There is an urban "park" called Nose Hill. It has just about everything one could want to train for a trail race or to develop legs for mountain biking. Today I decided to take advantage of the good weather and see how many hills I could do.
660 Meters of elevation gain and around 14 times, my heart rate when into Anaerobic at least if not Vo2. The WOW is that when I red lined on the bike, the safety features of my central governor kicked in long before things got out of control - what was NOT happening when I was running. I really worked my legs and my heart but in a very safe manner. I was exhausted following the 2 hours of riding but a nice hot bath, an hour nap and I am essentially no worse for wear. So I was able to push extremely hard and I have no doubt my health and fitness will benefit for such exercise done on a regular basis but without the pounding and aggravation of injuries that running was inflicting on me. I had no idea as when I was running those trails, I would pass those on mountain bikes going up the hill and thought how peaceful and relaxed they looked. Little did I know or appreciate what a great workout that was and without punishing and harming your body or cardiovascular system as running was doing to me.
So if there was the slightest doubt that cycling in its various forms could replace running, those have been alleviated. For me at the very least, it is much superior form of exercise and wish I had made this decision sooner. And as an aside, I recorded this on strava just to see how well I did. On a few segments I was top 40%. But for many, I was in the top 80 - 90% or to avoid any confusion, the bottom 10 - 20%. I knew my skills were lacking as was the sort of muscles and power required for this sort of riding as I did tackle the more difficult trails but I was slightly surprised but just how badly I "sucked". But event that is a positive at this point in my life. I get a great and challenging work out that I really enjoy but there are no expectations for performance or results. I suspect with practice I will get a little better but on the other hand, if I do not, it takes nothing away from my enjoyment and pleasure. And even better, any thought of entering a race has been eliminated. This is a personal preference but for me, not really into participating. The one exception is I may want to experience someone once just for the experience. But "training" and then pushing hard in a race may only corrupt or poison this activity. With nothing to train for and no ambitions or plans, I took a Friday afternoon off to ride up and down some challenging hills, got covered in sweat, mud and dirt for two hours just because. When my body started to redline, I would hit the brakes and jump off the bike. I even stopped at a look out, enjoyed the view, drank some water, took a gel and then continued on. It was purely for the intrinsic value of the activity and so there was no need for a race to motivate or inspire me to do more and push myself harder. If it did, would I have enjoyed it as much? Would it have been a hard but healthy challenge to my mind and body? I would say no to both and there was a certain freedom and liberty to being free of concerns of ego and vanity.
So why did I write this? There are a number of people who are going through the same "insanity" that I did. Get an running injury, recover, slowly build back up, maybe even reach a race goal or three and new injury and/or aggravation of old injury. I got to a point where there are few "new" injuries I could inflict upon myself. The forecast is for 6 degree on Sunday and so a great time for me to run so I am not suggesting one needs to abandon all running. But I am sharing this to give "hope" that there are alternatives to running and a way to escape the seemingly endless cycle of injury, recovery and injury that seems to hit many given a combination of age and accumulated damage from years of running. I have always wondered, even argued for every Ed Whitlock or Ken, how many people at 8 years or 10 or 15 or 20 finally have had enough. The mind may be willing but the body just cannot take any more of the sort of abuse running delivers. That they need to move to a different sort of "abuse" as it were or test/ challenge to use a more positive term. I should clarify - one definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and although the outcome is the same, always expect this time it will be different. In my case, a compression fracture in my back in 2015. For some, running is always "sane" as the injuries are minor and quickly dealt with. And for others, they listen to their bodies and start to cut back before someone terrible happens. But I am in the third, where I had literally run myself into the ground. So I had to find something else and fortunately, I did find it. And again, this I believe should give hope to others.
As an aside and I had not meant to share this but ... got new tires on my bike. They are a little heavier and a little slower than the old tires but from the reviews, provide significant protection from flats. I do want to try and do a 100 mile ride and as noted, I have one Fondo and one du I have signed up for and have no regrets with regards to any of these "objectives". But at least I am starting to come to grips with the fact that rather then squeeze out an extra kilometer or two per hour, I would prefer not to have to deal with flat tires on the side of the road. That these events, these rides are going to be for the experience. It does not mean I cannot ride hard and test myself but when my body tells me to slow down or there is a question of do I push through the pain or stop and relax at an aid station, the old answer of push will be replace with the more civilized and safer option. I have really enjoyed my running career and very satisfied by it. BUT ... it does not mean that I cannot have learned from that. That if you push the limits, the envelop hard enough for enough time, that yes you can accomplish a great many things but eventually, there is a price that most of us have to pain. And where I am fortunate in biking, I am doing "rides" instead of races. I also lack the ability to be competitive and so the incentive, the reason to push myself "too hard" is not there. And I enjoy this and where running became a chore, something I HAD to do in order to achieve what for the most part is pretty meaningless and arbitrary goals. The Boston Marathon being the lone exception for getting on the podium and even winning age group series titles had a number of caveats or over a season, lost all joy. A new course, new competitors was great but eventually ... drudgery and as I noted, more a chore than fun. So I can take the lessons I learned from running and I should also note, there are good lessons as well. When I first ran, I did not follow schedules or plans. I basically let my body and subconscious take control. I would do a few runs and my body told me what I could do and what I needed to do to achieve a goal that was likely within my abilities. So the other day, I threw out my bike training schedules and suggestions. Plus, I have finally come to the conclusion that I would rather have "fun", enjoy the experience and have an average speed of 28 kph than to push hard, never lift up my head and walk with a limp and get up to 30 kph. Just last year, if I could not do 30 kph as an average speed, why bother riding in an event. Now, I realize just how silly that sort of attitude and approach is given where my body is at now. I am really going to have to watch myself in these rides and "force" myself to stop at the aid stations but I will have a much better experience because of that. And in the final analysis, is that not what these fun hobbies are all about? Not how fast or how many or did you get a medal but was the experience worth it? This is where my head is at now. Thus what more do I have to share.
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