Spinning My Wheels

Cycling is hard. It hurts. I can’t make myself go fast and my legs throb on my rides. I’m nervous leaning into turns, stopping at red lights, and riding in a pack. I look at the speed with which most cyclists ride and I fear I will never come anywhere close to achieving that kind of speed. In short, right now I’m bad at cycling.
I’m new to the cycling world and I’m at the point where I’m noticing how it is a pretty funny sport.

1. It requires a helmet.

2. I have to wear funny shoes that make me feel like I’m ice skating if I need to walk in them, and when I ride in them I’m attached to the bike … attached to the damn bike!

3. The spandex shorts have a padded ass.

It’s all just very funny to me.

But the riding, the riding is wonderful. It’s very much like distance running and swimming. It’s the meditative cadence to the breaths and strides/strokes/turns that I yearn for. It’s wonderful and freeing and gives me that childlike sensation for which I’m always searching. Cycling is a wonderful adventure; that is until it hurts and it’s horrible and I feel like quitting.

I have read, and heard from countless triathletes, that cycling can improve my running. By cycling, I’m using my body differently and building up complementary muscles. Instead of simply running and building up the same muscles all the time, cycling will build up neighboring muscles that will aid in my running. Cadence is to cycling what turnover is to running. Improving my cadence in cycling enforces a quick turnover in my running. So, if I can get faster on the bike, I believe I can become a faster runner.

Cycling uphill is no joke. Not only do I have to propel my body up a hill, I must propel a bike, with a tendency to roll backwards, up a hill in a seated position. I’ll tell you, riding a bike up a hill has really made me appreciate running up a hill forever on out. I can see how hill training in cycling would make me a much stronger runner.

Embarking on this cycling journey has made me a beginner again. It’s hard to be a newbie. Newbies are vulnerable and inexperienced, but they are also blank slates open to any and all advice and guidance. I am being molded right now by countless people and resources. I am a sponge and I am soaking it all up and always keeping my running in the background of all of the cycling gains I make.

So all of this has me thinking about how cycling and running are similar. Both cycling and running use my large lower body muscles in a sustained, rhythmic manner. Both are cardio, aerobic activities that require high lung capacity and a smooth cadence. Both running and cycling require mental strength and stamina. Both are difficult. I struggle at both. Both present me with challenges. I realized all of this on my last ride as my heart pounded and my breath quickened. I saw the straight line to the horizon and I felt that familiar blurred line that exists between discomfort and pain. I entered into that dark place where I think I can’t go on, and I realized that this is what I need. For, there is no quick answer, that’s the very nature of endurance. Endurance = the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse  conditions; stamina.

I say I’m bad at biking right now, because I know I can change this. I will improve. All I have to do is keep mounting that bike and riding.

I may be wobbly right now, but I am still upright and moving forward, and that’s really all that matters, right?

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