Contributed by Kristin Seibert, member of the Silver Sage-trained Bike Like A Girl RAAM 2015 team.
The last time I was asked this question on a regular basis was two years ago when my belly was swollen with a growing baby girl, and my husband and I were preparing for our lives to be completely turned upside down as we became parents. Were we ready? Can you ever be “ready” for a baby?
Two years later, I again hear this question on an almost daily basis. “Are you ready?” Is our team of eight women (Bike Like a Girl) ready for 3,020 miles and 170,000 feet of relentless climbing? Are we ready for seven days of very little sleep? Are we ready to take instructions, make decisions, and work quickly with a crew of 16 others who are also running on very little sleep? Are we ready for constant forward motion, whether in a van or an RV or on a bike? Are we ready for countless hard efforts on the bike with little time to recover in between? Can we ever be “ready” for Race Across America?
A few weeks ago, while half of our team was training out west in Reno, Nevada with our coach, Julie Young of O2 Fitness, the other four of us took the opportunity to head just slightly west of Annapolis for a training ride in West Virginia with Ben Reynolds of Bike Doctor Arnold, our local bike shop sponsor. Ben was on Team Friends Foundation, a eight-man team who finished Race Across America in 2014. Ben does nothing 50%. More accurately, Ben does nothing 100%. Ben does everything at 110%. So none of us were terribly surprised when he offered to lead us on an “epic Skyline ride” with “just a little bit of gravel”. More precisely, the ride was 80 miles with 10,000 feet of vertical climbing and 20 miles of gravel. It was one of those rides that I hate while I’m doing it, but will still talk about it years later as one of my best days on my bike.
I had a great ride. After months of slogging through endless trainer sessions, I felt like I finally had the chance to prove to myself, my team, my coach, and even to my husband (who has already sacrificed a lot on this journey!) that Julie is training us well. After hours of SFR’s (slow frequency repetitions) and neuromuscular adaptation in front of the TV, I finally put my slow cadence work to the test in the beautiful outdoors. There is no “out-of-the-saddle” on a gravel climb, so I ground those pedals over at a cadence of 40 rpm (sometimes even less!), all the while hearing Julie’s voice in my head, “focus on efficient pedal stroke” and “this is your weight workout on the bike.” I worked on reducing dead spots in my pedal stroke, scraping across the bottom with my hamstrings, and applying consistent pressure to the pedals as I slowly inched up those persistent rocky climbs.
Equally rewarding was watching my teammates appear around the bend at the top of those climbs. One by one, we conquered four mountains. No one left behind. No one not “ready” for what was given us. The day brought us more than we asked or bargained for. And Race Across America will be no kinder, no gentler, no more forgiving than that.
So are we “ready”? Truly, we will only know the answer to that question when we cross the finish line in Annapolis and can look back at the results of all our training. What I do know is that Julie’s training has built in us a strength and confidence that allows us to overcome whatever is handed to us: threshold intervals into an unforgiving headwind, steep grades when the legs are already beaten down, endless miles in the darkest of nights. This is what we will face. This is what we are training for. And this is when we hear our coach’s calm reminder, “endurance is a game of efficiency. Make every pedal stroke count.”
Thank you, Julie, for your well thought out training. We can’t wait to make you proud every pedal stroke of the way!