How To Become an International Triathlon Superstar, Step #23: Spend hundreds of hours (i.e. thousands of virtual miles) on your trainer during the winter to grow your bike monster legs.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I officially survived my first East Coast winter and I’m happy to report that I am feeling the positive effects of all my indoor bike miles. Which I just calculated as almost 200 hours worth. And if you do a super low-ball estimate of say 15mph, that’s 3,000 miles!
Once December hit, I was tired of spending a whole hour putting on so many clothes just to ride outside. And it sketched me out to put on ski gloves so thick that I couldn’t really feel the brakes properly. I told Coach I didn’t actually mind riding the trainer (I have a CycleOps Fluid²) and he agreed that I didn’t have to ride outside any more, pointing out something else scary that manifested on the wintry roads: ICE! Great in cubic form in a fun fizzy drink on a summer day, but freaky and scary and dangerous on a cold winter day. Coach said it wasn’t worth busting my collarbone just to ride outside in the fresh air.
And I really didn’t mind riding inside so much. It was much better than freezing my butt off outside and buying special winter biking layers. For nearly four months (December-January-February-March), I was riding at least 10 hours on the trainer every week. I may have gone outside two or three times, when we got a false alarm early spring in March, but it was a REALLY long winter. I was starting to get cabin fever towards the end of it.
“Ugh how can you stand to ride on the trainer so much?” everyone always asks. Oh not too bad: that was about 200 hours of TV shows and movies. I became a proud card-carrying member of the public library, where you can borrow DVD’s for 7 days (and renew up to 3 times). For FREE of course! Much better deal than Netflix or Redbox or Blockbuster, eh? It also pays to date a guy with an expansive DVD collection. And for the short 45-min spins on some days, that’s a full episode of Glee or Nikita or Hellcats, or two episodes of The Big Bang Theory, which you can stream online for free. (Yes “FREE” is like a magic word for me.)
Also if you are a cheapo like me, you quickly learn that you don’t need to turn your heater on in the winter if you warm up your little studio apartment by biking inside it. See, I am not only saving the environment but my utilities bill.
So then I waited until it was consistently warm enough for all the ice to completely melt. There were a couple of days back in February when it hit over 50 and people would say “oh, now you can bike outside!” but I still wouldn’t, because cabin fever and all, there were still insidious patches of ice out. So I figured better to have an X-Men movie marathon (Wolverine is my favorite) or watch the Blade trilogy. I even got through the first two complete seasons of The West Wing before I got bored with the third one. A 4-hour ride means two 2-hour movies, and a 3-hr ride is either 2x90min movies or 4x45min TV episodes.
As an interesting side effect, it seems that my already massive quads grew even larger. (In college, my cycling teammates called me “Quadzilla” because my legs were bigger than theirs. And they were all boys.) At first I was horrified that I got fat and slow over winter, even though my boobs have been shrinking (the surest sign I am getting fit), because my jeans have been tighter in the legs.
Then I started punching out my standard 150km time trial loop every Sunday and was shocked that I have been going faster than I’ve ever been. The same exact loop I had mapped out in October and my ginormous quads just keep going. The Wongstar is pleased. Coach had always said riding on the trainer makes you strong but I guess it took me 200 hours of indoor biking for me to see the light.
It is now T-minus 1 month til Ironman China so I’m excited to see what I can do there. So to all of you who bitch and moan and say “I hate riding the trainer!” all I have to say is “You must hate getting faster too.”