Another milestone

Last July, I volunteered for the final of the PTO Canadian Open. It’s a triathlon event and at the time, I was struggling with a toe injury that prevented me from running long distances all summer. I was rehabbing my toe and slowly working my way back to running 10 minutes at a time…safely up to 1 hour maximum. If you’re a runner, you know what an injury like this does to your training and baseline fitness. It’s agonizing!

I walked away from the PTO event totally inspired. I would look into cycling and/or a triathlon next in my fitness journey. It didn’t take me long to jump head first into cycling. I researched bicycles that week and on the Saturday after the event, I bought a Cube Attain S/L from Revolution Cycle. It was a really great bike, with great specs in my budget.

I started cycling the next day and I really enjoyed it. Cycling provided me all of the benefits that I loved with running with less impact on my body and no impact to my toe. Hours on the road by myself training – check! Long distance training – check! Pushing my body to new levels – check! Staying in shape – check! Burning calories so that I can eat whatever I want – check! Meditative time to myself while training – check! That rush and accomplishment of long distance training – check! Cycling really replaced what I missed from running during my injury.

Side note: I did try to add swimming but I just couldn’t find the time. I went for a swimming evaluation and tried to do some outdoor swimming in the lake that summer. I decided that I would focus on cycling for now. Swimming would have to wait.

In December 2022, I signed up for L’Étape Canada by Tour de France – Strathcona 135km race. I believe my longest ride in 2022 was about 105km. I really felt that the longest distance race was going to be a great challenge similar to a marathon for me.

Amazon Affiliate

NOTE: I’m looking into linking products that I really like in some of my blogs. I’ll be posting some Amazon.ca products with my affiliate link. If you purchase a product using one of my links, I will receive some compensation from Amazon. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. For now, I’m just trying to see if I can earn a little commission towards Amazon GCs to feed my hobbies and blogging. And I may try a few review posts in the future. Thanks in advance for your support.

Bike Fit

I’ve been working with Cody from Flexion Bike Fit for the last year. Cody has been awesome. It took some time to get my bike setup. I’ve had some issues with numbing in my bum, hands, arms and toes. And frankly, I don’t know how much of my discomfort disappears with more time on the bike.

I had a couple of setbacks during training that were problematic for a perfect bike fit. My saddle slid down my stem during a ride after one fit. I didn’t realize it until it was too late in the test ride. On the next ride, I felt a lot of numbness in my wrists and arms. I probably went back to Cody a couple of times too quickly.

I was starting to freak out thinking that my bike wouldn’t never fit me properly. I was ready to give up. If I can’t ride 100km without numbing, I can’t ride 135km. Fitting bikes is an art and a science. Realistically, I needed much more time on the bike to adjust to each micro-change. But Cody was a champ and patient with me and we got my bike into shape for a couple of final training runs of 105km and 115km just weeks before the race. The bike felt great for the race!!

Go see Cody for all of your bike fitting needs!

Doubts

I always have doubts going into any event. Running. Cycling. Golf. Presentations. Any major event. I like to be totally prepared and it’s not always easy to get there. My brain has the power to remember challenges negatively instead of positively. And I start to doubt myself when I face adversity. I don’t expect things to be easy. But: bad winds on every ride; weeks of smoky air; bad bounces on the golf course; 5 golf lessons cancelled this summer due to rain. Sometimes it feels like the universe is trying to tell me something and then doubt creeps in.

I trained quite hard over the winter on my indoor training. But I never reached the type of mileage that I needed to achieve to feel comfortable over 135km. Long distance indoor training isn’t really that much fun. And it was my first winter with this bike and indoor trainer.

Then spring hit, and I faced high winds, rainy days and smoky air. I lost several weeks of training to smoky air. I have asthma and the smoke is really hard on me for long distance training. I also had a number of weekend plans over the spring and summer that took away some long ride Sunday training. Finally, I didn’t spend enough time during the week riding.

By June, I had serious doubts that I could even complete the race. My training wasn’t enough! I felt completely unprepared both physically and mentally. I started being hard on myself and stubborn.

I wanted to drop down to the 85km distance. But I couldn’t pull the trigger. That was “too easy” for me. I felt I was already prepared for the 85km race. Riding that race wouldn’t prove anything to me. I didn’t even leave the house for less than a 75km training ride. The topic came up in my psychology appointments. Why was I hesitant to drop down to the shorter distance? Why did I care what other people might think? Why would I be disappointed in myself? Why did I sign up for the long race in the first place?

These aren’t necessarily healthy thoughts, but that’s where my brain went. In my first appointment with my new golf/sports psychologist, Katie recommended a book for endurance athletes called “How bad do you want it? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Matts Fitzgerald” Note: This is my first sponsored link from Amazon. If you buy the book using this link, I will receive compensation from Amazon. It’s a fantastic book if you are an endurance athlete and provides a lot of short stories and anecdotes.

Both of my psychologists, Katie and Dan, helped me thru my struggles. How bad do you want it? – became my mantra on the bike. Long distance bike riding is as hard as long distance running. It’s hours of riding solo on the bike. Every time you push your body and mind to a new distance record, you feel the pain. And you need to recover from long rides. You spend quite a bit of time feeling tired.

Finally, by mid-July, I recommitted myself to completing the 135km race. I upped my training during the week and put in a couple of long rides on consecutive weekends. The bike was feeling pretty good and 2 weeks prior to race day, I was able to complete a 115km training day. That was it, I was nearly ready. I was going to do this!

Race Week

I treated this ride as if it was an upcoming marathon.

I carb-loaded throughout the week cooking and eating a lot of pasta at lunch and supper. I needed maximum energy for Sunday race day!

I reduced my mileage on the bike in the week leading up to the race. I went out for a couple of smaller rides that week, including a last ride on Saturday at 7am to get a feel for waking up early on race day and experiencing the early morning temperature. I focused on staying fresh and limber. In hindsight, I should have included more of these smaller rides in my training.

Friday was a ride & meet and greet opportunity with Alex Steida and Jens Voigt. I must have misunderstood the plan. There were two events planned. I showed up to the 2nd event with my bike ready to ride. Apparently, the first event was the ride. I managed to say hi to Alex very briefly. I’m grateful that the Italian Center in Sherwood Park hosted the event and Alex and Jens were very friendly. Overall, I was a little disappointed in the event. I was alone and it would have been a better experience with a team of people. It also wasn’t really an organized meet and greet, so you had to be a little pushy to say hi to Alex or Jens. That’s not my strength as I’m a quiet and polite individual around important/famous people and I don’t like stepping into a conversation or interrupting you when you’re eating lunch.

Saturday was race package pick up day. Paula joined me. We drove out to the site to pick up my package. I was expecting a busy site with lots of vendors. Once again I was a little disappointed. There was one vendor on site. So I picked up my race package and asked a few questions. Then we drove the course so that I had a good idea of what I was in for the next day. That took a lot longer than I expected and we didn’t make it back to the main site for an interview set with Alex and Jens. We went to the Italian Center for lunch. Saturday night, we ordered in pasta and I fed myself full! I tried to get as much rest as I could and prepped my race day items in advance.

Race Day

Oh boy, my first race! I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous and excited. We arrived onsite and luckily our parking spot was perfect and there were still a few parking spots open.

Unfortunately, I have a nervous bladder and had to go pee just before the race. There were only 6 or 7 porta-potties on site and there was a large lineup. I ended up having to beg my way into the front of the line. Stupid small bladder!

Then I found out 5 minutes prior to the start that I had the wrong wristband for the race. At first I was sent to the back of the chute. I would’ve missed my race start. Luckily, one of the motorcycle support riders noticed and helped me out. I got my new wristband just in time. I found myself at the back of the chute for the 135km race but I was in the right chute!

The race start was exciting and obviously a little bit slow as everyone slowly moved thru the start chute. I found myself going faster than I expected at the start of the race. Surprisingly, I couldn’t keep up with most of the other riders. This would be a theme throughout the day. I ended up riding most of the race solo. Wow! They were fast!

I did carry an Akaso action camera with me and created a mini video of my race. It took pretty good video. It’s an older action camera at a pretty good price!

You can watch my wrap up video here if you like:

The Race

The race went really well for me. I was much stronger than I expected for nearly the whole race. My lower back started to ache at about the 120km mark. I finished in 5:22 which was below my goal to finish in 5:30. My average speed was 25km/hr without the benefit of drafting in a pack. I spent approximately 8 minutes at rest stops, so this impacted my finish time and average speed. But I’m glad I took those breaks.

I didn’t break any records. I didn’t finish top of my class. I finished a very hard race and I’m very proud of myself. This was another endurance journey and a story of “How bad do you want it?”. I wanted it! And I finished!

Notes about the race:

  • I finished a 135km road race! Yeah me!
  • I pushed thru the doubt and the pain of long distance training to complete my goal. I made sacrifices to train.
  • I found inner strength and conquered adversity when I could’ve quit.
  • I’m a runner and a cyclist. I’m one sport away from a triathlon.
  • The rest of the riders were super fast. I had high hopes of finding a group to ride with. But I ended up riding solo nearly the entire race. This was a major race in Western Canada, so I can’t be disappointed, but I had hoped to experience the joy of riding in a big group of riders. And I kind of did…numerous groups passed me. Good thing I trained for that alone time running and on the bike.
  • I tried to keep up with the 2nd group on the 85km ride that passed me. I slid in with the pack for about 5 seconds. Then I realized that my race would be over if I tried to sustain that effort for a longer timeframe. I trained to complete the race, not to be fast.
  • The course was super hilly. There were a couple of nasty hills at the end of the race. I didn’t feel like there were enough flats. If I wasn’t going uphill, I was going downhill. I’m glad that my training route has some good hills for training. Funny, the course didn’t seem that hilly in a car!
  • I think my zones for heart rate training are off. I under trained my HR for the race. I’ve since signed up for a VO2 max test with the University of Alberta to get more information on my fitness, max heart rate and zone training for cycling. That should help me train in zones better for future races. I’ve also updated my zones based on information that I got from the race related to my max HR and average HR for the race.
  • Thanks to my support team. My wife supported me throughout this journey. She’s my #1 cheerleader and takes a lot of photos that I’ll treasure as memories. My mom showed up on race day and cheered me on at the start, middle of the race, and finish. Thanks to Pam and Stan for showing up and cheering me on at the finish line. Thanks to the rest of my family and friends that liked posts, or commented your encouragement on my training posts. Your love and support mean a lot to me.

I finished!!! And at the end of the race all I could say was that I was emotional and my bum hurt! Haha. Typical Dennis to the end!

What’s next?

So, what’s next? I have no idea. Am I cyclist? Am I a runner? Do I want to revisit swimming this winter and look into a triathlon next year? Do I want to sign up for more races? Do I want to find a cycling club that I can train with?

I don’t know.

For now, I’m taking a break. I went for a leisurely 75km ride during my recovery week. Nothing else besides walking. I’m busy for a couple of weekends. So long rides are out. Summer is coming to an end. I’m enjoying some extra free time. I have some time to focus on golf for the rest of the summer. I’m having a great year of golf and it’s tracking to be my best ever. So I’m excited for that.

That likely takes me into winter training. Indoor cycle trainer. Treadmill. Swimming. Indoor golf.

So for now, I want to enjoy the rest of summer and fall. I’ve got some time to figure things out. I’ve got some time before I commit to running or cycling next year. I do know that I want fitness part of my life and I love endurance sports. I love the challenge of a long run or a long ride. But there is a cost to it. There is a big time investment. You body and mind are fatigued on long training days. You need time to recover. Training time and recovery time “interfere” with other summer activities like golf, traveling and time with friends & family.

Wrap Up

So I officially have 2 mantras:

  1. Next shot – Golf
  2. How bad do I want it? – Running/cycling

These have served me well this summer thru golf and cycling. I continue to work on my mental toughness with 2 psychologists. It’s very interesting work!

For now, my cycling and endurance journey is on a break. What’s next? I don’t know. I’m going to try to enjoy the present. We’ll see how long it lasts…I really like having a big goal. Without it, I feel a little lost. But for the first time this year, I’m not training for a race and I’m going to enjoy that for a minute or two!

Next time

Stay tuned for some golf content next blog. I have some stories to tell and maybe a new golfing mantra! I’m enjoying my time with my new sports psychologist, Katie, and I have lots to share!

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