It’s been three weeks since my first 1/2 century bike ride and I have had time to rest, relax, and reflect on my first 50 mile bike journey. My boyfriend and I signed up for the ride 6 months prior to the event, but I didn’t start seriously training until January, which was 2 months before the event. I have never trained for any bike race event before, nor have I ridden a bike for more than 20 miles, so the thought of biking 50 miles was quite intimidating. Fortunately I am lucky that I have an amazing trainer, who happens to be my boyfriend, who encourages me and helps me to push my limits. Here are the 5 major things I learned during and before my 1/2 century ride.
- Training – Give yourself time to train. The importance of putting yourself on a plan is significant. Two months prior to the event I created a training calendar for myself. Since I work 12 hour shifts at the hospital I had to force myself to schedule workout times before or after my shifts and on my days off. I had to focus on both indoor and outdoor training.
- Indoor Training – I would take spin classes to help me build my endurance and confidence on the bike. These were great training sessions prior to my shifts at the hospital because I would spend 45-60 minutes on the exercise bike before heading into a hectic shift.
- Outdoor Training – Training outdoors on your actual bike is significant. In spin classes when I’m tired, I have to admit I would cheat (guilty as charged) and not turn that dial up all the time. When you are biking outside and riding up that hill, there is no turning down that dial. If you do, you will be forced to get off your bike and walk up the hill. I learned that I didn’t want to walk up that hill so I pushed myself.
- Equipment & Gear – Invest in buying good equipment and gear.
- The Bike – My first bike was a heavy hybrid and although I loved that bike I realized that I would struggle completing 50 miles on it. So we invested on buying a road bike that would make it easier for me to complete my 50 mile bike journey.
- Shoes & Clothing – I recommend buying clip-in shoes and padded shorts. Once I learned to clip-in on my bike, I became faster and it was much easier to ride uphill. When buying your first clip-in shoes, it’s important to get fitted for those shoes at a local bike store. I learned the hard way after riding in my shoes a few times (which I purchased online) that they were too small, so I had to go out and buy another pair of cycling shoes that were much more comfortable, making my ride much more enjoyable. Sitting on your bike seat for hours without padding can make it difficult for anyone to enjoy a long bike ride, so I also used padded bike shorts or padded underwear. These made a world of a difference and I can guarantee it will make a difference to you if you decide to use it for spin classes or outdoor cycling.
- Safety – When riding on the road, it’s important to know your road safety. You don’t want to get hit by a car, nor does a car want to hit you. When on a crowded road, ride single file and listen to your surroundings. Similar to driving, stay to the right, except when you’re passing, then pass on the left. During the Solvang ride, there was a group of four bikers in front of us who rode side by side, taking up the whole road. While I was breathlessly struggling up the hills, they continued to block our path until my boyfriend called out “On your left!”, which then they finally moved to the right, allowing us to pass.
- Nutrition & Hydration – They have SAG stops for a reason. SAG means ‘Support And Gear’, where they provide food, water, nutrition and maintenance for your bike. I was feeling good at the beginning of my ride, so I didn’t force myself to eat very much during the SAG stop. I ate a couple pieces of fruit and drank some water at the rest stop, but after riding past Panda Express, I completely regretted not eating more at the SAG stop. The whiff of chinese food put me in a ‘hangry’ state of mind and I became grouchy because I didn’t properly feed my body. While riding you burn so many calories that you need to remember to feed yourself. Looking back I should have eaten a handful of peanuts and nuts they offered including their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This would have helped me finish the race in a much more happier state of mind.
- Have FUN! – In the end, don’t forget to have fun. I was lucky to have my friend Sarah participate in the bike ride with me. We encouraged one another to workout and have fun throughout the process. I was also lucky that my boyfriend did the whole half century ride with my friend and me. Even though he could have gone with his friends to ride the full century, he stayed with us the whole time and it made the ride much more enjoyable and fun. Being in the company of others who share similar interests as you always enhances your experience.