Training ride: The Natchez Trace

A couple of commenters pointed out I was being a bit sketch about the details of my training plan in my last post. Those commenters were absolutely right. But you see, me being me, the details of my training plan ARE a bit sketch. They consist of:

  • Biking for transpo as often as possible (pretty standard, but I’m pushing it more than usual)
  • One medium-length ride during the week (10-15 miles)
  • One long ride at the weekend (20-30 miles)
  • At least one cross-training day (walk/jog or yoga)

This means I’m riding somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 miles per week. Since I once read somewhere that riding an equal number of miles per week as you will in your big ride means you’re in good enough shape to make it happen in a reasonable amount of time, I feel like we’re doing OK. If I’m wrong, well, I’m sure the Internet will chime in to let me know.

Anyway, last weekend our training ride was on the Natchez Trace. Since I’ve never been able to transport my bike comfortably by car before, this was my first time biking on the Trace. All I could think was, what took me so long??

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One fun little quirk about going on long rides with me: I’m a total grump for the first 20 minutes. I start thinking about how we’re only 10 percent or whatever of the way in and that means we have to bike for TEN TIMES this long. I brood about the temperature and how much water I have with me and how much that hill we just went down is going to suck on the way back.

Then, somehow magically somewhere around mile 5, I am fine. I become accustomed to the heat and discomfort. I am resigned to the fact that I will be sweating for the next few hours and parts will be fun and parts will not be fun and I am totally OK with it going on as long as necessary. In other words, my Czech/Finnish peasant ancestry kicks in. Being built for endurance vs. speed isn’t a bad thing.

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So after my typical rough beginning, I was all about the Trace. Even though it was late morning, we saw some wildlife! Namely a turkey, a turtle and a deer, which luckily did not decide to charge us. And…get excited…a dead skunk! Car traffic was very light and the drivers were courteous. There were tons of other cyclists; we saw at least two dozen.

Whitney and I actually considered blowing off work on Monday and going all 171 miles to Tupelo. Of course, that was while we were biking with a tailwind. When we turned around just over 10 miles in, our pace slowed since we had more uphills + a headwind to deal with.

We did stand out quite a bit from the other cyclists on the Trace. We were the only riders  who didn’t have drop bars and clip-ins. Near the end of one particularly long, steep incline, a male road cyclist came up beside us and greeted us with “Way to go, ladies!” I wasn’t sure what to expect (would he be down on us for not wearing helmets? Was this a drive-by pat on the head?) but he somehow managed to be encouraging without being patronizing. “I’ve seen people on $2000 equipment die on this hill,” he confided. Since we were able to keep him in sight for at least 10 minutes after he passed us, we considered ourselves pretty hardcore. “Think of what we could do with $2000 of equipment,” Whitney said.

So here’s what we did with our decidedly NOT $2000 bikes. (Not to mention that Le Peug only has five working speeds at the moment…I’ve got to get on that.)

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I know, not exactly fleet foxes. But by the end of the month we can improve this time a bit—and I also think that, especially with the adrenaline of riding in a group, this is a pace we can maintain for 62 miles. We both still felt good after the ride, like we could have gone longer, and no soreness afterward. And the Clarksville Century course is legendarily easy.

And sometime in the next six months (spring or fall, probably!) I am taking a long weekend to ride the Natchez Trace. Anyone coming with me??

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5 thoughts on “Training ride: The Natchez Trace

  1. Beverley Strain says:

    I think it is great! My philosophy is that just getting on the trail is 75% of the battle! You will improve, and the grumpiness will diminish. As an aside, I have the same model Peugeot and only five speeds too. I also need to get on that!! Happy cycling! :)

  2. Nate Nykamp says:

    Sounds like you’re doing great, hope the weather cooperates for your big ride. I absolutely relate with being a grump for the first little bit. Everything feels wrong, I feel like I won’t be able to complete the distance, but then I find I’ve covered 20 miles and I’m smiling (or at least not snarling).
    One caution about the group ride induced adrenaline: Don’t forget to ride your own pace. I know this seems obvious, but last year on RAGBRAI I tried to hang on the tail of a 25mph+ paceline for a few miles. Really dumb, and at the end of that 55 mile day I was really hurting.
    But it sounds like your first priority with this is to have a good time, which is perfect. Looking forward to your report!

  3. Sarah W. says:

    Way to go!

    I visited Natchez, Mississippi, in April 2012 and there were so many biking groups staying in my little motel!

  4. Karen says:

    Sounds like great fun. Just last night I was with a group of other transportation cyclist and subject came up of doing a long adventure bike ride, maybe even including camping out somewhere. One of the few things I miss about Flagstaff is bumping into wildlife on my ride. I’ll never forget that elk!

  5. ridonrides says:

    i ride 13 miles in that same time!! impressive.

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