Sunday, April 25, 2010

Try try again

I used to hate failing. It's not that I relish it now, don't misunderstand, but failure now motivates me more than it used to, specifically with regards to athleticism and getting in shape.

You guys know if you've been reading the blog that I am recently obsessed with biking. Last week I made the plunge and decided to get a road bike. I have yet to name her, but I am leaning towards the name Carina which means "dear little one" or Eloise which means "very healthy and sound".

I decided to do it up and, in addition to getting a very nice entry level road bike, to get clipless pedals too. Real cyclists say that this is important to improve the transfer of power between your legs and the bike (allowing you to transfer power as you pull the pedals up in addition to just when you push the pedals down), so I decided why not?

The first day I got my bike I was really excited to ride it. The bike shop installed the pedals on my bike and the clips on my shoes, taught me how to clip in and clip out on a trainer (basically something that makes your bike like a stationary bike), and told me I'd want to go home and practice clipping in and out.

I took their advice. Foolishly, I decided to practice on an asphalt parking lot. Bad idea.

After I fell the first time, I decided that surely it was a fluke and if I just tried again I would not fall. Although I was humbled, I would not quit. I just spent a good chunk of change on this bike, and I will be using it darn it! I leaned up against the car, clipped in, and then practiced clipping in and out while leaning against the car. Once I felt more confident and comfortable, I did laps around the parking lot. I rode for 2.2 miles, pushing me over the fativersary goal I set for myself. I was happy. As I pulled up to my car, I had successfully clipped out my right foot and figured I was home free and would not fall.

Wrong. Fell again. Busted up the other leg, and got some scraped elbow as a bonus. I was humbled, and decided to quit for the day (it was getting dark and I was starving since I was just coming from the gym and it was about 8).

Well, last week was crazy. Truly truly crazy -- so crazy that I did not get another chance to practice riding my bike. However, I did get to watch a couple hours of TV (Survivor and Biggest Loser). As I watched, I leaned against the bar that separates my kitchen and living room. I clipped in. I clipped out. In. Out. In. Out. 3 hrs (-the commercials) worth.

Eventually it became more natural feeling and maybe even reflexive. It got easier to do. I decided I was ready to take it to the parking lot again. Yesterday the weather was rainy and crappy all day, but today I got to spend a half hour or so in the same parking lot, practicing. One of my students taught me a trick to clipless pedals. It is pretty genius and I wondered why I didn't think of myself. Here's the trick: clip in with one foot like usual. Use that foot to start pedaling and get going pretty well -- fast enough so that you can coast. Once you get going, then use the coasting time to clip the other foot in.

I decided to try this, and was kind of afraid I was going to fall. I didn't!!! I started, I stopped. Clipped in, clipped out. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I was proud of myself.

Eventually I decided I needed to try crazier maneuvers -- for example, keeping one foot clipped in like I stopped at a stop sign and then would need to start again. The first time I tried this, I was so so sure (and disappointed) that I was going to fall. To my surprise, my left foot realized that we were going down and in a moment of reflexive genius, twisted and unclipped. I was grateful to avoid another week of Neosporin and scabs. I had one other close call too, but was able to use the weird instinctive nature that took over. Those three hours of practicing while watching TV paid off!

I'm still not convinced I'm ready for primetime yet. I live on the top of a big hill. It's big enough that I reach 25ish MPH going down the hill in my heavy cruiser. Worse than that, there is a freaking stoplight at a busy intersection about a third of the way down said hill. How am I possibly going to swing that without falling?! I will figure it out, and I WILL do it! And I WILL get back up the hill too! I usually walk the cruiser up, but with 10 gears on my new bike there is no reason why I should do that anymore. I will definitely blog about it when my roadbike gets, you know, some time on the road. Or at *LEAST* a bike trail. Anywhere but a parking lot or my hallway, for the love.

I wrote this blog to say that I am proud of myself. In the past, I would have let my failure be another excuse to sit on my butt. I would have used it to reinforce my idea that activity sucks, and that I'd better just sit this one out. That sedentary lifestyles were really the way to go. I mean, fat people don't break bones -- only the crazies on their mountain bikes and climbing rocks and such. (Never mind the fact that they rarely keel over dead of heartattacks).

The problem was that years of sitting out time after time had really impeded my ability to live life to the fullest and, if I wasn't careful, to live life at all. Yes, my obesity was going to kill me. It already had killed my spirit.

Now that I am living life again, I don't get nearly as afraid when I fail. Now I let it push me. It motivates me to work and work until I conquer something. This girl is back in the game.

Now I'm not under the illusion that I am going to be Lance Armstrong-ette (minus the doping of course), but I am confident that I *will* be a competent to good road biker by the end of the summer. I will have damn good legs too. You can already see a bit of definition in my quads but by the end of the summer -- watch out!


  1. Congrats on the road bike purchase -- and all the practice. I have one on my wish list. Maybe this year? I went through the same period of adjustment with the clipless pedals on my mountain bike. Now I can't imagine riding any other way!

  2. Good for you on all the practice! You are persevering, and that's great! Don't sweat the fact that you've fallen while learning - that happens to EVERYONE when they learn. And, the tip you got is right on. It's much easier to clip in one foot and start pedaling - then to clip in the other. Also, if it is hard to twist and clip out, you can adjust the pedals. It shouldn't be difficult to clip out, and the adjustment is easy to do. (Check out Zinn and the Art of Road Bikes for a great bike reference.) I also always clip in my right first and then left - you'll find (if you haven't already) the leg you favor. But, great job girl! You're doing awesome! Hey, and if you haven't already...wait until you see all the cool cycling gear out there! There are some awesome (fun) jerseys to be had. Congratulations on your accomplishments!

  3. Oh yea you got a rode bike!!! Did they also tell you that EVERYONE falls while still clipped into the bike the first few tries? My first wipe out happened in front of a bunch of that's classy.

    PS - Stopping mid-hill isn't too bad. Go ahead a clip one foot out well in advance of an actual stop and while you are breaking so you very prepared for the stop. You can totally do it Sarah :)


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