Friday, May 2, 2008

Runnin' with the Big Dogs

Yesterday afternoon my Tri class met for our first outside bike ride of the season (as opposed to indoor spinning). After gearing up, we hit the trail, a nice paved bike trail that runs about 6 miles through a pretty valley of rolling hills. Our instructor Ted (an IronMan triathlete) took off at a nice clip, and I decided to see if I could stay with him. Ha! But in my efforts, I soon passed everyone in our group except for one other guy that was keeping pretty good pace with Ted.

At the 6 mile turn-around I was a minute or so behind the leaders. Not too bad for a girl on a mountain bike! But man, my heart rate was UP and my glutes were talking to me. We re-grouped and decided to practice riding in a pace line. You've seen that before-- several cyclists all following very closely behind each other, like a giant centipede cruising down the road. The benefit is that it forms a draft. The first person in line takes the wind head-on, but those behind get a little break as they're basically riding in the eddy created as the wind circles around the first rider. You take turns leading for 5 minutes or so, so that everyone gets a chance to pull the team, and then take a break. It made for a nice ride back. By the time I was up to lead, I was well rested and ready to take the charge.

Then Ted led us on a little detour thrrough a new subdivision called Eagle Heights... emphasis on the Heights. We grinded up a big hill, no longer able to keep our pace line, then stopped at the top to regroup before whooshing back downhill and reconnecting with the trail for the last few miles back to the trailhead.

Finding that I really liked that drafting business, I was determined to keep up with Ted and the other guy, so they could take the brunt of the strong headwind and I could cruise along behind them. It was working great until a little over a mile from the trailhead when we passed a group of runners that I knew. I slowed down for just a beat or two to say hi as I passed, and lost my draft. Doh! So I ended up losing a lot of speed and having to take the wind on by myself for the last mile. Oh well (that which doesn't kill me only makes me stronger...)

Back at the trailhead, I was all psyched to load my bike, stretch a little, then head home to make some supper. I'd been fantasizing about having Dominoe's meet us at the trailhead for the last several miles as my stomach was growling as I rode. But alas, just as I put my bike away, Ted said "hey, do you want to run a few miles?" Uh, no. Duh. "Sure," I piped. I'm such a sucker.

As soon as we re-hit the trail, we ran into the aforementioned girls, and they decided to join us. I ran with them some last fall (part of a local running club), so it was good to catch up. They were all running slowly. I was at the top of my able-to-have-a-conversation zone, pushing a little harder than the others, but still able to hang. It was a good feeling. I learned that one of the girls is training for a 100 mile trail run in the Sierras this summer. (that's nuts!) But it was good to chat with them and to run and be able to hang with folks who are some pretty darn good athletes.

By the end of the two miles I was pretty well spent. There wasn't much left in the legs. Could I have gone another mile? Yeah, probably. But it would've taken EVERYTHING I had. But that's beside the point for now. (I have another 8 weeks to build a little more endurance before my triathlon.)

The point is that, like everything else in life, if you surround yourself with people who are good at what they're doing, you'll become good at what you're doing. Is it intimidating to run with the Big Dogs? Hell yeah it is. But it makes me push myself. And I learn from them. And I get inspired to get better.

(And now for the rest of the story... on the way home I got very chilled. By the time I reached my apartment I was shivering and barely able to put together complete sentences while talking to Jim on the phone. In fact, I don't have any recollection of what we talked about! I went straight to the kitchen and looked for the quickest, easiest warm food possible. My original plan was to make spaghetti, but that seemed too laborious. So I made some instant mashed potatoes and inhaled them and a can of salmon while I let my bath water run. Then I hopped in the bath and got my core temp back up while watching Grey's Anatomy. Still hungry, I got out and ate a bowl of cereal, then spent the second half of the show lying on the floor with my legs up the wall. I crashed into a deep, deep sleep. Today I'm TIRED! Those big dogs kicked my butt... but I'll be back for more next week!)

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