As an educator and PhD student, I read quite a bit, and spend a lot of time pouring over scholarly journals and other texts, soaking up as much as I can and deciding what to include in my work and what to leave out. One of my biggest annoyances in that process is coming across a popular book or article, claiming to be authoritative on a subject I am working on, and then discovering that the author has no actual background in that field. Now, sometimes people do just have a strong analytical mind and can think through a problem very well, regardless of their prior academic pursuits. However, far too often, people see the letters “PhD” behind someone’s name, and they give their work instant credibility, without ever questioning what field that doctorate actually came from. Just because I will have a PhD in Education soon does not mean I’ll ever be qualified to write about aerospace engineering, no matter how much I may enjoy planes, flight, and the space industry. It just doesn’t work that way.
The same is true for endurance sports.
I am still very much an amateur distance runner, but I have a decent number of marathons and ultra-marathons under my belt. Thus, I walk out the door for a run with a certain level of confidence, knowing what my body is capable of, what I need nutritionally, and where I am going (I’m a far more competent navigator on foot than I am while driving, just ask the beautiful epicurean!). Yesterday, I made the mistake of letting that confidence translate into cycling.
It was quite hot yesterday (92 degrees), and I probably should have chosen to ride in the early morning (mistake #1), but we were having a lazy Sunday morning, and I figured I could still get the ride in. With a nice breeze, I assumed the heat wouldn’t be as much of a factor since I’d be pedaling instead of running (mistake #2). I packed up my bike, fully stocking my water bottles and nutrition, and headed out. As I got onto the open highway (with a great shoulder for riding), heading east, I very quickly became aware of a much more significant wind. On the 10 miles to the next town, I felt as though I was spending the whole time trying not to get blown over by the wind. If you haven’t been to Iowa before, let me just say that it is flat and open (yes, many native Iowans will proudly point out the numerous hilly and tree-covered areas), but from my perspective, that’s the equivalent of calling New York City lush and green based on visiting Central Park. Needless to say, there is nothing to block the wind. As I arrived into the next town and decided on the next leg of my journey, I was tired but it was near the beginning of my travels, so I still had plenty of spirit and excitement about the ride (mistake #3?). I headed north, and with the wind at my back, I felt as though I could have ridden for hours. I came up to my intended westward turn, and decided to keep going because it felt great (mistake #4).
By the time I reached the next paved road (did I mention it’s rural Iowa, so approximately 1% of the roads are actually paved?), I had traveled twice as far as I had planned for that leg, but I still felt really good. I headed west, my journey 1/2 way complete, and again battled to stay on my bike. I passed the first paved road, not wanting to travel down it because it was typically much more heavily used. However, after about 1.5 miles, I realized I had no choice, so I doubled back, and headed south. This was the point when mother nature decided to spite me with all of her power (mistake #5). I was pedaling directly into 30 mph sustained winds, on tired legs, and every revolution felt like the last one I would take. I reached an intersection to rest and take a drink, and dreaded going any further on this road. I made a tactical choice to pedal west down a gravel road because it looked rather deserted (mistake #6).
It’s called a “road” bike for a reason. Although I managed down this road, it certainly wasn’t the most enjoyable experience. Plus, I still had to travel south into the wind eventually, and it was surprisingly not any easier to do on a gravel road 🙂 I did finally make it home, having traveled a good 20 miles further than I had planned, and I was exhausted.
However, I learned quite a bit about myself and what I knew and didn’t know. I realized just how much studying and saddle-time I still needed to put in before I felt the same level of confidence as I did when I went out for a run. If your endurance IQ is the sum total of your knowledge in each of the endurance sports you choose to tackle, then I might be able to pass the running section of the exam well, but I still have a lot of “studying” to do before I can pass the cycling section.
So, let me know if you’d like to study together, and I’m always looking for tutors!