For me, the beautiful weather that brought Spring to Kansas three weeks early meant three more weeks of training opportunities for BAK (or Biking Across Kansas for those “in the know”). That’s right, I temporarily hung-up my running shoes to clip into bike pedals and traverse across the entire state of Kansas. I was so excited to travel and see the hilly northern parts of the state from the seat of my bike with my mom by my side. Securing my aerodynamic helmet, clipping-in and locking my feet to the pedals, positioning myself on a small saddle while wearing padded compression bike shorts and gripping my handlebars through cushioned gloves – Umm, I have to admit; as a long-time runner, it seemed like I was wearing awkward armor as I mounted my two-wheeled horse to ride into battle. Still, one of many things I learned on my BAK journey is just how freeing a bike, you and the road can be. I always thought that feeling could only come from running. Here are a few other lessons Biking Across Kansas taught me about running and about myself:
#1: Running is the best cross training for any other athletic pursuit I undertake – period.
#2: On the flip side, biking is excellent cross training FOR running and you can go further, and faster and see more of the landscape from your bike. However, when I run, I feel like I’m really experiencing the place where I’m running – rather than speeding by or conquering a hill as I tend to do on a bike. There is one exception though… This year on the Monday of BAK we experienced what I’ll always remember as “Dirt Day Monday”. There were wind speeds of 45mph combined with chilly temperatures and a bit of sticky moisture. If that wasn’t bad enough, for approximately 5 miles of that unnatural weather, we were DOWNWIND as we rode past feedlots. The wind made the “dirt” from the feedlots blow and the moisture made it stick to you… everyone was pretty much covered in “dirt.” This time, I would have for sure chosen to ride rather than “really experiencing” the landscape as I ran. I’m pretty sure I got plenty of the “landscape” stuck to my face the way it was.
#3: Running is pretty much gear free – you don’t need “armor,” patch or repair kits, etc. (and you also don’t need chamois butter – if you don’t know what that stuff is – let’s just say all those that spend lots of time in the saddle will eventually learn about it).
#4: Even after arriving in tiny Kansas towns just to take a cold shower (because there wasn’t hot water) in an ancient high school locker-room where I dried off with a disposable towel each day after riding; I knew I was experiencing something amazing. (In case you’re wondering – disposable towels are NOT amazing). Each day on BAK I saw something unique, rode past a historical marker, learned that Kansas is NOT by any means flat or experienced something I would have missed had on not been there on my bike (and consequently also ate food I would have NEVER eaten under any other circumstances.) This has inspired me to seek out new places to run, to register for races in places I’ve never been and to seek out the unique experiences that make running exciting.
#5: I’ve always considered being a runner as part of my identity and who I am. Can I now say after several years of riding and training that I’m a cyclist? Hmmm… I‘m not sure, I’ll have to think about that. Either way, cycling is becoming a part of my runner self - chamois butter, armor, “dirt” and all that good stuff that goes along with it too I guess!
- - Little Runner on the Prairie