A typical story: a runner who switches to cycling after one too many injuries. But Glenna Lampner wasn’t a typical runner. And she is certainly not a typical cyclist.
“It’s a simple story. I ran marathons. I kept injuring myself.” At mile three of the NY marathon, Glenna completed a stress fracture in a metatarsal bone (a bone in her foot). She actually completed the break. What’s more baffling is that she completed that break at mile three. But she continued running for another 23.2 miles to complete the marathon.
Glenna brushes it off. “Other things hurt worse.” Those “things” included the plantar fasciitis that had plagued her among other issues.
The truth is that most of Glenna’s injuries came from inflexibility. Inflexibility and weaknesses that she never addressed – until the point of failure at which she would see one of the many specialists she got to know during her running years.
But that broken metatarsal bone was the last straw.
She went on to complete one more marathon after that.
Glenna attributes being able to complete that last marathon – despite a now misaligned metatarsal bone (it had healed while out of alignment) – to the strength training she began doing after the NY Marathon at her chiropractor’s suggestion. The chiropractor pointed out that Glenna lacked the tone most runners have in their legs. So she hit the gym.
But after that last marathon in Alaska, Glenna finally saw a podiatrist who asked her to take a good look at her foot – and herself – and made Glenna see that running was just not in her future. He told her, “You should just ride a bike.” Glenna’s response? She cried.
Glenna didn’t like bikes. She didn’t like the idea of bikes. She told the doctor, “I don’t like bikes. Bikes are so mechanical. I’m not mechanical.” Glenna confessed, “I know nothing of gear ratios. (I STILL know nothing of gear ratios.)” Her doctor countered, “Just try it.”
So Glenna did. She called a friend who owned a bike shop. Her friend hooked her up with a bike to fit Glenna’s petite frame. “I think it was a youth frame. It weighed more than two of my bikes now combined.” Her friend coddled her along. He taught her how to change a flat tire. And he told her, “It’s gonna be great.”
“I was pretty hooked.” She was so hooked, in fact, that she upgraded to a better bike immediately. Soon after, Glenna signed up for her first century. The America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, a Team In Training event, circumnavigates the highways clockwise around Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California. The event features breathtaking views with challenging climbs and short rolling ascents and descents. Many years, events and charity rides later, Glenna recalls that ride as a spectacular one.
“After I rode my first century, I decided, ‘I’m never going to run a marathon again.’” In retrospect, Glenna calls her marathon training “obsessive behavior. I never feel that on the bike.” She adds, “When I’m on the bike, it’s more contemplative.”
“You can ride a century and go out dancing afterwards. You don’t even have to train. You can ride a century.” Glenna concedes that the century in Tahoe – with an eight mile climb at altitude – does require training. She did train for that first century with Team In Training. But, she says, for many century rides, like those here in the Midwest, anyone who rides, ideally putting in 50 miles a week, can easily complete a century.
“A century is a party. It’s a party and they’re feeding you.”
Where she and her family lived in Maine for ten years, Glenna could ride up Cadillac Mountain. For those of us in Flatlandia, Cadillac Mountain is in Acadia National Park. At 1,532 feet, it is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and is the first place to view the sunrise in the U.S. October – March.
“People count how many times you’ve gone up & down the mountain. One year I rode it an insane amount of times. I kept track but I’ve since lost the paper.” The most Glenna ever rode Cadillac Mountain in one day was seven times. After Lance’s seventh Tour de France victory, a friend suggested riding Cadillac Mountain once for each victory. So they did.
Riding in Maine, it wasn’t about riding for speed. It was about getting on the bike and riding. And climbing. “I like going up. Let’s see if you can. Let’s see if we can get to the top. Let’s see.”
“Coming here, to the Midwest, there’s no mountain. Not even a hill.” Glenna says the flat terrain here makes us all too focused on speed. “Here on the flat terrain, it is all about going fast.” It’s not what she was used to. “We go up. It’s about getting to the up.” Glenna confessed, “When we first moved here, I found it exhausting. You have to pedal the whole time. You’re always pedaling with no break.”
But Glenna carried her seaboard training with her here. “I try not to obsess over speed.” In fact, she only rides with a Garmin after her husband gave one to her as a gift.
“I never used to ride with a heart rate monitor or computer. Normally I don’t want to know. I don’t exactly want to know my speed because then I’m going to obsess over the speed. Knowing my speed is torture.” She adds, “For me, it’s really just seeing how far I can go.”
“It’s gorgeous out. Let’s see how far I can go… How far I can go in a day, in the amount of time I’ve got. Some days, it’s a bit over 100. It’s therapeutic. I love it.” She adds, “If I could go all day, I would go all day. Ride all day. That’s what I like.”
In 2012, Glenna managed to log 11,366 miles. (That does not include the times when she forgot to start her Garmin, of course.) 1500 of those miles, including two Trek Tours vacations, were spent pedaling with her husband, Matt. “If you want to hang out with me in the summertime, you’ve gotta be on the bike. It’s a beautiful day out, just get on the bike.” The couple is amused to point out that, amazingly, during a drought, the majority of Matt’s 1500 miles were in the rain!
“Nothing ever hurts me on a bike. Nothing ever hurts.”
In addition to a proper bike fit (a custom Seven, built specifically for her petite frame and a full bike fit), Glenna attributes her pain-free riding to the training she does off the bike. She considers strength training integral to her cycling. While her cycling is for pleasure, “When I’m at the gym, I’m there for a purpose.” With her lack of flexibility – “I had the worst flexibility in world. I still do.” – Glenna knows that it was strength training that got her through her last marathon. Now, “All the training I do on myself is keeping me on the bike.”
Glenna used to have no interest in going to a gym. She admits that her idea of strength training was “Gold’s Gym in New York City. Steroidal men. Guys swearing at each other.” Now, a personal trainer herself, she’s incredulous to learn that endurance athletes can often be afraid of strength training. “Almost all the training is making me better for the bike. Nothing ever hurts me on the bike. I spend a lot of time in gym… It’s a big mistake to be afraid of strength training.”
In fact, Glenna’s advice to any cyclist, new to riding or not: “Do some strength training.” She emphasizes, “There are going to be places that aren’t toned. More importantly, cycling does nothing for bone density. AT ALL.” She adds, “Do weighted strength training. Do something. Focus on functional movement. I’m not going to tell you to do a leg press machine. That’s nuts. Do functional strength training. And load those bone ends.”
It took an injury. It required a shove from a doctor. It was aided by a friend in the industry who saw her through her initial introduction. But the woman who didn’t like bikes… the woman who didn’t even like the idea of bikes… the woman who cried when it was suggested she ride a bike… has come a long way. And many miles. On two wheels.
“I feel better on my bike. The bike is my joy.”
- Questions about how to get started with cycling? Please feel free to come in and chat with us.
- New to group riding? Check out our Group Ride Rules.
- Want to know how pacelines and drafting work? Read Paceline Rules.
- For a look at newbie mistakes and how to avoid them, check out Leveling Out the Learning Curve.
- How do you learn to love cycling? Check out Kevin Mulhall‘s story and the stories of other Higher Gear customers.