Sunday, July 23, 2017

Biking Back to (Some Sort of) Normalcy

If you follow me on Instagram (@rmgoldma btw), you may have noticed that my workouts have not been my usual long (or even short) runs lately. Instead they have taken form as early (and sometimes late) morning bike rides. (I don't post them all because that's annoying and boring, but I do it just enough where I hope it's not totally unacceptable.) I finally got a bike a little over a month ago and it has been life-changing for me in these difficult it-hurts-to-run-so-I-can't-do it times.  Everyone that knows me well (and even not so well) knows that I love running. It gives me a sense of purpose, allows me to set and work toward goals, helps clear my head, and lets me see some amazing sunrises as well as get to cover a lot of ground early in the morning before the rest of the city wakes up. However, as previously mentioned in older posts, I haven't really been able to run since like January because of my currently undiagnoseable and frustrating knee injury. Not being able to run was not only taking a toll on my mental health, I felt myself physically getting softer and weaker and feeling just plain gross. Not being able to workout everyday was a huge drag and I missed all the endorphins and as well as a consistent release of all my excess energy. (And not gonna lie, I missed starting my day with a super sweaty workout.) Swimming wasn't cutting it and SoulCycle is always great, but I could only afford to go once a week. I needed something I could do everyday that would make me feel like myself again.

For my 35th birthday, my parents told me they'd get me a bike as my present because I had been talking about wanting one for years. I never had one in New York City because I didn't have space to store it and also, I was terrified to ride it on the streets anywhere there. I was going to get one when I moved here, but then I was focused on the marathon and then I had all the issues with my hamstring and then my knee. I held off on it for a while after my birthday because it was still winter and cold and windy. I rented a Divvy from time to time and realized how much I enjoyed getting out there on the bike early in the morning.  Then my sister-in-law lent me her bike around March (I think).  I rode it a few times, but I never really felt like it fit me correctly. But hey, it was a bike and it was better than nothing. Finally, around June, I really started investigating bikes that I may buy.  I didn't want it to be ridiculously expensive (my parents gave me a price limit and I would cover the difference) and I wanted it to be more of "everyday bike," but also one I could potentially use in a triathlon in the future. After shopping around a bit, I finally bought a bike and rode it home from the store. I felt like a new woman. I decided my bike was male and named him immediately. (His name is Kyrie (Irving) because he's my celeb crush. Duh.) I couldn't wait to get back on the Lakefront Trail and get consistently active again in the mornings with my new bike. First things first, a sunrise ride. And then an early morning I-have-the-Bean-to-myself ride. And let me tell you, those two rides were glorious. I loved being back out there and it was making me so happy.

I did quite a few rides on my usual running route and knew the mileage (more or less) from running it so many times. But once I bought myself a odometer, things really started getting awesome. I could challenge myself to go faster and further in distance. I set a goal to ride to the southernmost point of the Lakefront trail, which I had never been to before, and went for it. I live at about mile 6 of the 18 mile Lakefront trail path. I have run the 6 miles to the northern end many times during marathon training, but never made it the full 12 miles all the way south. Besides the fact, I'd have to get all the way back home after running down to the end, there is very limited shade along the way so I always avoided it. But now with the bike, it's not nearly as hard to ride in the heat and sun as it is to run in it. (But let me tell you, its much harder riding against the win than running against it.) My first Saturday morning with my new odometer, I set my goal to ride to the end of the path and come back home. That morning, I saw so many people doing their long training runs and I was seething with jealousy. I wanted to be able to do that, but since I couldn't, I rode hard all the way south to mile 18 of the path and was excited to do something I hadn't done before. After getting there and soaking in the views and new scenery along the way, I was so excited that when I got all the way back north, I figured I would keep going a tad longer so I could hit a very symbolic goal of 26.2 miles. I felt amazing. I had ridden for about two hours, it didn't do a number on my legs as if I had ran that distance, and I was just really happy. I even treated myself to my usual post-long run treat of a fresh pressed watermelon juice and chocolate milk. It was so incredible to get back out on the path and get a solid long workout in. I almost felt normal again.

Once I checked off hitting my goal of getting to the south end of the path and hitting 26.2 miles, I knew I had to up the ante. I set two more bike related goals for myself:  One was to finally take the bike off the path and onto the streets of Chicago and the other was ride for at least 30 miles. So far, I have completed the former and hoping to get the ladder done by the end of summer. Last week I rode my bike down the main streets of the city and made my way to the 606 trail. I was terrified the entire way (even though there were bike lanes for about half of it) there, but was so proud of myself for conquering that fear when I got there. I mentally applauded myself and then rode up and down the entirely of the 606 trail. It's not that long of a trail at all and I had walked it before (it also has very little shade), but I wanted to ride my bike on it. As a reward to myself for riding to the 606 and then riding on the 606, I decided to grab Small Cheval for lunch. I mean, it was right there. How could I not?! It has one of the best burgers I've ever eaten and garlic mayo on tap so how can a sane person turn that down? It was delicious as per usual but unlike I usually do, I didn't eat my entire meal because I knew I still had to ride my bike back home. I packed up my leftovers and took a different route down the main streets and safely made it home. It wasn't a long ride by any means, but I faced a fear of mine, did something I hadn't done before by riding the trail, and had a delicious meal; all in a summer day's work.

After riding on the streets once, I felt more comfortable doing it a little more often. Since then I've ridden to spin class and to the library and even made my way off the north end of the path on some very highly trafficked (read: totally terrifying) Chicago streets and to my Aunt and Uncle's house in Evanston. Baby steps in getting more and more comfortable riding to new places. It's nice to have a quicker option of going somewhere when I don't feel like walking or taking public transportation. Now, I have to crush a 30-miler. And also, I decided I think I want to ride further into Evanston and around the Northwestern Campus and then continue on and see the Bahai Temple. Why not, right?!

Because I have been riding so often though, my legs have been in a consistent state of fatigue lately so I need to give them at least a 2-day break before I tackle my next goal. Soon though. And also, hopefully once my knee finally feels halfway decent, I can start running again and even attempt a triathlon. I've been swimming at the gym and biking all over, so who would have thought the part that I was best at in a tri would be the one part that I currently can't do. But hey, it has allowed me to get stronger and more comfortable with the other two. I have about another month or so of summer and since I'm most likely going to have to defer my Chicago Marathon entry for this year (don't get me started or I'll cry), I intend to continue to explore on my bike and just enjoy it and tackle some other goals. Having this bike has given me some life that I desperately needed and I can only hope that the doctors will figure out what the hell is up with my knee (and why it hurts all the time) soon enough so I can be a triple threat swimmer, biker, AND runner soon enough. Until then, Kyrie and I will be cruising around town and crushing some goals.

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