What is wrong with my legs?? If you have been riding, running, and or competing for any length of time you have surely asked yourself that question. I know I have about a million times!

When I first started participating in triathlons (hard to believe it was nearly 22 years ago!) there was not the plethora of information and resources about training and nutrition that now proliferate the Internet. Truth be told there was barely an ‘Internet’ when I first started racing. Even with the enormous amount of information available today there may be times when you feel as I did about a year ago when I moved to the Atlanta, Georgia areas from Coastal Virginia. It was humbling to be sure.

Having just arrived in the area I didn’t know anyone to ride with. My now wife introduced me to one of her coworkers who is a triathlete and has numerous Ironman® events to her credit. We hit it off and decided to ride together one Sunday morning with a small group of her friends.

Before I continue I need to tell you a bit about my cycling experience. While I started out in triathlon, it is on the bike that I really found nirvana. It is why I chose Lake Placid as my first Ironman race. The idea of riding for 112 miles in the profile bars for 112 miles, as you do in IM Florida for example, did not appeal to me at all (and still doesn’t!) In addition to completing that race, I was fortunate to qualify for Team USA at the World Long Distance Duathlon Championship in 2012. For those of you who do not know Powerman Zofingen, the actual name of the race, is the world’s toughest duathlon. One climb, Bodenburg, is particularly grueling as you see in the image below; and you have to climb it three times.

Duathlon climbing ascent chart for Bodgenburg

So it was with a fair amount of pride that I arrived at her house that morning wearing my Team Ganja ‘Smokin the Competition®’ Cycling Jersey. I was ready to show these Atlantan’s how to ride hills. Boy did I have another thing coming!

Riding from her home early on an early November Sunday morning when there is almost no traffic (a rarity in this notoriously traffic congested city) I was able to keep pace with the group for the first five miles of gently rolling hills. It was when we turned off of the major thoroughfares that the situation quickly changed for me.

I was feeling strong and positive as we started the first real climb of the day. My heart rate began to skyrocket however and my lack of aerobic capacity readily became apparent as I watched the group pulling away from me. This was a shock since I was typically the rider at the front looking back to see who was dropped! No matter how hard I pushed I kept losing ground. After the third or fourth hill of the day, I was in a daze. How could this be??? What is wrong with my legs?

The rest of the ride was the same only the wait for me to join them at the top of the hill became longer for them. Returning home, I felt overall it was a good day. I needed to be brought down a few notches. Any time the ego becomes that elevated there will be a hard lesson. Analyzing my performance I decided I needed to work on three areas:

  1. Aerobic capacity
  2. Weight training for my glutes (that’s where all of the power comes from)
  3. Fueling (I had only taken water on the ride)

What lessons have learned from a ride that didn’t go as planned?

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