Since I learned to ride a road bike less than five short months ago, I have yet to set out for a ride on my own. Although Mike will often go ahead of me, he always waits and we are never more than a couple of miles apart and always on the same route. This gives me the peace of mind that if something were to happen to me, I’d be ok. That “something” could be anything from missing a turn on our route to toppling over at a stop light to getting a flat tire (or worse!).
Despite learning to change a flat and practicing several times, I have yet to master the entire process. Specifically, I can’t manage to get my tire back over the rim because the tire is so tight that it requires a lot of strength to get it back over. The few times that I’ve had a flat while on a ride, I can manage the entire process up until this point and then, in the interest of time, Mike will take over and finish it for me.
So needless to say, I was a bit nervous when both Asia’s boyfriend Jeremy and my boyfriend Mike decided to skip our Saturday ride because they were sick. Asia and I would venture out on our own. Since my knee started acting up on our prior week’s ride through our usual, very hilly, “Pizza Port” route, we had decided it would be best to do more flat course this week. We decided to venture from our house, up the 101 (the highway that runs along the coast in San Diego) and to the Santa Fe River Trail. This bike path that begins in Oceanside is about 9 miles long. Once we reached the end, the plan was to turn back and head the way we came. Since this route seemed simple enough, we decided we could venture this uncharted territory solo this week.
Fog & Navigation Issues
Despite bundling up for our chilly 7:30 a.m. start time, one element we didn’t anticipate was the heavy fog that blanketed the coast. The fog was so dense in some parts that you couldn’t see 200 yards ahead. As soon as we started riding, a part of me wanted to turn right around and climb into my warm bed. But, we ventured on. The first mishap occurred pretty early on in the ride. As we left our neighborhood and attempted to turn left onto the 101, we decided to use the cross walk rather than the left hand turn signal since there were no cars approaching to alert the light to change for us. As we were crossing, a large peloton of male cyclists were approaching the intersection on our right and we got distracted and flustered and Asia rode right through the intersection and up to the next light, rather than stopping to cross again and get on our route. Unfortunately, the peloton also turned onto the street we were on and out of embarrassment for our obvious lack of ability to navigate the streets, we simply veered over to the side of the road and pretended to be waiting for the rest of our imaginary group.
Once the peloton passed, we used the cross walk to get back on the side of the street we needed and finally made the turn onto the 101. The ride up the 101 was fairly uneventful, but little did we know we were supposed to veer off of the 101 when we hit Oceanside where the bike lane ended. Instead, we just rode on the side of the street, letting cars dodge us. We’ve rode without a bike lane plenty of times so I figured this was normal. However, once we got to the street that we were supposed to turn right on to get to the bike path, we couldn’t find the next street to turn left on. This was because we were supposed to be riding on a street west of the 101. We got lost through some side streets and were even stopped by a police officer in his car who asked us if we had seen a man running away wearing all black and a black hat. Great, now we were riding alone with a predator is on the loose! Despite using my Iphone to help locate the path, we still wandered the streets for a few more minutes, thinking we were on the correct side of the 101. Finally Asia pointed out the intersection we were looking for was actually west of the 101, and were riding on the east side. Oops.
Once we finally reached the bike path, we had ridden about 12.5 miles and it had already been an hour. The fog was still present but not as dense. We took a Gu and rehydrated and then set out on the path. The path was fairly narrow but wide enough for us to ride side by side and chat for several miles. There were some pedestrians and runners on the trail but mostly other cyclists. After 9 miles of riding, the path ended and we stopped at a park and went to the bathroom and refueled a bit more before turning around. It was nice and sunny inland!
On the way back, Asia, who is apparently more observant than I am, spotted a man walking alone wearing all black and looking quite suspicious! I didn’t see him but we suspected he was the man that the police officer was looking for. The thought that we should maybe call the police adn inform them of his whereabouts didn’t cross our minds until we were back home.
Once we left the bike path and were back into the fog, we followed some other cyclists through side streets so we could avoid the crowded 101. Since it was now later in the morning, there were more potentially deadly cars. Eventually we made our way back to the 101 and made our way back home. My Garmin died about 2/3 of the way into the ride so I’m not sure how far we rode in total, but my guess was 43 miles. The best part was that my knee wasn’t acting up! After having such a painful experience the prior week, I was very relieved that I was pain free.
We were quite proud of ourselves for pulling off such a lengthy first solo ride, but we weren’t finished yet. Using the advice of other triathletes we had met as well as online research, we finished our ride with a three-mile run. My legs felt pretty heavy for the first 3/4 of a mile or so, but by the turnaround I felt pretty fresh. I felt that I had some fuel in the tank and could have run farther if necessary. I’m not so sure 13.1 would have been easy, but at least it was a good sign that I wasn’t totally running on empty.
I only took in 350 calories on this ride/run but I felt that it was ok since we weren’t pushing the pace too hard at any point. We were pretty distracted by navigating and all the stop lights, so all in all, the whole thing took us about 4 hours. Again, too slow, but at least we got the mileage covered. I have plenty of time to work on my speed, and luckily my bike trainer has arrived and this week I was able to get in two good indoor cycling workouts which I feel will definitely boost my speed. More on that later….
Another Milestone Accomplished
Throughout my brief triathlon career thus far, there have been so many milestones – learning to clip in, my first (practice) beginner triathlon which was also my first road bike ride farther than just down the street, my first sprint triathlon, my first group ride (Pizza Port), placing 3rd in my age group at my first olympic triathlon, my first half century, and now, my first girls only ride. I’ve made so much progress already and I’m loving cycling. I was unsure if I wanted to do a Ironman at all when I first started cycling because my back would ache from just a 8 mile ride and I feared I’d be bored on long rides. Now, I’m riding 40 miles easy and looking forward to increasing my mileage even more. Cycling has become enjoyable and a fun challenge. I hope that this enthusiasm continues as I have a very long road to go til the Ironman and I hope that it’s an enjoyable journey!