A Gentle Ride with a Gentle Lover
Funny how the minute I post my six-week training plan to 200 miles, it all goes to hell. After a super-fun sweat fest at SoulCycle with my childhood bestie Tati on Tuesday and a faster-than-ever speedwork session with Caitlin in Prospect Park on Thursday (we knocked out a sub-11-minute 3.4-mile loop, which is a personal best for us), I was bedridden for most of the weekend. Argh, so frustrating!
I think last Saturday's empowering ride through the downpour of a supposedly-impending tornado finally caught up with me in the form of a blindsiding cold and fever. I was so delirious by the end of the day on Friday that I had to begrudgingly forgo my 50-miler the next day for another butt-numbing affair. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but hey, what's a blog without a few confessions: I stayed in bed literally all day on Saturday and indulged in seasons two and three of the ABC Family TV show Make It or Break It (an addicting drama about elite teen gymnasts trying to make it to London 2012) on Netflix.
The full day of rest totally paid off! By Sunday, I wasn't out of the woods yet, but I was healthy enough to board a plane without the fear of my congested head imploding. I was off to Portland, Oregon, the bike-friendliest city in America, according to Bicycling Magazine. With 180 miles of well-marked bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths, I can see why it topped the prestigious list this year.
How could I not ride while in Portlandia?? Fever-smever, I was getting in the saddle, especially since I had planned to do this sweet 38-mile training ride to the spring-fed Multnomah Falls, the second highest year-round waterfall in the country.
Unfortunately, the morning after I arrived, my weak body put the kibosh on that particular plan—I wasn't sure it could handle a strenuous climb after taking three days off and eating nothing but bread, tea, and wonton soup. But lucky for me, my guide for the day was a patient, flexible, understanding man wearing a stylish skin-tight Lyrca outfit (in the cycling world, they call 'em “kits”) with the logo “Gentle Lovers” splattered in retro Nintendo-style font across his chest. Best part about the logo? A little graphic of a pink whale spouting tiny pink hearts just above the phrase. I took it as a sign that I made the right call to ride.
The man inside the amazing kit was Steven Beardsley, the current state champion track racer and a coach who trains all levels of cyclists for Wenzel Coaching. It didn't take me long to ask him about his unique kit while we sipped on the city's famous Stumptown coffee and discussed our new, sick-girl-friendly bike route. Apparently "Gentle Lovers" is the name of his cycling team; he's not a pro athlete, but he is a sponsored one. In an ironic twist of fate, he rides for Giant Bicycles, which is also a major sponsor for YSC's Tour de Pink. Another good sign! I was meant to be there, on that ride, even though I wasn't feeling 100 percent. My spirits were renewed yet again to get out there and pedal.
And so we hit the road heading along the Willamette (pronounced “will-am-it, dammit," or so say the locals), the state's largest river, which cuts through the heart of the city, dividing east and west. Over the course of two hours, we only managed to cover 13 miles (what would normally take me about 45 minutes in Prospect Park and probably 20 minutes or less for Steven, aka Quad-zilla). The pinnacle of the beautiful, leisurely bike ride was a 650-foot climb to the top of Mt. Tabor, which is one of two extinct volcanos in the U.S. to be located within city limits (the other is some three hours down the road in Bend, Oregon). The climb was easy enough that I hardly broke a sweat (it helps that it was a cool, breezy, sunny, 70-ish degrees out), but just challenging enough for my compromised condition that I definitely got a good workout.
Feeling warmed up at the short summit and inspired by the great views of downtown, a part of me wanted to say, "Screw it, let's continue to the falls!" But I'm on the road for nine days (next up: Hawaii for another assignment), so I knew I had to play it cool and let my body heal properly so I could do a hard ride without consequences later this week.
As tough as it was to turn back, I think it's important to know your physical limits, to know when to push them and when to respect them. Yesterday's ride was about compromise, doing just enough to ease my anxiety about training and, at the same time, not negate the progress my body has made in recovering these last few days. After all, fitness is about a mind-body connection. When they work together as a team—and you're 100-percent healthy—you're pretty unstoppable.
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