The Not-So-Well-Traveled Road to a Comeback
I have written several articles on cycling in the past year. Some were about the passion we have for our sport, some were about training tips, and some were attempts at humor.
At a certain point I stopped writing. I stopped writing because I stopped riding.
I felt like I could not comment on my favorite sport while I wasn't actively participating in it. For the first time in seven years, I did not even watch the Giro or the Tour.
My dilemma started in early 2008 when I had a severe battle with pneumonia that took me out for a few weeks. It took me about six weeks or so, but I was able to bounce back. I was even able to race a couple of races that I thought I would miss.
My results were never as good as I'd hoped, and I struggled just to finish anything over two hours.
I initially thought I was out of shape, maybe this is what happens when you hit 30, or maybe it was all the daily demands of work and family, but I never felt quite right.
I started from scratch for 2009. I started with weights and running, then moved into working on specific cycling drills. I started to feel like I was back on track, but in May, I got sick again.
It was 2008 all over again.
I lost weight, I lost fitness, and I lost the motivation to ride. I equated my being sick with cycling. It turns out I never got completely well from my illness almost a year ago. I had an antibiotic-resistant infection that kept flaring up.
I started running to get back into shape. I ran with all of the intensity I used to focus on my cycling. I ran in the rain and ran hill repeats until I couldn't run anymore. I ran until my feet were blistered and bloody, with sore knees, and wrapped up hamstrings.
I ran because it was the only thing that kept my attention from cycling.
I raced several 5ks and even placed well in my age group, consistently in the top three of my age group. I even missed an age group win by six seconds.
Then in May, I started training for my first half marathon. I ran about six miles every day and two-a-days, twice a week at 8-10 miles apiece. I did most of my running with my daughter in a stroller.
By the time October rolled around, I was more than ready. I ran that 13.1 miles like my life was on the line, but I finished disappointed.
My first half marathon didn't go as expected. The race was far more crowded than I anticipated, and I got stuck at the very back of the pack and lost a ton of time in the first few miles.
When I finished—1:42 by the way, my goal was 1:30—I had a familiar feeling in my stomach. It was the same feeling I had at my last bike race. I was disappointed and discouraged, but not done.
As I collected my medal for finishing, something in me just clicked. I went home, dusted off my old GT, put it on my trainer, and rode for 45 minutes. I couldn't walk the next day, but on Tuesday, I ran for 45 minutes and later in the afternoon, I rode again for 45 minutes—nothing spectacular, just a 45-minute spin.
My first outdoor ride was torture, I picked a very hilly 32-mile route with a massive climb at the halfway point.
I managed to chug up the hill in my little ring and granny gear. I used to be able to climb this hill in the big ring. Although it took me a while to grasp my lack of cycling fitness, I realized I had the lungs, just not the legs.
Almost a month later, I'm still chugging up the hills—not as fast as I was, but it is coming back. My interval sessions may be shorter (for now), but I have also started focusing on quality versus quantity. I'm still running too, which has me contemplating a run at some triathlons.
I'm looking forward to 2010 as a kind of rebirth to my fitness and overall well being. I know I have a long road ahead of me to get back to where I was almost two years ago, but every day when I get home, I have my treadmill, my trainer, and some interval DVDs ready to go.
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