Back in the Saddle – IRONMAN Training on the Bike Trail

youtube-picture-smaller-versionToday’s Vlog came from an email from Geneisa who said:

I really like that you talk about your struggles, especially on the bike.  Nobody ever does.  I started biking late in life and if I hadn’t seen your blog before I started biking, I probably would have quit.  You helped me remember that struggling at first is a normal part of learning and not everyone is (excuse the reference) Lance Armstrong on their first day. I still get scared sometimes but I keep at it because I’m enjoying it, so thanks!

In her honor I offer this vlog –  I’ll talk about the nitty gritty stuff that I’ve experienced: anxiety, riding in traffic (or not,) wrecks I have known, and a little feature that discusses the things they don’t tell you about that I call “Tales from the Trail- Excuse me, but precisely WTF are you doing?”

Video not your thing?  No worries, there’s a full transcript below the video.


Welcome back to the blog about my Ironman journey. Today, as you may be able to tell from my outfit, we are going to talk all about me and my bike. And this is a relationship that has been pretty fraught.  Just to first go back in time and give you some background, I honestly can’t remember a time as a kid when I didn’t have a bike. I grew up in pretty rural places and often my friends houses were miles away and so we would ride bikes everywhere we ride bikes you know into the woods and into the mountains and I can remember going down hills with both hands off the handlebars with screaming speed.  And when I say down hills – I grew up a lot of the time in the Rocky Mountains so, like HILLS, and we would go flying down with no fear. You know, wreck the bike, scrape yourself up no problem get back on keep going.

I’m not sure what happened between when I stopped riding the bike as a kid and when I took it back up again for this IRONMAN journey a couple years later, but I became a little bit of a fraidy cat with the bike. I think a big part of the reason for this is that when I first started I wrecked my bike A LOT.  A Lot.  Way more than most people I think.

A part of this was due to the fact that the bike had to be fitted to work for my body, and in doing that I cannot even come close to reaching the ground when I’m sitting in the seat and the space between the seat and handlebars doesn’t really give me enough space to slide off the front of the seat like a lot of people do. So in order to stop the bike it’s really – to borrow from Eddie Izzard  – more like a maneuver, wherein I have to sort of stop the bike while leaning to one side, and push the bike back as I put my foot down.

And it took me a while to get the hang of it and so actually the very first time I rode my bike I wrecked it was in the the parking lot of The Unlikely Cyclist who had done the fitting and everything. I got on and I went to turn and I freaked out a little, hit the breaks and Slo Mo tipped over.



This is the result, the pedal got me on the way down.  First blood, but not the last blood, on the bike.

And that is what most of me wrecking my bike has been – slow mo tip over, and maybe get a little abrasion on my leg but no big deal get up and keep going.  But when I started I basically could not stop the bike without falling over, which was embarrassing and it hurt and it created kind of a lasting fear of stopping and so now I’ll finish my ride and I go to stop the bike and immediately I start to have anxiety and sometimes if my car’s parked in a parking lot I’m coasting off the trail and coasting into the parking lot and the whole time I’m like getting anxious and I wonder – is my coach looking at my heart rate when he looks at my workout and being like why is her heart rate spiking at the end of this workout. And it’s because I have to stop, it’s freaking me out – even though I haven’t wrecked the bike upon stopping for quite a while but still just like ingrained in me the fear of stopping and that at any time I could just topple over embarrassingly and again never really gotten injured but it’s not fun.

So, stopping is definitely not my friend. Oddly I also get really nervous when I start riding, and this is ridiculous that the riding for really long time and yet I still get nervous each time and what’s more odd is that nothing bad has ever happened to me when I started out on a ride. Like I’ve never tried to go and then fell. I’ve done dumb stuff like leave the bike in the hardest gear because I just did an interval training workout on my trainer, and then start uphill in the hardest gear on the bike and that was not smart but I didn’t fall or anything.  Once they were… I used to have an adjustable stem on my handlebars and  they made a mistake when it was being put back together and for some reason they didn’t quite get it locked in tight so when I started to ride my handlebars simply fell forward, and I still didn’t fall. It was scary but I didn’t fall and yet still every time I start the bike I have this little bit of anxiousness about it and it’s something that I just hope will go away with time because it does certainly get old.

In terms of actual wrecks, the worst one that I’ve had was actually toward the beginning when I was starting to cycle and I was on the trail. I was going up a hill and for some reason I just got a terrible cramp, and what I should’ve done was just hung out and let the bike sort of slow itself down. But that is not what I did.  What I did was try to extend my leg to stretch out the cramp and then I fell. And I fell  pretty hard and I sort of fell  uphill which isn’t an easy thing to do, so points there.


Ouch, I definitely still have a scar from this one. I also remember as I was sitting on the side of the road trying to will myself to stand back up these guys rode buy and his guy told me “oh actually there’s more space if you need to rest on the other side of the trail.”  His friend said “Idiot, can’t you see that she just crashed?” and he stopped to see if I was ok. But I was like “Yeah, thanks for the advice dude, I’ll definitely try to crash on the side with more space next time.” Anyway, second blood on the bike.

But really in terms of big wrecks, I never really was terribly injured in a wreck or anything. Mostly they’ve been just the slow mo tip over, and a couple where I went down and got a little road rash, no big deal. I think part of that is because I won’t ride on the road with traffic. It’s one of the things I decided when I started this journey – I don’t know anyone who trains on roads with traffic who has not been hit by a car and it’s just something that I’m not willing to risk for the IRONMAN, you know there are a lot of risks you take with your health trying to do something like this, you read about people getting terrible injuries in the forums. And I’ve been really lucky to get some sprained ankles and stuff but nothing you know life threatening, requiring hospitalization or surgery. A lot of people aren’t as lucky and I just am not willing to get hit by a car, and so the only trouble that I can really get in is selecting get myself in or like ridiculous things that happen on the trail and there are definitely plenty of those.


IronFat presents:  Tails from the Trail – Excuse me, but precisely what the fuck are you doing?

Things that happen regularly on the biking trail include people walking on the bike trail not paying any attention, which is extra frustrating because there’s a pedestrian trail literally 2 feet over. And it’s better for pedestrians. It also has feet painted on it rather than the bikes are painted on the bike trail, there are signs everywhere so I’m not sure exactly what happens, but it’s pretty common to come up on people who are walking on the bike trail not pay attention and perhaps when you say “excuse me” or whatever because they are taking up the entire bike trail, they’re not that keen to get out of the way. Which I don’t understand because, a 300 pound person coming at you on a bike?  I would move, but not everybody.

Interesting things that don’t happen a lot –  on the beach trails there are places where you could, if you really wanted to, get your vehicle from the parking lot onto the bike trail, and that has happened to me a few times and always they seem to be people who are pretty intoxicated. But that’s a really scary because I bike late at night a lot of the time so I’m biking, I’m focusing on something and all of a sudden I’m like “Wow, it seems really bright and it’s because headlights are coming up on me and there’s really nowhere for me to go except into the sand on either side.

So that is really terrifying and no fun at all. One of the funniest things that happened to me is that I came around a blind corner and a gentleman had decided that was the best place to put a folding chair and feed bread to pigeons. So I literally came around the corner and straight into an Alfred Hitchcock movie. There were pigeons everywhere! Nobody was happy about it, not me, not the pigeons, not the guy. Birds were FLYING at me.  I was flying at the birds, I don’t think any of us got hurt, I managed to stay upright and it was the strangest thing, before or since, I’ve never had anybody sit there and just feed pigeons right on the bike path.

So you never know what can happen and that’s part of what freaks me out.  So it’s probably best that I’m not on roads with cars since I seem to be able to get myself into enough trouble with just pigeons.


Well that’s all for this weeks tales from the IRONMAN trail! Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss one of these vlogs!

About danceswithfat

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Activist, Fat Person.
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2 Responses to Back in the Saddle – IRONMAN Training on the Bike Trail

  1. Denny says:

    Very good blog Ragen, for some reason the arrow still does not get the movie going when I click the mouse on it. But I’m glad you type them out as well.

    When I was riding my more my wife would get so annoyed at my “grease tattoos (for Ragen’s other readers that’s when your big chain ring will touch your leg and leave a gear shaped grease imprint on your skin they are very common infacf people get so proud of “proof of riding–they will get really tattoos in the shape of a gear. Well anyways I would come home from 35 mile on the road and be exhausted so I’d plow on the couch and turn on Pawn Stars and pass out. Well my grease tattoo would then run off my leg onto my wife’s couch. Would that ever make her cross. So in addition to all the pain of road rash, scrapes and scares…i would deal with my wife’s anger for days after as well!

    For a “low impact sport” cycling is dangerous!


  2. lsstrout says:

    Terrific stories! I had no idea the hazards pigeons and other people could pose.


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