Monday, August 5, 2013

Weekend of Biking Without a Plan

First weekend without a training plan or team practice since last October. Untethered and free to do what I chose … I chose to swim and bike. Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps?

But instead of holding myself to certain routes, distances and paces, I embraced a ‘choose your own adventure’ style of outdoors fun and went on a few adventures, deeming it an Escape from the Bike Path!

Saturday morning was an early wake up – 6:30, so I could swim at 7am. The pool was quiet, and I swam for 30 minutes very slowly but very happily. 1500 yards or so. Post-season swim means never having to do 100m interval repeats! I think I might start liking swims again. Afterward, I hopped on my bike and headed over to Santa Monica to meet my friends for a ride. I took the bike path from Culver City to Marina Del Rey, cut through Venice and to Santa Monica. About 13 miles.

Arrived at the popular meeting spot, and to little surprise, I was greeted by one of the TNT Campaign Managers who was out shepherding her Fall team. Then, a few other Summer Tri team folks arrived for their ride. And I heard that another group of triathletes had just passed on their Hood-to-Coast training run. Basically, whether you are in or out of season, if you want a workout buddy – head to this spot. It’s like a weekly reunion!

Took off with my friends for a “golf course loop” and “Amalfi loop” which means a 5-6mile warm up and then a 5-mile set of climbs through some of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city. My legs felt good one week out from the ironman. I didn’t push, but just rode along for the company. I split off when they headed to go to hill repeats (Mandeville Canyon, a 5 mile climb popular with city cyclists). Decided to ride back home via city streets instead of the bike path. I wanted to get the feeling of riding among the morning traffic and check out the state of the pavement. I’m confident enough in my bike handling skills to do this, so it felt like a nice little adventure.
I rode 26th Street / Olympic / Westwood / Pico / Motor / Venice avenues.

One big loop!

For the most part, it was low traffic (10am on a Saturday). It wasn’t the smoothest ride through Olympic and Westwood – the roads are pocked and pitted as much as any urban avenue. Pico and Motor were much better, but the sheer number of stop signs through the Cheviot Hills neighborhood had me braking just as often as I pedaled. Took about 45 minutes to get home. 31 miles for the day, and a lot of fun to see something new. Me and Oatmeal are on good terms right now. No flats, good handling, no odd noises. Good day to be a biker.

I almost ditched the bike on Sunday for the team’s ad hoc open water swim. But I woke up and the sky was grey and I felt like going for a ride again. So off I went for an unplanned spin. The first part of the ride was a mental low. I began to dwell on the fact that I skipped the open water swim because I was nervous about it, and out poured the self-criticism. And I also mulled over the thought – “why would I go and do the swim? I’m not training for a triathlon … I’m not training for anything at all.” And there was the ton-of-bricks, post-ironman-blues, unmoored-from-the-dock floating feeling that I don’t like. No structure. No challenge/reward. Uh-oh. Well, something I have to figure out.

Self-talked my way down to Dockweiler State Beach and over to LAX, where I watched the airplanes take off and land for a while. Headed along the route our team did at our very first bike practice. Memories of ‘way back when’ were nice to think about. Returned to the beach, and got a text from a friend I was meeting for breakfast. Decided I was closer to the food place than to home, so I decided to bike there. Skipped the bike path once again and took some new city streets into Santa Monica in search of some bacon!

The ride was unremarkable until I came upon a closed off section of Main Street (letting bikers through, thankfully. I assumed it was a result of the Saturday Night mayhem along the boardwalk. But a few minutes later I learned that it was not part of the crime scene, but rather part of the Hari Krishna parade …heading straight toward me. So, me and my bike edged over to the side, riding salmon against hundreds of paraders and floats. Did not expect my Sunday to be so … colorful and celebratory!

Tail end of the parade

The parade soon passed. I arrived and I achieved bacon. Good conversation with friends about triathlons, running, training programs and local clubs. Hopped back on Oatmeal and took another, non-bike-path route home. Flying along at 22mph with some slower cars felt good. Sun was starting to come out as I pulled into my street. Another 31 miles in the books. No route slip or data analysis in sight. Just another good bike adventure with Oatmeal, Mario (see below) and the voices in my head. I think we will be having many more of these two-wheeled explorations in weeks to come. Happy off-season.