Can I Really Do This?
If you’re new to Cycle Oregon, one question you might be asking yourself right about now is, “Can I do this?” The answer is easy: Yes, you can. I know this because I’ve done it. And if I can do it, so can you. Even if you’re currently out of shape, overweight and a total cycling novice, you can complete Cycle Oregon and have a great time in the process – provided you begin preparing today.
Commit – Step one is making a commitment to yourself that you want to do it, you can do it and you will do it. Before you can make this commitment, understand that it will involve setting aside several hours each week to train, including enough time for one or two extended rides. It may involve an initial investment in equipment. It might also involve making some significant dietary and lifestyle changes.
Do your homework – You’ll learn a lot as you develop as a cyclist, but there are a few things you need to know right off the bat. These include the rules of the road, how to ride safely in a group, proper bike handling and the fundamentals of nutrition.
Fortunately, there are lots of places you can learn these things. You can pick up any number of great books on endurance cycling, read publications like Bicycling Magazine, or find a fitness trainer who specializes in cycling (I highly recommend STRADA for both in-person and online training programs).
Another great resource is the community of experienced Cycle Oregon riders. Visit the forums, subscribe to this blog and look at the Facebook fan page. The Cycle Oregon family is very good about welcoming new members into the tribe, and is always ready to help new riders – all you have to do is ask.
Gear up – If you’re just getting started, you’ll want to invest in the right gear. This normally includes a decent road bike, cycling-specific clothing, bike shoes, a helmet, water bottles and some basic tools. There’s a huge value in building a relationship with a good local bike shop with experienced sales staff that can help you figure out what you need (and what you don’t). If you are in the Portland area, the Bike Gallery, one of Cycle Oregon’s biggest supporters, has an annual spring sale and is already posting great deals on its website for close-outs and 2009-model bikes.
Make a plan – September will be here before you know it. Plan your training now. Figure out how many miles you want to ride before the event and what you need to do to get there. Most people recommend a minimum of 1,000 miles, but more is always better.
Begin working on cardio fitness ASAP, with aerobics, indoor cycling or anything that gets your heart pumping. Strength training and core training are also extremely helpful. Core training will make the hours in the saddle a lot more comfortable and make you a much better rider.
Of course, one of the best ways to train for cycling events is cycling. Start off on flat terrain and focus on learning to “spin” by using low gears and pedaling at high RPMs (80 to 100 is ideal). Commuting by bike also pays huge dividends.
Celebrate success – There are lots of ways to track your success. Log all your miles. Monitor your average heart rate and maximum heart rate on each ride (and watch how it drops throughout the season). Listen to your body. At the beginning of the season, a 30-mile ride might wipe you out for the rest of the day. Before you know it, a 60-mile ride won’t even faze you. That’s significant progress.
Stay positive – Keep in mind that there will be days when you feel great and there will be days when training seems downright miserable. Don’t get discouraged. If you can, try to figure out what caused the bad day. More often than not lack of supportive nutrition, dehydration or high temperature is the culprit.
Over time, the great days will far exceed the miserable days. Also know that, during the big event, your body WILL rise to the challenge. You actually get stronger as the week progresses. Your average heart rate may decrease substantially. You’ll feel better and stronger than ever, and you’ll be able to do things you couldn’t do even a few weeks before. It is nothing short of amazing.
Train with friends – Training with friends helps keep you motivated and just makes the whole experience more enjoyable. If you don’t know any other cyclists, seek them out. Attend organized rides throughout the year. If you have to, organize your own rides and invite others along. If that doesn’t work, find virtual partners online.
Visualize success – Get a clear picture in your mind of what it will be like to cross the finish line on the final day of your first Cycle Oregon. Think about how good it will feel to know you can do something like this, to know you are an athlete and a true cyclist. Refer to this mental picture on the difficult days. Chances are, when you actually do cross that finish line, the feeling will be better than you imagined.
And after Cycle Oregon, keep training. Maintain that level of fitness you’ve worked so hard all season to achieve.