Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Different Kind of Cycling

I don't love cycling.  Sometimes I hate it.  I have always loved running, and learned to love swimming (thank you AA Masters and Coach Don!), but I haven't yet gotten there with cycling.  When I was training for my Ironman last year, I remember thinking that my "perfect" training week would be 3 swims, 3 runs, and cycling only for commuting and leisure.  No training rides.  I still feel that way.  Road rides for speed are pretty much all work for me, and no fun.  Maybe it's because I'm not "good" at it compared to the people I tend to ride with, but I don't really think that's it.

So I bought a bike.

A steel bike.  A heavier bike than the one I was riding.  Technically, a "cyclocross bike", but most people, including me, buy it to use for "light touring".

The very first day I bought it, I took it camping.  I rode with a group (on mostly dirt roads) about 30 miles to the campsite, with all my gear on the back.  We camped overnight, and then packed up and rode home in the morning.  It was awesome.  The bike came with 700cx 28mm randonneur tires, which were a bit narrow and lightly treaded for all the dirt roads, but definitely way better than my road bike.  I ordered some 32mm knobbier ones for the future.  With all the weight I had loaded on the back end, and the narrow tires (pumped too high too!), and the dirt roads, I definitely had my some skidding issues and had to be cautious with turns.

I had a really good time and definitely want to do it again.  With the dirt roads, hills, and all the weight on the back my speed wasn't very high, but it was definitely a lot of work.  I was sore for a few days after.  I think that doing this type of riding will still translate to speed on the bike at triathlons.  I'll be used to carrying more weight and fighting more resistance, so riding my lighter bike at a race should feel easier, and my legs should eventually get stronger.

Since getting my new bike I've also started commuting to work a lot more.  The steel frame absorbs the road vibrations a lot better than my still aluminum road bike, and makes traveling on Michigan potholed roads and sidewalks a lot more enjoyable.  It's only 4-6 miles to get there (depending which way I go), so ~10 miles round trip 3-5 days a week really adds up my biking mileage.  I usually have a hard time getting bike mileage in since I don't really enjoy it, so I'm hoping these little stints will improve my cycling fitness gradually.  Some of the rides are quite leisurely, but pretty much any hill involves work.  I'm trying to get Justin to get a bike so we can do some leisure rides together.  Until then, I let him ride my new bike (it has flat pedals on one side, so he doesn't need cleated shoes), while I ride my road bike, and we can go on mini-adventures together.  So far, one picnic is in the bag.  Hopefully, many more to follow.

 I also road my new bike to a Memorial Day picnic on Monday.  Complete with 6 cans of hard cider, marshmallows, graham crackers, and a bottle of relish on the rack in the back.  :)  I like cycling way better this way.  I see much more touring, commuting, and camping in my future, and much less pace line and speed-oriented road cycling with those people in the snazzy cycling outfits and all the gadgets.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Flip Turn Frustrations

I got super freaking pissed at swim practice this morning.

You may recall that after the swim meet two weeks ago, one of my goals for the year was to switch to primarily flip turns at practices (and hence also at meets) instead of my current practice of open turns.

I didn't really think this would be a very difficult goal to achieve since I currently CAN flip turn, I just choose not to.  I just had to get in the habit and get used to it.  I opted for open turns because I tended to get winded staying under for so long on a flip, and also sometimes would end up with water in my goggles.  But any time I wanted to do one (at a moderate pace at least) I could.

So Thursday at masters swim I figured I'd just take my swim pace a little easier than usual and just start doing flip turns at every turn.  No big.  Except it was.  Suddenly I couldn't do it anymore.  Suddenly every flip ended up like the one at the meet where I got all cockeyed and disoriented.  I have no idea what happened.  I literally couldn't do a single one.  I don't know if it's some kind of psychological trauma or what.  So anyway, I solicited Coach Don's help at the end of Thursday morning's practice, and he had me do some drills and practice turns and finally, after what felt like a thousand failed attempts, I managed one good turn.  (Which should not be that big of a deal because I've done a bunch before with no issue whatsoever!)  It actually felt really great.  Smooth and effortless.  A little taste of what might be possible in the future.

So in my head, between Thursday and today, I'm kind of fantasizing about swimming.  I have this smooth, powerful, effortless stroke and can do these beautiful, efficient flip turns without batting an eye.  (In my head....this is NOT real life).  I'm getting excited for Saturday (today's) practice when I can implement my new found swimming prowess.  I start swimming this morning and my core connection and body position and stroke were feeling great, so I was pumped about the improvements there, but when I went in for the flip: FAIL.  No big deal, try try again.  FAIL.  FAIL.  FAIL.  FAIL.  And every time I fail I lose time and get behind the people in my lane and either have to bust ass to catch up, or sit out a lap and hop on the next one.

I was getting REALLY frustrated.  (understatement.)  I really wanted to get it though so I kept trying for a little too long, and it was ruining my mood and ruining an otherwise perfectly good swim.  So finally I stopped.  It was such a relief.  To just swim and not think about the turns.  The ease and power of getting a good square push-off the wall with my legs on the open turns.  The lack of stress and effort to keep up in the lane.  *sigh*   But I want that, with the flip turn.  I need to practice, but practicing bad turns with zero success was just drilling bad habits into my brain and muscle memory, or at least that was my impression.  I think I'll take a few days or a week off of trying to flip, let my body and brain forget whatever bad juju it picked up, and then try again.

On the bright side, our masters team moves to a 50 m outdoor pool in about a month, instead of our current 25 yd indoor pool, so that will be 50% less turning!  Yay!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ironman Recap Part 3, The BIKE

Well, today is the one year anniversary of my Ironman, which mostly just reminded me that I never got around to recapping it.  Which is relatively unfortunate because I'm sure I have lost some memories by now.  But, better late than never, I hope? 

(Important note: there are several great videos in this post - if they are not showing up in your feed reader or email, you may want to go to my blog directly to read this post to see the videos:  )

Also, make sure to read part 1 and part 2 first if you missed them! 

After the chilly but otherwise uneventful swim (ok, there was that wipeout at the end), I had my first experience with wetsuit strippers, and then jogged through transition to my bike gear bag.  I saw Justin and my dad cheering for me on the way.  :) 
Because of the cold temperatures, I opted to wear my swimsuit under my wetsuit and do a complete change of clothes, rather than wearing my tri kit wet throughout the day.  
T1: Swim-to-bike00:16:59
I had put warmers in my shoes prior to the start of the race because I knew it would be freezing.  I also bundled  up pretty hardcore.  When you get cold on the bike there's no coming back from it, at least for my feet, so I figured it would be easier to strip clothes off than add them on! Shoe covers and everything! 

("I'm Overdressed!")

My plan for the bike was basically the same as my plan for the rest of the race, which was: Go by feel.  Ignore my watch.  Consume some calories every five miles.  Hope and pray that my achilles doesn't act up.  It started out fine, the bike course was perfectly flat, and the roads were in great condition, and after the first couple of miles it actually started getting warm enough to take off all my layers.  Unfortunately, by about my five my bad achilles was already starting to hurt.  I had anticipated that and packed rolls of tape (pre-cut and rolled onto straws for easy application) for both the bike and the run.  I pulled over on the side of the road, took off my left shoe and sock and applied my tape.  It helped immensely, but unfortunately wouldn't stay on very well.  I had to stop once more to put a piece of a sock over it (like a sleeve), which helped keep the adhesive from slipping off.  I'm actually kind of grateful for my achilles injury because it kept me from going too hard on the bike, which I have done at pretty much every triathlon since then.  I just kept a steady effort the rest of the way.  I took a good long break at the aid station.  My feet had gotten cold again since it was starting to get windy, but I wasn't able to get my shoe covers back on in any kind of timely fashion.  I also tried to eat the bagel I had packed but it was dry and gross so I gave up on that.  I pretty much ate half of a protein bar every 5 miles (I think).  Plus gatorade and water.  There was definitely some structure to my consumption, based on miles, but I don't really remember what it was!  
Halfway point/aid station

(aid station)

Stretch & go! 

After about mile 50 or 60 on the bike the wind got insane.  It was the windiest weather I have ever biked in for sure.  At one time I literally thought I was going to get blown off the road or have the tires swept out from under me when it blew hard from the side.  I managed to stay upright the whole time though.  The headwinds were of course bad too, but at least they weren't scary, just depressing.  Working harder than I was before and barely struggling to hit 12 miles per hour.  Ugh.  I swear the last 20 miles never ended! 
(TyLady coming in finish)

(the House)

Official video.  Bike finish at 1:09.  Don't watch the finish yet! ;) 

I was definitely glad when the bike was over, just because it took such a damn long time, and I was sick of the wind.  Otherwise, I still felt fine.  And my achilles miraculously behaved the entire rest of the ride, after that initial tape job at mile 5.  I was pretty happy with my bike speed, considering I had made so many stops (clothing drop, tape job, tape adjustment, aid station, pee break) and the headwind, and an injury that could have been a deal breaker.  Actually, I would have been happy with my speed even without all those things!

My favorite part about the bike leg was that I don't really remember it being very crowded.  At some races, I struggle to stay out of people's draft zones, and up passing when I don't really want to, just because there are people everywhere.  At this race, possibly because it was rescheduled, or possibly because it's so long that you get spread out, I felt like I had space to breathe a lot of the time.  I wasn't constantly making decisions about whether to pass a person or not.  There were definitely some moments, but not the ENTIRE race, which I find mentally exhausting when it (frequently) happens).

BIKE DETAILS | Division Rank: 34
Split NameDistanceSplit TimeRace TimePaceDivision RankGender RankOverall Rank
Total112 mi06:49:5408:02:5116.39 mph34215946
Originally from:

 Now for the part I was REALLY nervous about.  The run.  I hadn't run more than 2-3 miles at a time (unless you count aquajogging....I did a lot of that!) since the first week of August (more than 2 months before the race) because of my achilles, and I had NO IDEA what kind of running shape I was in, or if my achilles would handle it.  Stay tuned.....
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