walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Most Unusual Bicycle Race

Yesterday evening I participated in a bicycle race.

The course started at the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Willow Ave, from whence we bold racer types ventured forth at varying rates of speed (some of us faster, others more leisurely), looped through Cherokee Park, and then ... returned to the starting point after but one lap.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that nobody wore a helmet!  Not at all!  And I never saw a single paceline.

Oh, and did I mention that we weren't on bicycles, either?

In fact, based on the clothing and shoe styles of my fellow racers, I suspect that the race in question may not actually have been a bicycle race at all.  It may have, in fact, been (GASP!) a foot race.  You know, one of those running things, that runners do, without bicycles at all!  (At least a couple of people who rode to the start, though.)


Okay, okay.  All joking aside, last night I joined my friend Brian from Charter and Republic and Muay Thai along with some of his friends from MT/MMA as well (either from Eric Haycraft's gym or Core Combat Sports) and took part in the Fleet Feet Fiesta 3K.

I wasn't actually entirely sure I remembered how to run, but I try not to let potentially being laughably bad at something stop me (after all, I had spent like all of 3 hours in my life on the 'cross course prior to King's Cross last year, and this year entered that short track race even though I almost never ride singletrack and so forth; I also insist on wading into games of Monopoly and the like even though I am a terrible, terrible strategist).  I was very concerned that I might have trouble figuring out the shifting mechanisms of my running shoes.  Once I realized that my running shoes are single-speed (apparently, the speed in question is "middling"), I felt much better.

When I arrived to register, I was intimidated by many of my fellow races, who appeared in actual running apparel, while I sported my favorite IU shirt and some grey gym shorts over my non-cycling compression shorts.  However, the three other guys in my group also arrived in comfortingly non-technical apparel, and I felt better:

(Image totally ganked from Angie Staley's facebook!
...Also, Denis didn't run. 
And the third guy in our group isn't in this shot because he wasn't there yet.)

The ladies, as you can see, put more effort into looking 'runner-esque.'

Prior to the start, I was a bit concerned about the possibility of simply having to collapse by the side of the road somewhere, what with the whole recovering from mono thing.  That fear did not come to pass.  During the race, I also became concerned -- due to a pain in my side -- that my spleen might be trying to explode.  However, I decided that it might just be one of those things they call a 'stitch,' and that if it didn't get worse, I probably wouldn't die: it didn't; I didn't. 

While I did sleep like the King of All Babies last night, and am feeling a hair on the loafy side today (though, bizarrely, some part of me wants to go running again) I did not find myself to be inordinately tired during the race, except during the first 1/3 of the second of the two major climbs, which was up Dog Hill in Cherokee Park.  Knowing that I could climb that hill no sweat on my bike, however, made it psychologically much easier than it could have been, as did knowing the landmarks of the climb intimately (oh, look, it's that one tree!  It gets flatter from here out!). 

Moreover, I managed to avoid totally flubbing up the whole running part, though I did trip over my own feet a couple of times.  Most importantly, I did not fall while cornering or crash out the group.  I'm not sure if that happens much in running events, but it seemed like a reasonable possibility in this one, since we were running in the dark and there were monster power-climber dudes with strollers, one of whom passed everyone in the that group I started with, much to our collective humiliation and awe.

During the race, I learned a few things:
  1. Brian Darlage is faster than I am.
  2. Cycling and running use completely difference muscle groups.  Really.  They're not just saying that on all those websites that talk about the importance of cross-training because they hate you and they want you to suffer.  Okay, well, they do hate you, and want you to suffer -- but it's also true.
  3. I have not run any distance in a really long time, and as such my running muscles are ... um ... pathetic might actually be the technical term.  Seriously.  My butt hurts.  What's that about?  And don't even get me started on my hip flexors.
  4. Nonetheless, I am still quite capable of mostly-running a distance of 5 kilometers (that's roughly 3.5 miles) on a hilly course.  When I'm struggling, I use a trick I learned from the join-the-Air-Force-workout (long story): I count strides.  I run for 200 - 300 strides, then walk for 50 - 150 (the most I was willing to allow myself to walk last night was 150 strides). 

    This method yields a really neat psychological trick: say you're pushing up a hill, going for 200 strides, but your legs are screaming bloody murder at you.  If you can get to 50, you know you can get to 60.  Once you hit 60, you can easily get to 100 -- and it would be shameful and embarassing not to make it to 100, once you've hit 60.  Once you hit 100, if you click on over to 110, you're pretty close to 150 ... and so forth.  You can actually do this almost indefinitely.  After a while, in fact, it becomes largely automatic, and there's usually a period in the middle of the run during which the pain goes away and you feel awesome for a while.

    For the record, I do this on the bike, too, though rarely.  When I'm feeling cooked but working to catch some bunny who is blissfully gliding along in his big ring and doesn't even know some fat idiot is trying to catch him, or when I'm riding hill repeats in Cherokee Park and absolutely refuse to slow down as I approach the top of a climb, I'll count my cadence.

    Sometimes I even count out loud -- except I only count off every tenth stride, and I count by tens (because I can do that without losing my place).  It must be very strange to be passed by some dude shuffling along and occasionally exclaiming, "Seventeen! .... Eighteen! ... Twenty!"
  5. 90% of athletic success really is simply finding some way to ignore your body when it whines about stuff.  The other 10% is learning when you should actually listen.
  6. Running is harder than cycling.  At least, for me, right now, running is harder than riding the bike.  Yes, I said it.  I meant it.  I won't say this race was as hard as King's Cross, but it was tough.  I suppose I could have made it less tough by walking more.  Walking -- which I can do literally all day -- is not harder than cycling.  Unless you are carrying like 5 gallons of water or whatever on top of your head, in which case it is probably harder, after all.
  7. Beer tastes just as good after a foot race as it does after a bike race.  Food, likewise, tastes just as good after a foot race as it does after a bike race: which is to say, I don't really bother with tasting it while I'm shoving it down my gullet :)
Oddly enough, I do think I will probably do this 'running' thing some more.  If only because, you know, you have to run in cyclocross, so I might as well get better at it, right?  (Ahem.)

That said, I draw the line at any kind of formalized swimming.  I love swimming, but the minute one adds 'swimming' to one's menu of cycling and running, one veers dangerously in the direction of the triathlon.

PS: My finishing time was about 41 minutes, 42 seconds or thereabouts.  Apparently, not too shabby for someone who doesn't run like, at all, ever.  I was probably faster back in the day when I used to actually run, but I never ran an actual race back then, so this counts as both my fastest and my slowest 5K time ever!


  1. Nice job! I've never, ever enjoyed running, not even for a second. I haven't tried it in years, but I suspect I'd have a similar experience now. Maybe I'll try it again someday, or maybe not.

  2. Thanks :D I have to admit, I'm not really into running on the roads -- I've always enjoyed the solitary, meditative aspect of cross-country running (especially in the woods), but on the road or the sidewalk it's just not my thing.

    However, in the dark, with a bazillion other people, I wraps back around to being enjoyable for me :D