Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This is a Recovery Ride?

With my A-list event only a few weeks away, I have no time to dwell on the issues I had at the Holliston Triathlon. The plan is to try and log 150 miles weekly between now and August. With the number of rainy days we've had, this might be the toughest task of all.

The rides will now include adding more strength work like weekly hill repeats and working in harder gears. Yesterday's 17+ mile recovery ride on my favorite bike path was a hard gear workout. Basically, instead of maintaining an 85-90 rpm in a lower gear, I went with a high gear and pushed through at about 65 rpm. This obviously pushed my speed up from 15-17mph to the 17-19mph range. It worked out well except for the occasional clueless pedestrians on the path that think nothing of walking in front a cyclist.

Would you walk in front of a vehicle 10 feet away from you traveling at 15mph? I know I wouldn't because there's not enough time to stop. So why do it in front of a bike that is going just as fast but has even worse brakes?

Then there are the casual cyclists that refuse to ride single file when you want to pass. Why even have a rear view mirror if you're just going look at what's about to hit you? I have less patience for these people on these shoulder-less New England routes than anyone else. They are one of the reasons that drivers hate us.

The first encounter with two-wide cyclists on the bike path yesterday, I was actually doing a shoulder check to try and pass them when I heard a bicycle bell. This guy was really hustling. I moved back to the right to let him pass and then watched as he had to slow down for the same cyclists. This is when I decided to jump on his wheel.

Yeah, I know I said it was a recovery ride. Yeah, I know jumping on someone's wheel isn't usually part of a recovery ride, but come on, now. After the previous day's triathlon debacle, I had to see just what I had in the tank.

Turns out, I had more than I had imagined. Of course he eventually dropped me but not before I had hung on for more than 5 minutes. I started to lose him when I couldn't hold my form at 20+ mph and so I eased up and went back to work. I watched as he looked back twice to make sure I wasn't gaining on him again.

The rest of the ride was spent being hot and sticky. It wouldn't have warranted a post at all except for that hill climb at about mile 13.

On the way back, the hill was hurting two young cyclists. Probably in high school, they looked like they were on a "bicycle date" - very cute - but they were in trouble. This is one of the hills that I had said very few people had to stop and walk it but there they were and they were completely blocking the path which meant they were blocking my ascent. It meant that if I couldn't pass, I'd get stuck on the hill and would have to dismount and walk my bike up the to the top as well.

The boy was on the left and the girl was on the right. That made him the one that was blocking my attempt to make a proper pass on their left. Unfortunately, he was also the only one that really noticed me. The girl was having serious issues.

I slowed as much as I could and then asked, "Can I pass through, please?" He moved his bike further to the left, leaving her on the right side, but she decided to move closer to him. That created a path on their right which I attempted to take.

He saw the path as well, looked at me and said, "Go ahead."

The only trouble was that she didn't realize I was passing. It was a coincidence that she had moved to his side and, as I rode past her, she decided it was time to try and climb the hill again. Perhaps she thought he was talking to her when he said, "Go ahead," and that is what prompted her to mash on her pedal.

Now, anyone who's been on a bike for longer than 10 miles eventually figures out that the harder it is to get the bike moving - like when you're in a high gear or on a hill - the harder it is to move it in a straight line. That's why as she started to try and pedal up the hill, she instead turned right into me.

I said, "Watch out!" He said, "Watch out!" and she said, "OH, MY GOD! I AM SO SORRY!"

Our wheels touched and her weight was piling into me. Before our forks could clash, I swerved off the path and onto the grass/shale/what-is-that-I-have-no-clue-just-avoid-it and all the while hearing, "I am so sorry! I am so sorry!" to which I kept replying, "It's all right! I'm all right!" even before I was sure I was all right.

Somehow, I managed to not only stay upright, but I also managed to ride my bike back onto the path without further incident.

I yelled back to them, asking if they were alright, but all I could still hear was, "I AM SO SORRY!" so I let it go and rode on. I felt bad that I had scared her on their "date" and I hoped I hadn't scared her off the bike forever.

A little while down the path, I tried to see if there was any damage to the bike. I saw nothing on the frame and the wheel stayed true. Then I checked for body damage. She had definitely gotten my hip and ribs with her handle bar and somehow had connected to my shoulder, but I've had worse encounters with gym equipment.

The funny thing is that earlier in the ride, I was thinking about a blog post that cyclist/writer Janeen McCrae had posted about her recent racing clinic.

The clinician was dispelling misconceptions about racing, one of which was, "Bike racing is non-contact sport." The clinic then went through exercises that included practicing "wheel touch recovery," and practicing contact while on the bike.

I figured I would never be up for such challenges which is why, "Trial By Fire" exists, I guess.
Monday, June 27, 2011

Pretty Ugly

Holliston Triathlon Race Report

Let's start where it ended - with a disqualification.

That would be on the swim. I did not panic. I did not get hit. Even with the wetsuit on, I wasn't cold. I think I was simply freaked out at how slow I was going and gave up not 50 yards into it. Now I'm getting to the point where I think I need a shrink. I know I can swim 1/4 mile because I can swim non-stop in a pool for 40 minutes. More experience with lake swimming is all that's needed now because the swim would have been fine if I could have just kept my head in the game.

On the bright side, the race director asked me if I wanted to get on course and just do the bike and run for times. I didn't really want to do the run but I wanted to ride the bike course and so I said, "Yes."

I think Rachelle Berry over at Donut Daze said it best last week when she said there is no such thing as a flat course in New England. Anyone from the Midwest knows what a flat course is supposed to be. New Englanders built roads from paths that were probably established in the 1800's and trust me, these are NOT flat. If you were to look at the course profile, you'd see a nondescript, rather "lumpy" course with no distinct climbs - usually termed flat or rolling. What happens in real life is what I call the double and triple driveway effect. You climb a hill that always seems to be turning, you're still climbing, you think you're fini -no, not yet... NOW. Then you turn another corner and repeat. These climbs are too short to categorize and too steep to ignore. I didn't have to walk any of them but I sure felt them. I had some fun on the descents though. I love bombing down hills and I hit a cute 35mph on my bike computer before I had to slow down for a turn. That was my fun for the day.

I am just getting started on hill repeats in my training so the course was not a good  fit for me and my time of 42:46 reflected that. It was pretty interesting to watch as I had pretty much been given a 10 minute head start on most of the crowd that they were still passing me on the bike. Amazingly enough, I didn't even finish last on the bike... close but no DFL on the bike. Those three guys must have crashed or had flat tires or something.

Did I mention this was a fast crowd? This is one of those races that has a lot of club representation and they race against each other all season. Most were definitely "in it to win it," and with only 127 entrants, even before the swim I was in way over my head, especially when it came to my infamous shuffle/jog. They were very nice though - patting me on the back with words of encouragement as they trotted past me. Everyone cheers on the underdog as long as that dawg don't beat 'em.

While I had every intention of training for the run, the "life" thing pushed my training down to one session where I ran for half a mile, got tired, stopped, ran/walked the rest of the mile and then walked home. Take that, Brian MacKenzie.

In the end it wouldn't have mattered. As usual, my run/walk, at 44:13, was longer than my 10 mile bike ride but I don't think training would have made one bit of difference in the standings as the first person that didn't break a 30 minute 5K (with a 32:32 mark) finished the run 122nd overall. Even when I've trained seriously for running, I've only recorded 2 "unofficial" 5Ks under 40 minutes. Sometimes, you just gotta wave the white flag.

I know getting lighter and leaner would have improved my times but I seriously doubt it would have done much to affect my standings.

I have to give a shout-out here to a racer who came back out on course after she had finished her race to run with me so I didn't have to be out there alone for a little over the last half-mile. That's more than my so-called friends that are athletically inclined have done for me in the past 6 years since I started this odyssey. She told me her first name is "Tracy" and the only racer in the group named Tracy is Tracy Capone. Props to you girl. May karma bless you big time.

Today, I got in a 17 mile pseudo recovery ride... except for that near-crash thing... but that's another pretty ugly adventure.
Thursday, June 23, 2011

Did I Really Just Do That?

After being stuck at home on the nicest two days of the week watching the watch dog who was watching the guys installing my new door (yes, it took two days to install and paint a new door and they haven't even put on the door knocker yet) I conned my vacationing husband into riding with me to the local beach.

You see, I have not done one single lake swim in my wetsuit yet.

Prior to this week, all of the "good" days were spent riding - training for my 'A' list ride - and the not-so-good days were spent either spinning or in the pool at my clubhouse. The clubhouse pool is outdoors and has been cold (really cold) so I figured it was good enough to get used to swimming outside in cold water without actually having to trek to the beach. Indeed, there were days when I was the only one in the water. The pool siders that watch me, knowing what I'm doing and why, often simply offer words of encouragement.

Plus, I kept thinking about how ridiculous I would look at the beach in a wetsuit and just wouldn't deal with it until now. Now, besides safety concerns, I understand the value of swimming with others.

I talked my husband into accompanying me saying he didn't even have to sit at the beach, he could just sit in the car listening to the radio while I did my thing. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a team player that knows he just has to ride the bench. At least I had someone looking out for my gear and wallet.

On the way to the beach at Lake Pearl it started raining. That wasn't what I was hoping for but I figured as long as there was no thunder, I was still good to go. Upon arriving at the first beach, there was a "Road Closed" sign and a police office there to make sure only locals were entering - not a good omen. At the second beach, the gate was locked and the usual, "this beach is only open when lifeguards are on duty" sign was keeping us out. Evidently, lifeguards don't like working in the rain.

So much for my cold water, lake swimming ambitions.

Now what?

The pool at my clubhouse uses a chlorine cleaning system - not good for wetsuits. The pool at my gym uses a salt water system but the temperature is always at least 80 degrees - not great for working out or jumping in with a wetsuit. I was down to one last desperation option to get an idea of how my suit feels when wet and I took it.

My husband asked, "You're not really going to do that, are you?"

"I don't see where I have much of a choice any more."

I got home, got into my tri suit, squeezed into my wetsuit and jumped in the shower.

I loosened the collar and allowed the water to get into the suit. Just as advertised, I could feel the suit starting to relax. Making circles with my arms and then using a freestyle stroke, I suddenly felt comfortable that I would, indeed, be able to swim in a wetsuit. Is it going to be a great swim? Heck no, but I'm sure I can get through it.

Standing in the tub, the last test was getting out of the suit. Well, it's going to take some practice to get it done quickly but, seeing as how I managed to get out of it without killing myself while standing in a porcelain tub, as long as I don't have to hurdle any 3-foot barriers on my way to T1, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to manage removing it while standing in sand or on concrete or whatever.

Now if only my prescription goggles would get here before Sunday, I'd feel so much better.
Monday, June 20, 2011

Trying to Fit In

As I sat here over the weekend, I decided that I should try on my wetsuit for the upcoming triathlon in Holliston.

Some people know that I battled a nagging hip injury for two years. I pulled a muscle which, since it's the part that crosses the joint, only hurt when I walked, ran, cycled, jumped on an elliptical or sat on my butt. It came down to a strict build/recover system that, while I would consider pretty successful on the recovery side, also came with a downside of gaining close to 45 pounds and while I've lost 15 of that gain this year, I still have a ways to go.

The other problem I have with weight gain began when I started training for triathlons. This always seems to make me gain weight instead of losing it because I wound up starting as a beginning runner which meant my one-hour 600 calorie spin classes and kickboxing classes were replaced with 20 minute run/walks. Combine that with a slowing middle-aged metabolism and I was expanding at what felt like an exponential rate with no real plan to stop it.

The worst of it wasn't gaining the weight. The worst is that I honestly put in the time and effort and I still suck at running. Granted, I suck less than I used to but you still can't call me a runner.

Now that I've pretty much given up the running and just stay on the bike, the weight is coming off rather steadily which is a positive sign for me as I need to get as close to my "race weight" as possible by the Hotter 'n Hell 100 to negate any over-heating issues due to carrying excess fat.

Having said that, I also have to say that I like using triathlons as a fitness test for swimming and cycling. I thought that if things went well this Summer, I might consider entering an Aquabike event in 2012 (that's usually a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride). That, along with freezing and bailing on a swim during my only triathlon last year were the main reasons I finally caved and bought a wetsuit last season.

Which brings me back to the wetsuit.

Now, I didn't lie about my weight when I ordered it but I knew I'd be on the heavy end of the fit. This has been a great motivator for me all winter because if I even thought about over-eating, I had that wetsuit number in the back of my mind. In fact, I would encourage everyone who owns a wetsuit to try it on once a month around Thanksgiving and Christmas and see if it brings down your cookie-stealing quota.

Knowing that I have to jump into a lake at least a couple of times this week just to get used to the suit, I decided to watch the video.

Yeah, I don't look anything like her. I just thought I'd use the video with the female model so maybe my husband would start reading my blog.

Standing in the living room of my apartment with my tri top and shorts on, I went through the entire process. If there was going to be an epic fail, it was going to be in the privacy of my own home and not on the beach where people are looking at me sideways for putting on a wetsuit in the first place. I have to admit that even though it was only the second time I'd tried it on, the suit behaved itself.

Two things I noticed. The first is that I needed a LOT more Body Glide going in many more places than just my calves and forearms. I should just slick up any exposed skin. The second thing was that while taking off the suit, I realized I had pieces of the plastic bag stuck to my arms and legs. That would surely slow me down in T1. They didn't mention pieces of the bag getting stuck to your skin in the video but then I realized that she didn't take it off either. I guess I'll be going with the baby powder option instead.

It also mentions on the XTERRA website that the suit will expand a half size after swimming in it. They ask that you swim in it before judging the fit. The whole idea sounds a little scary to me. I kept thinking that, as tight as this thing is, if it expanded inward even a little bit, it could cause problems like a B horror movie.

I guess I'll find out soon enough if the expansion is as horrific as my over-active imagination is telling me.

Pass the popcorn... hold the butter.
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Multiple Sport Musings

My apologies to the Bruins for never mentioning that I was cheering for them until now.

Why didn't I ever mention this? Because I didn't want to jinx them.

Not that I'm superstitious except on Thursdays after the waning moon, Tuesdays after the waxing moon, during inauspicious hours as projected on my natal chart and when I turn up the Page of Swords on a Tarot card reading.

Other than that, I don't think much about luck. It's all about skill.


Even knowing this though, it doesn't stop me from flossing somewhere around the 8th or 9th inning of a Red Sox game when Big Papi comes to bat.

I did actually draw the line on luck one day. My husband decided one day that whenever we were watching the Celtics, they would lose, so in order for them to win again, we had to stop watching them.

Now, we had just splurged on a new TV and I put my foot down and said that we paid too much money to NOT watch what we wanted to watch and the Celtics get paid too much money for our attention to be having an adverse effect on them. I was no longer going to take responsibility for a Celtics' loss when professional players with multi-million dollar salaries should be doing that.

I find it fascinating the way we attach songs to our sports as well.

Back in the day (like in the early 80's when Freddie Mercury was still alive), and the Celtics won a championship, a DJ at Boston's popular radio station WBCN played Queen's "We Will Rock You/We are the Champions" continuously for an hour. I think it had a lasting effect on me.

For example, as my nieces and nephews came into the world, their "Nana" would teach them "Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker's man..." and as the kids continued to clap, I would add a "we will, we will rock you!" at the end of the mix. Even grandma caught on.

Go on. Try playing Patty-cake over Freddie's verses and see if it works.

As it stands now, I'm back to wishing the NFL lockout would end. I always look forward to the Hall of Fame game because, just like Christmas follows Thanksgiving, the Hall of Fame game let's me know the pre-season is just around around the corner. I even caught myself absent-mindedly singing the intro music to Monday Football while feeding my birds this morning.

Sure, I'll watch the Tour de France and the rest of the baseball season, but in all honesty, I'm ready for some football.

I'm really not ready for my next triathlon which is a week from this Sunday. The only song I can think of that coincides with that is by Maroon 5.

I can really relate to the lyrics in the chorus that say:
"...and like a little girl cries in the face of a monster that
    lives in her dreams, you say,
'Is there anyone out there 'cause it's getting harder and Harder to Breathe.'"

Yep. This little girl has an open water swimming monster hiding under her bed already.
Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taste Test

We finally had a day over 90 degrees here yesterday (sorry about that, Pedal Pushers!) and I went over to the bike path to see how awful the first 10 minutes of the Hotter 'n Hell 100 would be.

I figure it will be closer to 100 degrees than 90 by the time I get to mile 10 during the race so this was really just a litmus test of things to come.

Since I've finally logged over 350 base miles this year, I started working on staying longer in harder gears to build up strength. Mindful that I'm not used to riding in the heat, I kept my heart rate under 75% max and would cruise along anywhere from 15 - 19 mph. I rode for a total of 34 miles and yeah, I was hot.

I was a little annoyed when I hit a bump in the road and had no idea that I lost my taillight. I had heard something clanging on the road so I stopped and checked my bag to see if my phone had fallen out. It would be a couple more miles before that dim light in my mind would brighten a bit and I would realize what had happened. Last I heard, rear reflectors are a legal requirement on all bikes in Massachusetts so I have to stop at the hardware store to pick one up.

I find it very annoying that in 90-degree weather, it would be a frost heave that would trip me up.

I am also getting the strangest tan lines from these rides. Even after lathering on sun protection with SPF 70, I'm still getting the classic farmer's tan. I have been getting out in the Noon sun just because that's when it's hottest and that is something I will have to contend with at the Hotter 'n Hell so I guess I'll be looking into sun sleeves next.

Nutrition-wise, I had a peanut butter AND jelly sandwich before I headed out for the path, used water for the first 8 miles, a Honey Stinger waffle and Mojo bar (aka "lunch") back at the car. The second time out, I went with a Nuun tablet in my water bottle and had an Apple/Cinnamon-flavored Carb-Boom gel at the turnaround. I usually pick up these gels and what-not on my way to the bike path so I try things I normally wouldn't look at twice.

Now, I don't know if these things are working but I have to say that last gel, after riding in my back pocket for 30 minutes tasted just like apple pie filling. It was tasty.

100 Miles of Nowhere Post-ride Note: After I came home with my arm covered in Sharpie hash marks, my husband came home the next day with a new battery for my bike computer.
Saturday, June 4, 2011

100 Miles of Nowhere Report

This morning was the 4th Annual Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere to raise money for the LiveStrong Organization and it's the first year I've been able to participate. I was sure I wouldn't ride all 100 miles as it's just too early in my training but I still wanted to do something to contribute to the cause.

Since I don't have an indoor trainer, I had to take my efforts outdoors. The first thing to consider is of course, the availability of a restroom. This is imperative to avoid any UCI (Urinary Cycling Infection) issues. I figured the office park where my gym is located would probably be ideal. I was also pretty sure I could get a podium spot in the Women 50-55 Office Park in Mansfield, MA, on Saturday Morning Division.

The route is pretty self-explanatory and it's really no different from the satellite view as it is from the street view.
I had a couple more things to address. One was that I STILL didn't get a new battery for my bike computer so I had to count the laps I would need to do to get the job done.

Trying to determine the number of laps I would need to do, I did some quick math in my head at which time I realized that I'm 50 years old and can no longer do quick math in my head. I brought up the MS calculator, plugged in the numbers, and it came out to about 45 laps.

How to count the laps was the next obstacle because I'm pretty sure I would lose count after about number 3. After toying with the idea of using pennies, I came up with a better method...
Actor's portrayal of author's Sharpie

As the laps would wear on, I would wish it was retractable.

Getting started was a bit of a challenge. As usual, I showed my husband where I would be riding (in case he needed to send out a search party) and, since I was getting an early start, told him not to wait up for me.

I found a space in the parking lot, loaded up with GU and gunk or whatever - the cool stuff that came in my swag bag was consumed within a day or two of delivery (except for the Bike Monkey mag, Banjo Brother's bag, and the Twin Six t-shirt - not sure if I accidentally ate the Leverage voucher) and put my plate on the bike. I decided to put it on the front instead of the back so drivers coming up from behind wouldn't clip me trying to read it.
The seat is pink, the tires are red.
I'm (way) Off!
The first time onto the course, the bike felt sluggish. Wait - did I remember to check my air pressure? Ummm... no. Plus, there was a headwind messing with the brim of my cap. Wait - did I forget to put on my helmet? Ummm... yes. Back to the car to work out the issues.

A morning without coffee is like a morning without coffee.

Take Two
After about two laps, I realized that I needed to shorten the ride to about 2 miles to avoid a stop light that did not change for cyclists or, out of frustration, I was going to be riding in the 100 Miles of Oh, Just Pack It In.

After seeing the same squirrel about 5 times in a row, I decided that I really needed to pinpoint a new mileage goal. It was odd how I started feeling guilty that I wasn't going to hit 100 miles but my total base miles for the year only added up to 248 so common sense (common sense is another strange phenomena that happened to me at 50) told me to play it safe. A metric century (62 miles) seemed the logical choice - longer than the 50 that I had done earlier in the week and a viable alternative on any event-type ride.

What about those extra miles? Well, it occurred to me that there are actually two charities that people are riding for today - LiveStrong and World Bicycle Relief. Since Team Radioshack's director, Johan Bruyneel, is such a great guy to join in the efforts today on behalf of WBR (his favorite cause), I decided that for every mile I didn't ride, I would donate a dollar to WBR. Ahhh... that felt better.

After that, it was a matter of crossing railroad tracks three times for every lap. I was so tired at the end that I didn't even bother standing up. My butt was so numb that it failed to notice.

I had to make an unexpected stop at mile 54. I realized that my right foot was asleep. It was cramping and bonking (there's a rap in there somewhere) that I was waiting for, so imagine my surprise when I noticed that my foot had no feeling in it.

Hanging out in a parking lot, straddled across the bike with one shoe off, I worked some stretching exercises in until the feeling came back. Then I just pushed off to the end.

Finally, VICTORY!

 My laps completed, I headed home to claim my trophy and make my donation.
How does your trophy garden grow?

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank the local road kill for reminding me to stay safe today - especially that nasty headless bullfrog at the turnaround (photo omitted). You made a difference.