The biggest problem so far has been the frustration of stop-start city riding. During the first quarter of my ride on Saturday I had to stop every couple of blocks or so for lights, stop signs, pedestrians, roundabouts, idiot drivers, reversing trucks, you name it. I got in a good, long uninterrupted stretch around UBC (including one long, long, evil hill) and then along SW Marine Drive as far as Granville Street, but then I hit the cross traffic again. And the third quarter of the route I'd chosen zig-zagged all over the place in order to cross the main streets at intersections with stop lights; I found it hard to memorise more than four or five turns at a time, so I had to keep stopping to check the map on my iPhone. At least I'll be able to remember the route next time!
The friend who's doing the ride with me had offered to show me a route around Richmond and Steveston that has much less cross traffic, but a lot of it is on highways. My friend assured me that the highway's shoulders are nice and wide, and I agreed to try his route, but then he bailed on me because he thought it was going to rain (what a wuss! It didn't rain in the end, but I had my waterproof jacket in my bag and would have kept going if it had).
I was quite encouraged by my first week of full training, and felt even better after chatting to one of the PIs at work who did the ride last year and who is also just starting his training for this year's event. He was really happy to have hit the 28 km mark at the weekend, which obviously made me feel pretty good! He told me that his most extreme training sessions last year were one double and one triple circuit of the same hilly 28 km route, which made me feel even better...
I also learned that there's only one significant hill on the first day of the ride (although apparently it's really annoying because it's in the middle of the town of Bellingham, and you keep losing all your momentum due to stopping at lights and stop signs), and four or five "rolling hills" on the second day.
Now, you might think that this would be good news; training on hills for a flat course should give you an advantage, right?
Well, yes and no: I'm sure the hills I do encounter on the ride will feel relatively easy as a result of my training, but I've been caught in this trap before. When all your riding is on rolling hills like Vancouver's (or Glasgow's), you get used to resting your legs and lungs as you coast down hills, and when confronted with the need to keep constantly pedalling on a flat route, you can really struggle.
So, last week, I put out a call on Facebook and Twitter to see if any of my Vancouver buddies had an exercise bike they could lend me. In an example of perfect timing the likes of which I've rarely experienced, one friend was in the process of emptying her house before starting renos, and donated her old bike to the cause!
The cats are intrigued when it's stationary, but terrified when it's moving
Mr E Man borrowed a friend's truck and picked the bike up for me yesterday, and I've already got a couple of short rides in. It's noisier than I'd expected, meaning that my idea of riding it while watching hockey games and other TV shows of interest to Mr E Man has been vetoed. But it's a great addition to my training; the constant pedalling gives me a really good workout (one thing that surprised me is that you get much sweatier when you don't have the airflow you get when you're riding a real bike outside! Phew!), and I can alternate between the flat and intervals modes.
The static bike won't replace my training on my real bike, but it's definitely adding a whole new dimension to the enterprise, and will also increase my overall hours and kilometres; it's easier to get motivated to train when I can read a book, watch TV, or enjoy my podcasts while pedalling!
Things I still need:
- Attractive padded shorts of the kind that triple the size of your arse
- Gel saddle? (I think the current one might be OK. I'll decide after some more long rides)
- CamelBak or similar hydration pack. Stopping to drink water a) slows me down and b) subjects me to the pick-up lines of creepy old dudes. On Saturday, one such fella stopped while I was drinking water to say "Nice day for a ride". I agreed, with a smile, but unfortunately that must have encouraged him because he followed up with "Are you good and sweaty? You look nice and sweaty". Yeah. I could do without that experience!