Today is May day, a holiday across Europe linked to ancient pagan festivals and modern-day labour rights. In lieu of Morris dancing (of which I had my fill while living in Britain), KT and I dressed NP up in a bright spring outfit this morning and went out for a walk and a pastry. This past weekend, the weather in Heidelberg finally decided that it would put away the wellies and shake out the summer clothes. The temperatures have now been consistently above twenty for four straight days, a fact which has given Heidelberg a distinctly festive atmosphere and allowed cyclists to cast away those knee-warmers.
Saturday therefore saw my first bike ride of the season in warm, sunny weather. My ride was a relatively long one (97 kilometers) down the river Neckar, through some hills, and then back around to Heidelberg. Needless to say, the scenery was beautiful, as can be seen above in the stock photo of Beerfelden, one of the towns we passed through on the ride (we came out of the town and up the road pictured). I went out on this ride with one of my coaches, which was good both because she throughout the ride reminded me when my upper-body form was flagging, and because it was nice to have company on a longer ride. To this point, I’ve mostly been a solo-rider, so I’m still learning certain points of group-riding etiquette, but I now feel comfortable handling my bike and am happy to ride even in a larger group.
The ride on Saturday was a relatively relaxed one, with lower heart-rate zones for most of the ride with a few pushes on the hills. At the outset of the second hill, we had a large group of 10-15 cyclists come by and briefly pass us. We slotted in behind them for a couple of kilometers, but when the incline proper began I set out past the group and up the hill for my push. I have to admit that it was incredibly satisfying to break a group apart like that, and a reminder to myself that I can be pretty competitive at times, even when the competition is all in my own head. I think that this quality in me is pretty tempered, largely at the forge of cynicism, but perhaps it’s not a bad thing to have in some quantity.
Unlike last weekend, when I did a ride of the same distance unintentionally (due to getting lost), I was well prepared this weekend with nutrition and water, which I have to say made the ride much more pleasant. This long ride also trumped the previous one because of its lack of hail and rain. When we set out at 8:00 in the morning, it was relatively cool, but as we came towards noon, the sun was strong and hot. Both I and my coach had foolishly forgotten sunscreen (in my case, this was a particularly egregious omission, as KT has been reminding me for weeks now that I needed to buy some sunscreen), which meant that my arms were a bit burnt by the time I got back (fortunately not too badly, but enough that I won’t forget the sunscreen again). The only other unpleasant aspect of the ride was that I got not one but two flat tires (!), both at the same time: there had been some construction on the road at the foot of a hill and some small rocks on the road must have pinched the tires. Fortunately I wasn’t riding alone, as I only had one spare tube with me, but as we had two between us and each changed one of the tires the delay wasn’t too long. Always an optimist, I’ll say that the positive thing about getting these flats was that it gave me some experience changing a flat in a non-race situation, and under the supervision of an experienced rider who provided good advice.
On Sunday, KT and I went to watch some of the Heidelberg half-marathon, which is a challenging course with two steep hills. I would have loved to run this, but I couldn’t get a start-number due to the fact that they sold out too quickly. But as much as I would have loved to be running the race, it was also fun to cheer others on whom I know from Katja Schumacher’s Triathlonakademie and to spend some time with friends (and meeting new people). The atmosphere surrounding the race was really great. KT nabbed a shot of some of the runners as they went past (about 7kms in):
As for my own race schedule, I’ve recently finalized the races I’m going to do in July. The first of these has introduced some changes to my training, as I’ve decided to do the bike section of the relay at the Challenge-Roth Ironman. Katja Schumacher enters a men’s and women’s team each year: I’ll have two team members, one doing the 3.8km swim and one doing to the marathon, while I’ll be doing the 180km bike. As this is a much longer ride than I’m otherwise doing in the Olympic-distance triathlons, I’m now doing a bit of hybrid training, including longer rides to get my legs ready. After Roth, I’ll then have a few weeks to recover before I do the Heidelbergman, a fun but challenging course with big hills on both the bike and the run. July, however, is all still very much in the future. For now, I’m preparing for my first Olympic-distance triathlon in Lindau on May 13. This is my last week of harder training leading up to this, with next week being lighter leading into the race. I can’t wait to get the triathlon season underway!