes me feel strong and gives me purpose and goals. I know this - I truly do. I haven't been bitten by the doubt bug recently, and this current sting is aching pretty badly. I really got my ass handed to me last night, and it got me questioning a lot about what I'm doing and evaluating where I really want to go.

I do plan to go back out with the group. I'll give it a few more times and see if it works for me. I know I need to get out there and just keep pedaling. After experiences like that one, it's a bit tough though.

What do you do when you get hit with doubt? And why the hell do we do this thing they call triathlon?


Matty O said...

PHEW! Loaded post.

Let me start by saying this... if you ride with faster people, you will become a faster rider. You will have to work pretty hard and go through a lot of emotions and self doubt, but you will be a MUCH better cyclist from it.

I don't even pretend to be as fast as half of the people in our area here, there are A LOT of cycling teams and they average well over 24mph... way out of my range.

Make sure that you don't lose your focus on WHY you are into triathlon. I think triathletes are strong individuals, not many people ever dream of doing what we do because its NOT easy and it is scary to most.

Lastly, I HATE DRIVERS WHEN WE RIDE ON THE ROAD!!!!!!! be safe out there, I hope you have a Road ID that you where when you go out.

Keep it together best you can and trust in yourself, sometimes we have to get exposed to situations where we aren't comfortable but we always come out on top and are better off for those experiences.

Heather-O said...

Wow...I almost thought I wrote this post for a second there. My thoughts EXACTLY! I give you a ton of credit girl. At least you have the courage to ride with a group and will be much stronger for it. I am much too intimidated to ride with others (except Matt). I know it would results in alot of tears and frustration because I am so slow. But honestly, you will come out on top and be all the better for it! Keep your head up, keep working hard, and congrats on an awesome ride! Nothing about this sport is easy...if it were everyone would do it...and then what would be the point? Great post!

Ms. Duffy said...

/\ what they said!

Think of it this way - on my ride today I averaged a little over 13 mph and I was a little pumped up about that. It's all relative, and you're only in your 2nd year. Also, it was 90. And they were cyclists - not triathletes. OH, and you're riding the Target bike, not some awesome carbon speed machine!!!

You've got this!!!

Patty said...

I have thought those exact same thoughts...oh, about a million times!!! I always fall back on one of my favorite quotes:

You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
Steve Prefontaine

Keep it up! You are inspiring my slow, can't run fast butt to challenge myself and keep going even on days when I can't manage anything but a 12 minute mile.

T said...

I'm not going to fall back on cliches (oh, but you are strong! think about the fact that like 95% of the population couldn't have done what you did!) even though they're true. This whole "why do I do it?" thing gets me all.the.time. So, I guess all I can say is that I relate.

And also that I'm glad you didn't get hit by a truck. WTF?

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Your braver then me, I have the same feelings all year and I wont blog about it. I will email later

Christy said...

Brave! I haven't riden with a group like that in over a year because I got dropped. There aren't many groups here that have a "no drop" policy. But I did ride with some friends on Sunday and that was fun. I typically ride with my trainer at least once a week and he makes me work....and I am often humbled by that.

So I say you are a brave woman and that will take you far in this journey!!!

Meredith said...

I *just* had this discussion with myself a couple of weeks ago. You and I do different sports obviously but after an entire year of doing Muay Thai and watching other folks progress and have their first, second, etc. fight while I'm still working for my first left me completely hopeless and throwing a pity party for myself one night. I show up to the gym day in and day out, when the people who are fighting sometimes take a week off at a time. I talked with my coach and he said I'm progressing but just slower than other people. Admittedly, since I was in the middle of my pity party, all I heard was blah blah blah. I mean, I'm the oldest person trying to compete at the gym and let's face it, I'm never going to be some sort of world champ.

But the reality of it is that, when I forget about training and pressures I put on myself, I *really* enjoy the sport. And I can't really fault an activity that has me eating healthier, getting more sleep, and overall is making me fitter. And I think my dedication to muay Thai carries over into other parts of my lifestyle; when work gets tough, I don't have to dig very deep to think, "Mer, you just did a 2 hour workout in 90 degree weather yesterday - of *course* you can finish this assignment!"

So anyway, what I'm trying to say is, it sounds like when you take away the negative thoughts of competing (i.e. I'm slower than everyone else), you really love the sport. The solution to me doesn't sound like to quit the sport but rather adjust your negative thinking (which, I can attest, is harder said than done!). I've just recently stopped putting pressure on myself and stopped letting negative thoughts creep into my head during workouts and you know what? In addition to having fun again, my progress has actually sky-rocketed!

Emilie said...

Aw, reading through this reminded me just how much we *all* fall prey to feelings like this. I could easily have written this post (but probably about running and not cycling). In fact, I've probably posted something similar, several times!

It can be really difficult, even when you're fully aware of why you do something (to feel strong, because you enjoy it etc.), to avoid comparing yourself to others and to feel good about things all the time. The doubt and fear are, in my experience anyway, just part of the process. If you aren't doubting yourself, then you're not challenging yourself. If you're not challenging yourself, you're not giving yourself opportunities to grow.

RunKateRun said...

I ask myself that quite a bit, as a fellow sl...err...person who works very very hard to get out of the back of the pack.

The answer I always come back to is BECAUSE IT'S FUN.

It's fun to meet my own goals. It's fun to be out there feeling strong, even if feeling strong for me means running a 10:30 mile. It's fun to be doing something really really good for myself regardless of how long it takes me to finish it.

I really think this heat's got people's negativity up, including my own. It's frustrating as HELL to put out the same amount of effort and barely be moving. I think some people are just heat-resistant 'cuz I'm not dealing with the humidity well, and I don't know how I keep seeing runners pounding out miles at 2pm like it's nothing.

So my goal until the weather returns to tolerable is to have fun. No time goals, no PRs, no comparing myself to others, just squeeze whatever enjoyment out of this multisport thing that I can get!