The last time I was on my road bike was September 19, 2009. I've commuted to work a couple of times, and have been jogging regularly, but a long list of excuses has kept me off the road bike. This weekend the family and I planned to visit Victoria's parents outside of Cleveland, Texas, and I made sure the bike made the trip too. It was time to break the cycle.
I woke up on Sunday, and put on my cool weather kit -- summer bibs and jersey, with arm & knee warmers, skull cap, and full finger gloves. It was in the high 50s, clear, with a moderate wind. The weather was perfect, and I decided I would put in a solid 40 miles. I was worried about my fitness, but I also knew that I didn't have a choice. I could continue to not ride, or I could literally get back on the bike.
As I warmed up, I felt okay, but could tell I'd been off the bike. I was riding into a headwind, and struggled to maintain 18 mph over the flat terrain. My quads burned a little more than usual as I held a 95-100 RPM cadence. The ride felt a little more strenuous than usual, but nothing extreme.
I made the turnaround at Mile 20, and had the wind at my back. I started hitting 20+mph with the same effort, but now felt really warmed up and in the groove. I spun along, stopping only to take a photo of a mileage sign showing the distance to my old hometown.
When I finished the ride and uploaded the data, I was surprised by what I saw. I finished the 40 miles with an average speed of 18.7 mph, and a heart rate of 149BPM. The last time I did the same route, which was in early August, I finished with 18.8 mph, and a heart rate of 137BPM. The heart rate difference is most likely due to the headwind. Otherwise, I basically performed identically.
I'm not foolish enough to think that I'm in the same cycling shape as I was a month ago. I've started to slip just a little. The running helps with general fitness, but it's not the same as training on the bike. Likewise, commuting helps, but it's not training. Truth is, as my situation in Houston stabilizes, I'll be riding more. As that happens, I'll be crafting my rides to make sure they bolster my bike fitness. Until then, I'll keep running, commuting, and trying to squeeze in a road ride per week or so.