Check out that title, eh? I was pretty pleased with myself, too.
Like many topics of discussion in the world of triathlon, I have a lot to learn about cycling. In fact, at present time, I would say that the bike is the discipline that I know the least about. It remains to be seen whether it is my weakest discipline per se, but it’s certainly the one I’ve spent the least amount of time and mental energy on. I suspect it is because I’ve been focusing so much on improving my swim, while also training for longer running races. Indeed, my coach has dialled back my cycling for the next few weeks as I build towards my goal race at the end of March.
Current State of Affairs
As I mentioned, I’m blissfully ignorant when it comes to cycling. I don’t have a fancy power meter, and I am just learning about cadence. I’ve often had to get clarification on my posted workouts. Some actual questions asked include, “So, dropping a gear means to make it harder?” and “What’s a single leg drill?”
My bike handling skills are rudimentary at best, I struggle with changing tires, fussing with my gears is a challenge, and I am also too afraid to ride clipped in. Eating and drinking while riding? Ha. The fast track to flipping over the handlebars, you mean. Group ride? Not on your life. That should give you some idea of what my coach is working with here, bless her heart.
I fully recognize that the bike is the longest leg of the triathlon and it will eventually make up the bulk of my training hours. I squeaked by on the bike portion of my first triathlon doing nothing other than getting on my bike and pedalling. I don’t recall changing gears once, and I certainly did not take in any nutrition (see above about flipping over the handlebars). I quite literally just coasted for the entire ride without a thought, except, “Don’t die.”
I signed up for Zwift, thinking that I would use it for all my longer rides. I used it for a while and created a few custom workouts in there, which has been great, but for the most part, I’ve been programming my workouts using Garmin Connect and using my trainer time to binge watch Game of Thrones. My watch beeps when I need to take on a new block of my workout and chirps at me when I’m out of a specified speed, cadence, or HR range. It’s a pretty decent system for now. I have both a cadence and speed sensor, as well as a heart rate monitor, but I am finding that Zwift overestimates my distance and speed, so I’ve been sticking with Garmin Connect for the time being. It’s nice to get a rough idea of the power I am generating that comes with Zwift, although without a power meter, I suppose it’s anyone’s guess. When I’m fully caught up with GoT and my rides get longer, I’ll likely revisit Zwift.
The Plan Going Forward
So, what’s next for Waltzing Matilda and I?
NB: Waltzing Matilda is my bike. I strongly believe that naming certain major pieces of training equipment is a fun way to appreciate them. Winnie the Wetsuit should need no further introduction. She will reappear in the spring.
Once Around the Bay is over, I suspect my cycling volume will pick up significantly leading into the summer. NB: My coach doesn’t give me my workouts beyond the current week, which frankly is in my best interest. We have broad conversations about what’s coming in the weeks and months down the road, but I largely just focus on the week that’s in front of me, lest I become overwhelmed.
I have registered to take an FTP (Functional Threshold Power) Test on March 9 through my triathlon club. Even though I don’t have a power meter of my own at the moment, it is useful data to have and we can measure improvement over time with subsequent testing. A power meter is definitely on my wish list, but it’s not a necessity at this level, especially as I have so many other cycling-related skills and concepts to get my head around.
I’ve read about the FTP test, and I’m scared shitless at the moment, to be perfectly honest. I tend to get worked up about things like this. Remind me to write about my first attempts at a Lactate Threshold running test someday. I really just need to cool it and realize that these are only ‘tests’ in the sense that they help me establish a base for training. Ultimately, nothing is riding on this (see what I did there?), and there’s no reason to make a big deal out of it. I’m trying not to think about it too much and build it up unnecessarily in my head. We’ll see how that works out over the next week. Ha.
I am also planning to attend a newbie skills clinic offered by my club in May. That will hopefully help me develop some bike handling skills and, most importantly, learn to ride outside clipped in. I currently have a set of pedals that allow both clipped and clipless riding, so I may learn one foot at a time. We’ll see. I’m riding clipped in to my trainer right now, so I hope that it’s giving me a feel for clipping in and out.
All of this is working towards me actually being able to go on some group rides with the club (and training friends outside the club) in the spring and summer. Much like my swimming started out, I’m a little too slow on the bike and lacking some important skills to just head out on a ride. Not only would I get dropped almost immediately, but I would be nervous and probably make things unsafe for myself and those around me. So I wait…
Any cycling tips for me as I get my bearings?