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Riding the IronGirl course

Today was the first day of a bike clinic put on through TriColumbia. We road part of the IronGirl (IG) course in Ellicott City, MD. I’m not racing IG, but many clinic participants and several of my friends are. There were two bike coaches from Princeton Sports and the group was divided into more experienced riders and beginners. There were beginners and then there was me…not enough experience to be a beginner. 🙂

We started with a quick overview and then took off (I just made it as I got stuck in traffic). I told one of the coaches that I didn’t even know about shifting gears as bikes really changed since I last rode one. Plus I never learned how to change gears on my 12-speed. I was fine with my 3-speed, but that was in the 1980s. 😉

One of the coaches (Jim) road with me and told me how and when to shift. Actually he had to ride with me as I was the last rider. 🙂 The great thing about having someone watching you ride is they pick up on subtle things. Turns out my bike seat was too low, which I felt as soon as we left. My legs started to die almost immediately and I seriously though about turning around and we hadn’t even made it to the first corner. Based on the two times I was previously on the bike, I didn’t get the impression that the bike seat would cause any problems. It was raised at the store, but no one watched me ride outside on the street . It seemed fine, but I just did a test ride at the store and one ride in the neighborhood while trying to learn how to clip in and out. Jim adjusted it for me when the group stopped to get instructions on when to shift on the upcoming big downhill. What a difference! My quads were relieved.

I love that the group stopped so everyone could catch up and so the Coaches could give guidance on how and when to shift going down and up hills. I understand that this is one of the hardest things to learn. Youtube has some good videos, but there is nothing that getting first hand information. The Irongirl course is VERY hilly, but definitely worthwhile to start learning.

I’m glad that running has increased my fitness. I couldn’t imagine being a new athlete and trying to learn to bike on this course. I was also laughing at one point during the ride because I was going up the first huge hill and was thinking "I could have run this much faster."

I’m also an "offical" cyclist because I tipped over when we got started again after that big hill. We stopped so the coaches could tell the IG racers where to shift since the road leveled out. I had clipped in with my left foot (my weaker one) and was pushing off with my right foot, but misjudged something. I’ve been having problems clipping out with my left foot and couldn’t get it out so over I went. My friend Kristin said to make sure I don’t put out my hand to break a fall because I might break my wrist. I bumped my elbow, but no big deal. Someone asked "are you OK?" and I responded "I’m a real biker now!" Turns out that my shoes were too loose so my foot my moving, but not my bike shoe. I figured it out when I was taking a break on the side of the road. Once the shoes were tighter I seemed to be able to unclip.

The thing about running is if you need a break, you just stop. You don’t have that luxury when you’re clipped in and riding on a hill…you have to power through it. I think this will help me with the mental aspects of running and training (especially for my first marathon). After we got done, I also discovered that I needed air in my tires, which explained why riding was so hard. I was late so I missed that part. Jim showed me how to correctly inflate my tires.

Tonight was a great ride. I’m not ready to bike from DC to West Virginia (yet), but am looking forward to next week’s ride and to more rides in general. I have more confidence in my cycling ability (bike shoes with clips were doing a number on my brain) and on changing gears. I love that my endurance will improve, I will get stronger, and my legs don’t feel trashed. Friends said it will help my running. Now I see why. Plus the down hills were insane. Got up to almost 30 mph. I was holding on for dear life…Wah-Hoo!

Happy cycling!

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