Getting ready to ride

Once upon a time, before a bike trip or a long distance cycling event, I was super disciplined in my training. If the Bike Rally people told me to make sure I had ridden 100 km two days in a row before the event, I did it. Before I rode my bike in the mountains of Bhutan, I spun like mad in a dark room through a cold Toronto winter, including one memorable double 60 minute class session punctuated by the studio manager delivering us a beautiful tray of snacks.

My capacity for training slipped away during covid, along with my trust in humanity. And my last gasp of youth. (Kidding! Just menopause! And vaginal lubrication! Apparently I have to refer to my genitals in every post now!)

ANYWAY. I’m leaving next Friday for a bike trip. First in Montenegro and Albania (see map above), and then Romania (see map over yonder).

Both trips are by myself, but are planned by people who actually organize these things. And I’ve opted in both to have my luggage toted from place to place, a bit of a departure for me. So it will just be me and my bike. And the sea, and a lake, and some transylvanian castles. And a medieval festival. (I hope! There is some rumour that festival may be canceled this year!)

For some reason, this whole “people are carrying my stuff” thing has made me hand-wave training anxiety. It’s not like I haven’t been riding — I was pretty ferocious in zwift until the weather got warm, and I have been darting around on my cute little Citrine, and I’ve done some concerted riding, including a 100km ride a couple of weekends ago that was Not Insignificant. I’m fit. I’m strong. And the distances where I’m going aren’t very long. Just… hilly. Like “1100 m over 45 km” hilly.

Am I being stupid? I know from trips to Croatia last summer and Bulgaria the year before that it is likely to be eyelid-lifting hot where I’m going. But I’m pretty seasoned as a navigator of foreign lands on a bike, and I have two things in my favour.

  1. Grit it out. I know how to clench my teeth and push myself through the discomfort of a hot day, a lot of hills, wind, unfriendly locals, winding up on the wrong side of a river with a boat to catch. I can weather a lot just on sheer determination and a fierce ability to power through pesky difficulties.

But I’m also a badass grown up with a sense of self-preservation. And I know when to:

2. Adjust the plan. I have a strong completist in me, and I am that person who will always ride that extra 300 metres for an even 40 km, aim for closing my rings on my stupid watch every day. But that completist isn’t a psychopath. Two years ago, in Bulgaria, I realized my hired bike was crap and the routes were way too ambitious, the 42C heat too unforgiving, the hills wafting me from village to village with no place to get water too murder-y . So I adjusted the plan radically, took some trains, and spent extra time in lovely hotels by the sea. Ate some fishes. Read books.

Last year, I got covid JUST as I left for a trip in Croatia that was supposed to include a week of cycling. I thought about it and listened to my body and got on a plane and came home. In the past, I might have tried to make that work, or felt bad about coming home. And yes, part of me still imagines those islands I was going to ride on. But in the end? I listened to my body. And my soul.

So over the next month? Montenegro, Albania and Romania. Maybe the maps I’ve outlined. And maybe not. And that is the joy of being me in this body and in this head in the summer of 2023.

What about you? How do you relate to completing or adjusting fitness plans you’ve made?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede-Desmarais, who is in the part of the world we currently call Toronto. And if you find yourself with a pocket of extra time because you cut a planned fitness thing short, here is a recommendation: watch Dirty Dancing. It’s my sister’s favourite movie, and Susan and I rewatched it last weekend. It holds up. Enjoy.

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