Saturday morning I got up and headed out for a training ride. I haven't hit nearly the hills that I need to, so I pedaled over to Percy Warner Park, an interesting patch of urban wilderness on the southwest side of Nashville. There are all kinds of activites there for riders and runners and even the general outdoor enthusiast. I saw tons of deer, wild turkeys, foxes, and other wildlife, so there's plenty there to entertain. More importantly though, it has some pretty steep hills which make for a decent workout.
Five years ago, when I first arrived in Nashville, a couple of friends of mine and I decided to ride the 11.2 mile loop through the park. At the time, I was thirty pounds heavier than I am now, I hadn't done any aerobic exercise in years, and my bicycle was a $200 Diamondback Sorrento purchased five years earlier that had been ridden a total of 500 miles over the course of its life and had never been serviced. To me, a bike ride was something one did for leisure. Distances NEVER exceeded 15 miles at a time. My friends both had other ideas. For the next two hours, they rode up the hill ahead of me, stopping every 500 meters or so to wait for me to catch up, huffing and puffing, red in the face and feeling burning sensations in the back of my legs and lower back that I did not know whether to pass off as just "good old fashioned muscle burn" or something much more serious. I was WAY out of my league with these guys. I felt horrible for holding them up and making them drag me along. They were upbeat and very positive towards me and my level of fitness. I kept trying to say that I was extremely out of shape, but they blamed the 35 lb bike with 2" wide knobby tires. That day, I developed a strange fear of Percy Warner Park. The hills were too steep and the ride too difficult for me to want to go back there. They never invited me back, either.
My first long ride forced me to return to the roads that I still felt were capable of killing me. Only this time I was better equipped. I was thirty pounds lighter, an experienced marathoner, and in posession of a brand-new 18 lb. road bike. I surprised even myself, finishing the loop in a surprisingly short time and with a lot of energy.
Cut to Saturday, June 17. It was time to make Percy Warner work for me. I had a training ride to fulfill and something to prove to myself. I figured that two laps through the park would be sufficient. Combine those two laps in the park with my ride there and home, and I had a nice 37 mile ride (which I finished in 2:04.) I rode the first lap in 41 minutes, stopping once to put my chain back on the big crank (next post, Bike Maintenance 101.) After the first lap, I stopped at my starting point, sucked down a HammerGel and some water, and set out for lap 2. I rode hard, but felt a little fatigue set in about 7 miles into it. I toughed it out, though, and finished the second lap in just over 39 minutes. It was a great ride and I was very pleased with myself for finishing the second lap faster than the first. I am glad I didn't try for a third lap because by the time I was about 3 miles from home, the HammerGel energy was used up and it got hard to hold a pace above 16 mph. I really need to increase my mileage in the saddle, getting out on 50 mile rides or longer every week.