I don't follow directions very well. As it is, I do a shorter taper than a lot of Ironman triathletes. Two weeks at the maximum is all I need, some prefer three. But for Lake Placid I "tapered" in Italy with a few hundred miles of cycling and several thousand feet of climbing, and for Wisconsin I've been tapering by biking daily and throwing in a few hammerfests along the way. There was a little voice in the back of my mind telling me to take it easy, but the thrill of the ride won and I ignored the voice of reason.
If you've followed me for awhile, you know I've made a drastic turnaround on the cycling front. After a season-ending crash in 2008 I was terrified to get back onto the bike. It took the better part of 2009 to feel comfortable and stop seeing my rides as an obligation. As the season drew to to a close I was sad to be relegated to the trainer and was looking forward to every chance to get outside. The purchase of my road bike in April changed it all. This has been a year of transformation, from a triathlete who bikes to a cyclist who does triathlons. All I really want to do is ride my bike. A lot of this is likely due to my running injury, but regardless of where it stems from I like where I'm at.
I went out for an easy ride on Friday and intended to take it slow but a few loops into the ride I was bored to tears and heard the happy hum of the Prospect Peloton approaching behind me. I had no idea they rode mid-morning and was thrilled to latch on. I was riding my tri bike so I kept a small distance, but stayed with the group for five loops. I was pleasantly toasted and headed home. I was feeling slightly guilty about the beating my legs took so I compensated with some carbs, foam rolling and rest. I figured I'd take it easier over the weekend.
That is until the email about the Peloton ride upstate came through. I had been trying to figure out where to ride Saturday and wanted to stay local and under 50 miles. I was terrified to ride with the Peloton outside of the city, but part of me felt I had to do it. I woke up two hours before the ride to battle the nerves and met the group at the Brooklyn Bridge. This is not your average cycling group. It's a lot of ex-racers and super fast guys who ride like it's the last ride they'll ever do. I emailed the head of the group to be sure I was suitable and he assured me I'd be fine. He said a 16.8 average could be expected and I figured why not. But as we hammered through the streets of Manhattan on the way to the GW Bridge I questioned my abilities. I was pushing a max HR and was barely hanging on by a thread. Yet they continued to look back for me - the only female in the crew, and according to one guy, the only female he'd ever seen on the weekend ride - and I managed to keep up. Once over the bridge I settled into a groove and was having the time of my life. I've ridden these roads over and over again, yet it felt like new territory. Even though I was working as hard as I possibly could, the miles flew by and before I knew it I had to drop from the group and head home. They were doing a long ride and I was making a small attempt to taper. I had a muffin, regrouped and rode back with one of the guys. I ended at 47 confidence-building, fear-defeating, adrenaline-boosting miles. This is why I love to ride a bike.
Sunday was more fun on two wheels. I invited Jessica from my tri club and John from Mark's building and Prospect Park to join me for a shorter, easier ride over the bridge. I mapped us through NJ on flat terrain with some hills heading back through NY. I caught a massive bee in my helmet, we saw a giant wild turkey and tried a new muffin at Bunberry's. The weather was a dream and I found myself sad to be "tapering." I wanted to do more, wanted to go further. But I knew I couldn't.
Years ago a sag wagon driver told me I'd eventually find myself to be a cyclist, not a runner who occasionally biked. I believe I'm there.