Sunday, June 1, 2014

Teaching an old dog new tricks...

So after getting the news on Friday that my foot fracture wasn't healing and that I actually had more fractures, I decided to take the plunge and buy cycling shoes and toe clips. Multiple cyclists have told me that this is THE WAY to bike, and that I really should do it. I was reluctant for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I'm a runner. I didn't want to invest more $$ into an activity that I considered cross training. Buying shoes and clips seemed like a commitment. I already felt guilty enough, not riding my road bike as much as I should. Getting the real pedals and shoes meant that I really needed to maximize my investment. Which meant more riding and less running. And I just didn't want to go there.

The other reason was that I was scared. Let's face it. I'm not very coordinated, and I've heard tons of stories about people falling over on their bikes because they couldn't get their shoes unclipped in time. I've already got a broken foot...I don't want more broken bones!

But since it looks like I'll be spending the majority of my summer in the saddle, I headed over to the local bike shop to make a purchase. I hobbled into the store in my boot and ignored the strange looks from all the cycling studs that were shopping there. When I told the guy at the counter what I was looking for, he asked me how I planned to bike wearing the boot.

"It comes off, you know", I said. What the hell?

He asked me how far I usually ride and when I told him, he looked surprised. Really dude, what did you expect? I gave myself a silent high five and followed him over to the shoes.

He showed me my options and I tried on the shoes. I asked him if they could install the clips for me and he told me it wouldn't be a problem. I also asked him if he could show me how to use them. He said they'd put my bike in the trainer and let me practice. That didn't actually happen, but the service department guys installed my equipment.

They also warned me about the "rule of threes". "Everyone falls", the service guy said. "Three times". He also cracked a joke: "what do you call people without bikes? Runners". Ha ha. Real funny.

This morning, I nervously approached my bike. Try as I might, I could not figure out how to clip the shoes into the pedals. I spun them around, stepped on them, and pushed on them. Frustrated and hot, I asked my 16 year old to come outside and help me. I asked him to take the clips off and put my pedals back on. I thought I'd try the clips another day. He patiently took the clips off the bike and examined them closely.

"Mom,'' he said, "put these on your shoes." He showed me how to clip them on the shoes. Then he took them off my shoes and reinstalled them on my bike. He told me I was going to have a lot easier time getting my shoes out of the clips than I was stepping into them. He waited while I clipped my feet in and out a few times. "You'll be fine," he told me.

Clearly, he did not get his mechanical skills from me. Nor his calm, patient nature.

He watched me nervously ride away. At first, hesitant, my feet felt funny as I pedalled. As I approached my first stop light, I kicked my left foot out, just like my son told me to. It worked! My foot released and I touched the ground with my left foot. I proudly waited to cross the street. Once I pushed off, I had a little trouble clipping my foot back onto the pedal. About halfway through the intersection, my foot snapped on to the clip and away I went.

My first 5-6 miles were like this. There are a lot of stoplights at the beginning of this route, and I got plenty of practice kicking out of the pedals and stepping back in. I found that my son was right about this. As I rode on, I became more confident and picked up speed. Rule of threes, my ass!

My ride was hot and windy. Probably one of my toughest rides to date. I was exhausted and couldn't wait to be done. As I neared the end of my ride, I headed towards the exit of the Arlington Race Track. A car with its right turn signal on approached me and thinking he was actually going to turn right, I rode ahead. But he decided to go straight and I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting his car. My biggest fear came true, I couldn't get my foot out of the clip fast enough and I began to fall towards the ground. My left foot (the broken one) wrenched out of the clip at the last minute and I landed on that foot, avoiding a fall. I felt my hip tug as I righted myself and I gave the driver a dirty look and saw that his license plate was from out of state. Tourist! Actually, I had some stronger words for him, but kept them inside where he couldn't hear it...

31 miles done, 2:05, and I made it home safely. I cracked open a beer, my reward for going out of my comfort zone and pushing my limits. Plus I was just so darned hot and miserable.

Thankful once again for my drive and perseverance, courtesy of running. With a little help from my teenage son. Who knew?


  1. Yay! Good for you for taking the plunge! I am totally getting clips installed - after my next two tri's in June. :)

  2. Ooo, ow, landing on that broken foot, no fun! Good for your son, though, for getting you started with the clips. I think they would freak me out at first, too!

    1. Yeah, shhh! I'm going to see the orthopedic surgeon today, so we'll just keep that landing between us! LOL!