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Of the three disciplines of triathlon, I have put the least amount of time into the bike. That makes me a minority among triathletes, if my reading of two major online forums is any indication. I only have one bike, it’s not a tri-bike, I don’t ride every day, I don’t train with power, I don’t know what a 404 wheel is, etc etc. And really, it “should” be my biggest ally. If you look at very heavy people who are trying to get fit through endurance exercise, the conventional wisdom is that the bike is best. You can burn as many calories as running, but you don’t have the wear and tear on the body. You can bike every day, while running every day is not recommended for a new runner. The pounding that running puts on the joints is exponentially more damaging when you are heavier.

Yet, I have focused primarily on running, then swimming, then biking. I’m slow and bad at all three, but relatively speaking bike has been my third of three.

That may change soon.

I replaced my worn out old trainer that I bought in 2000 and kept in the garage from my old Body-for-Life days. I had put my old mountain bike on it and used it no more than 20 minutes at a time. I now have a Cycleops Fluid2, which is a pretty nice trainer. I haven’t been on it much at all since I got it in January, but just enough to remember what cycling feels like. (Total 2012 biking has been less than 50 miles on the trainer, and this one real road ride.) My early workouts this year were not getting the bike mileage in that the half-ironman training plan set out, and I focused on my half-marathon at the end of March.

I’m still focused primarily on the half-marathon, but I have a pretty big triathlon on May 5, so I can’t catch up bike and swim in a month. The time is now to re-integrate all three each week.

Yesterday I got an opportunity to do that, as I convinced my family on a whim, to enjoy the beautiful Sunday afternoon outside with me. Other than the Selinsgrove Winter Running Series, I spend most Sunday afternoons prone. Well, yesterday, we packed up the Cobalt and drove to the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail.

Olivia and Jack took their scooters, and Meg stayed with them, hoping to maybe do some sprints, but it didn’t quite work out for her. (My turn to watch the kids next trip.) I rode from Mifflinburg to Lewisburg and back, skipping the tiny bit of trail from the parking lot in Mifflinburg to the technical end of the trail. My total trip was 17.25 miles. The trail was PACKED, as I expected it to be. There weren’t any other cyclists out doing training, but there were lots of casual bike riders, mostly couples and families. This made for a challenge in trying to pass, especially in places where people were 3-4 across the trail. Now I know no one was there to train or race, but even so it felt awesome to pass EVERYBODY. I don’t get to do that in a race, so I’ll take it. Even though the path looks flat, there is definitely a slight downhill heading toward Lewisburg (approaching the river this makes sense), but that means a slight uphill on the way back.

With the advantage on the first leg of my trip, I felt like I was flying. I maintained a speed of at least 16.5-18 mph, which is really slow to a typical triathlete, but felt awesome to me. The road back was a different story, with the slight incline and the strong wind. With about four miles to go, I started to get serious saddle discomfort. This went away after a brief stop to put my chain back on the ring after it slipped during a shift. I also readjusted my clothes, and I was good to go.

I can see how cyclists can go out for 4 hour rides. I was sure I was only out 20 minutes when my watch read 45. I am excited to get out there more as the weather keeps getting better. Granted, I won’t have nearly-dead flat courses everywhere, like a rail trail, but I’ll be out there.

I doubt I’ll ever be a serious bike guy, with a power meter and doing sufferfest workouts. But my fear of the middle leg is decreasing, and I feel more like I belong in the saddle.

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