Thursday, July 7, 2011

Exercise Caution

Image: Idea go /

As I venture into Day 3 of Iron Man training, I'm realizing that more training days means more days of training alone. Running and swimming have never been a problem (despite my longing for a serenely secluded trail run) but biking solo puts me on edge.

I have successfully changed a flat and can fix a slipped chain, so it's not the technical challenges that give me pause, it's the potential for harassment or accidents that are worrisome.

Typically, my husband and I ride together twice a week, which has been sufficient training for the races we've been doing. However, the training plan I'm now following: Essential Week-By-Week Training Guide by Matt Fitzgerald of Triathlete Magazine, calls for up to four rides each week, a frequency which will require that I sometimes ride alone.
Triathlete Magazine's Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide: Plans, Scheduling Tips, and Workout Goals for Triathletes of All Levels

My preference is to ride on scenic, country roads with little traffic, which there are plenty of where I live. However, the isolation and non-existent shoulders on these roads make them a questionable choice.

On the other hand, the busier main roads offer a constant stream of passers-by and wide shoulders, but the sheer volume of traffic whizzing by at 60 mph makes me even more nervous than being alone.

In the four years since returning to triathlons, I consider myself lucky to have had only one flat tire (knock on asphalt) and a few scary encounters. Once, while riding along a secondary road, my husband and I had handfuls of change thrown at us. Another time, on the same road, an aggressive driver literally tried to run us off the road. While on smaller, country roads, we have twice been chased by big, vicious, snarling dogs. Yet, while on a main road designated as a "bike route" we've had many speeding motorist fail to observe our rights to share the road or obey the law that requires a 3-foot berth when passing and nearly clip us with their side view mirrors, not to mention the unwelcome cat-calls and horn-honking that always startle me half to death.

A friend of mine was riding his bike in West Virginia when a car full of teenagers approached from behind and then opened their passenger door while passing, knocking my friend off his bike. Luckily, he was unharmed save for some minor scratches and a bruised ego.

Another local friend was not as lucky. While riding his bike on one of our main, oft-traveled roads with a generous shoulder, he suddenly "went down." The last thing he remembers before waking up in an ambulance was beginning a gradual climb about 10 miles from home. Fortunately, he was wearing his Road ID and a passing motorist who found him was able to contact my friend's wife after calling 911. My friend was left with a concussion and possibly a separated shoulder, along with no memory of his accident and no witnesses.

So, as I set out for solo rides, or any rides for that matter, I always make sure someone knows where I'm going and that I have the following items: Road ID, fully-charged cell phone, list of emergency contact numbers, spare tubes and CO2 cartridges, and extra water. So, please, bike safely out there, exercise caution and be well.

Runners ID, Cycling ID, Medical ID Tags

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