I drove out of town that day to meet up for a bike ride with a person I had only had contact with on the internet. It was all arranged through Facebook messages. No phone calls or video chat. The initial contact had come through us both commenting on a local cycling group’s (Nampa Cycling) Facebook post. I had met and ridden with the Nampa Cycling coordinator and so had she had a different time, so she did not come totally without some recommendation. But I had never before planned anything quite this independent and unknown. We were to meet in the Albertsons parking lot of Emmett, Idaho. This is the town where my triathlon was last year, the same event I signed up for this coming August.
I belatedly thought I probably should have looked for identifying photos on Facebook before I went, but I wasn’t an official “friend” of hers. Her Facebook profile photo only showed Uncle Sam wearing a bicycle helmet. When she showed up on her bike, with a helmet and sunglasses, I recalled the numerous people that I have only met in such gear. If I was any of them in other places, I would never know it!
After 2 hours of riding with my new friend, I still only have a rough idea of what she looks like, but I know that she is the kind of person you can count on. I also know that she is a skilled bicyclist who likes to help others enjoy the sport. Here are some of the cycling facts and attitudes that I learned that day:
- Competition bicycle racers usually have a lower profile bike set-up, which makes them more stable and comfortable at higher speeds. A comparison of my speeds to theirs should take this into consideration. This is particularly a factor for me going down hills. She told me of noticing a center of gravity difference on her newer road bike, and feeling less sure of herself on hills because of this factor. Since I haven’t gotten the knack of leaning down over the handle bars, either, I just sit too high on the bike going down.
- I should take some time, apart from regular workouts, to ride casually and play with the gears on my bike. This should help me use them more effectively when I am keeping up with other riders or racing. On this ride, I was doing well on the hills, but I have always stuck to the very middle gears. On a steeper hill, or for getting up speed on a flat, those other sections would be good to know about.
- It can be best to come to a stop when a dog chases you on a bicycle. The dog won’t easily give up the chase and a cyclist can be at risk from crashing due to distraction as much as dog versus wheel incidents. Turn to speak loudly and firmly to the dog, but not hysterically. I observed her doing this twice, with a total of 4 large, loose country dogs. It worked well. The trick for me will be to not let the dog know I am hysterical, when I really am….
- At a few years older than me, my new friend is a stronger rider. She has competed successfully against younger men. My age is not a significant limiting factor in my biking ability.
- All the hours over the winter on my spinning bike seem to have helped a lot. I felt more natural on the bike. It seems my biking muscles are more responsive, without me having to think so hard about my efforts.
- There is no biker’s secret about dealing with numb body parts. Rotating which area is holding most of your weight is a good method to deal with it.
Besides all of this bicycling wisdom, my new friend and I had refreshing discussions about politics and religion! Then, when we were near the end of the ride, she showed me where the sports park is that is part of the run course for the Emmett Triathlon. If I hadn’t wanted to complete my brick workout to full effect and before it got hot, I would have thought about having lunch with her. As it was, we parted ways with tentative plans for further rides, possibly including time on my spinning bikes in my basement during the next winter.
I packed my bike in the car and drove straight over to the asphalt path around the sports park. I had never run at all after such a long bike ride. I made a goal of 3 miles. It was just barely cool enough to run totally skin to ground (S2G). The bare feet always make it more fun, so I was glad of this. Running was still on the hard side, but I did better than I had expected. I am always surprised how much the running muscle memory kicks in even though the legs feel heavy after biking. After the first 8:38 minute mile, which included some rough gravel, I was able to run miles 2 and 3 at an 8:20 pace. In the triathlon last year, my pace was 8:30, so I am hopeful that I have really improved both my biking and running to be able to run like this after 28 miles on the bike!
My Garmin measured the sports park loop at just under 1.5 miles. The rest of the 3.1 miles is through sections of town. This knowledge will make it easier to judge where I am in the run portion come August. I might wear my Garmin, too, but it is not water proof, so I don’t know if I want to risk fiddling with it during transitions. For a 3.1 mile/5 K run, I should be able to pace myself reasonably without it.
The visit to Emmett on a non-race day, was beneficial. I had never really hung out there before. It was nice to get somewhat familiar with the town and develop a sense of direction. When we were there on event day last year, all the excitement made it hard for me to stay oriented to where I was. This is definitely an advantage to participating in a local event. It should help me be able to focus more on the event and be less stressed about making connections at all the right points. I hope to go for one more ride out there before the triathlon.