Ellen Nordberg, Author

Training the Boulder Way

Boulder Lifestyle

Boulder Lifestyle 7/13.

When I was single in California, I loved to ride my bike. I’d cruise along the beach, ride to meetings, or just wander. Then I had twins, we moved to Boulder County, and it took years to get back in shape. Finally, after watching hordes of spandex-clad riders whiz past my house, it was time to get back on my bike.

Riding loops around my neighborhood, I eventually made it to 35 miles. I was averaging thirteen miles an hour, but so what? I felt great! Now I needed buddies to ride with.

I learned quickly that nearly every Boulder resident is a former Olympian, a pro or a former pro, training to be a pro, a sponsored semi-pro, or a coach. Eventually I found a few other twin moms who would ride 25-30 miles.

We discovered a women-only charity ride, and did the fifty mile route the first year. The next year we signed up for the sixty seven mile route, and did more climbing. I made it up to Jamestown going just fast enough to prevent flopping over sideways.

I mastered drafting, which I thought was a super helpful skill until I caught up to an old friend who blew his nose, oblivious to my presence.

Undaunted, I had caught the Boulder training fever. I was still kind of slow, but who cared? How many more days a week could I ride? How much further could I go?

I signed up for a century and began endurance training, riding 80 miles – often by myself. Finally I found a partner amenable to doing the century.

“I’m slow,” I told her.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m slow too,” she replied with a wink.

I didn’t understand what she apparently already knew: in Boulder-speak “I’m slow,” means “I’m fast and I can kick your ass but we’re all sandbaggers here.”

She had no idea that for me, slow actually meant – well, slow.

The day of the ride came, and we set out. My friend chatted on about Ferriginous Hawks and clouds shaped like lions, but I heard little of it as I hyperventilated and approached a heart attack behind her. I feared she might ask me to reimburse her for the chiropractic treatment she was going to need, twisting her head 180 degrees around to locate me every few minutes.

At the turnoff for the climb to Jamestown, I urged her to go ahead. When I arrived after a long enough break for her to go to the bathroom, fill her water bottles, watch the Hula Hoop dancers, and cool her feet in the creek, she smiled at me.

“It might be easier if you used your granny gear more,” she said helpfully.

How to express the fact that I had been in the granny the entire climb, and was just grateful I didn’t end up having to walk?

When we finally crossed the finish line, she changed into a little skirt and happily wandered the festival tents and booths.

I went home and stuck my head under the backyard hose.

But within days I was thinking about my next goal. I could do a triathlon! Get a coach! Reduce my body fat! Increase my speed! There are so many things I could do to improve, so many additional goals I could set.

But then I started contemplating the days by the beach, those dolphins, and that Ferruginous Hawk I missed. The frenzy of goals and achievements could be endless.

So it occurs to me: maybe I’ll just go ride my bike.

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