Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I wanna do a Century

When I hurt my knees near the end of 2001, I thought a lot of things. First among them was that it was probably no big deal and I'd get better in a couple of days. When that didn't happen, I went to see some doctors until I got a referral for physical therapy, and did that for a few months. At a certain point, the PT said that I was already doing more difficult things in my dance classes and in the course of living my life than what we were going to do in his office, and I was back on my own. That period, when I was doing physical therapy, was one of the most difficult I've lived through, but that's not really the point of this blog.

When I finished doing PT, I didn't resume all of my interests. I rode my bike much less, and stopped riding off-road. In the interests of not hurting myself, or at least not hurting myself as much, I limited my snowboarding. At the time, trying to be a dancer was my overriding motivation, and it seemed like giving up things that could potentially interfere with my training was a worthwhile sacrifice. I'd make it again.

All that is backstory, though. Now I have a job that's a job, a career goal that I could achieve on crutches, or even from a wheelchair, and no reason not to resume my interests. I'm not even taking anti-inflammatories to do so, although sometimes I have to ice afterwards.

I've got a couple goals for the summer. One of them is to achieve more on my bicycle. I did my first ride of the season last Wednesday, about 17 miles, and a little more than 18 miles today. That means that in the last week I've done 35. I used to be able to do that in a day and then go out dancing, but my knees were better at the time. However, during the summer I spent in Albany I logged a fair amount of mileage, and last summer I was able to increase my mileage over the course of the season to 24 or even 30 mile rides, and I find I can spend hours in the saddle on my mountain bike. All this leads me to believe that if I took an organized, disciplined approach to riding my bike, I could do some meaningful rides again.

There are a couple of things I like about riding my racing bike. One of them is the sensation of speed and rhythm from going 16-20mph outdoors and spinning my pedals. Another is getting out of the city and being someplace beautiful. I used to love riding around in rolling hills through varied ecosystems. I kind of like the bike path that runs up the West Side Highway, although it can be crowded and it's interrupted from time to time, but next to riding country roads, it's still just garbage miles. The park feels a lot like road riding in Santa Cruz used to, although on a much smaller scale. There're trees on either side of me, minimal traffic, and enough space to go as fast as I want to, but six miles later it's the same trees, the same gentle rolling hills, the same one steep climb.

I want to ride high enough mileage that when I get to the George Washington Bridge, I can cross it and do a ride. Since it's ten miles to the bridge, I need to be back to doing at least thirty to be able to do anything once I've gone to the trouble of riding the length of Manhattan. Given my experience the last two summers, I think that this is something I can do with organization and discipline.

The first step, I think, is to make an appointment to see another PT and talk about it. I have a good idea what I'm going to hear, which is to say that I should be careful and stop if something starts to hurt, but I might also learn something new. I'm not really interested in joining a group to ride with - they seem to be organized for people who work during the day, during the week, and want to do shorter rides in the mornings before their jobs start and longer rides on the weekends. I can't do that - one of the few things I can predict about my schedule is that when people want to have parties, for example the weekend, there's going to be work for me. For me, I think the next step is to figure out safe target mileages for the summer weeks and choose a supported Century so I'll have a more concrete goal. I figure my weekly mileage really only needs to be about 120 to be able to confidently attack a Century ride - it's enough to do a short ride earlier in the week of the event, and then do 100 on the day itself. I think it wouldn't hurt to get some coaching at some point too - maybe when my weekly mileage is around 60.

If I can do a strong cycling season this year and collect my first Century, that'll be something nobody can ever take away from me, and I think that I'll also have a much better base to build on next year. And I'll have done something I couldn't do even before I messed up my knee.

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