Go ahead and challenge me on this, but it is likely that after reading this post, you will agree that I am actually the cheapest triathlete ever.
Let’s start at the beginning. I have only done one triathlon, the New Jersey State Sprint Triathlon last July. I didn’t change my training very much because swimming and biking are as much a part of my typical training week as running, by necessity of staying healthy. It has been this way since my senior year of high school. In college I did more swimming and biking than ever, unfortunately because I was injured more than ever. Anticipating biking more when I moved into an off-campus house before senior year of college, I decided to buy a better bike than the one I’d gotten at Dick’s a few years back. With the intention of getting a road bike, I ended up leaving the bike shop having purchased a hybrid, which I was somehow convinced was good enough for the use I would put into it (rides of 25 miles or less, commuting 11 miles to and from work occasionally). Only a year later, I realized I should have just gotten an entry-level road bike, because the truth was always there: I wanted to compete in triathlons. Not just finish them, but race them.
Tough luck. I was stuck with what I had given my very tight budget. I raced the triathlon with the thicker tires the bike originally came with, averaging 17.9 miles per hour on the flat, 11.5-mile course. I think I came in around 645th of 1100 for the bike…and 62nd in the run? Something crazy like that (the swim was in the 400s). It was really clear that despite my efforts, I was truly a runner, and also that my bike was not cutting it for my goals. I came in fifth in my age group, and the top three got to the podium. I ran faster than the second and third place women, I think, and had the fifth fastest run time for females overall. And let me tell you: I wasn’t saving a darn thing, I biked hard. For a lousy 17.9 mph.
That fact left me frustrated, and I decided to see what I could do to make my bike faster. A trip to a bike shop left me with slightly thinner tires and a bike computer. So, you know, I could beat myself up when I bike up hills slower than I would run….I have been going on longer rides this summer, however, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Biking has felt like a chore. Like the definition of the word chore. Like I’d rather wash my kitchen floor some days. So, I went to another bike shop at the end of last week. Going to a bike shop is an experience. As someone who works in a specialty running store, I get it. I get that you often need to spend money to get something that is going to provide you with the best experience and fit possible. I feel like a hypocrite every time I go to a bike shop for this reason. This time was no different – I felt like that customer who wants to extend the life of her shoes that already have 700 miles on them by adding a Spenco insert. It doesn’t work that way.
My conversation with the guy at the shop went something like this:
Me: “I want to make my bike easier to ride, and go faster, but I can’t afford a road bike right now. I’m riding 30+ miles on this and it just feels slow.”
BG (bike guy): “That’s about as much as you will get on this bike. You really need a road bike.”
Me: “I averaged 17.9 mph in the tri last year and would have placed if I had gone faster, I think.”
BG: “You rode 17.9 on that thing? Well, you’re clearly a good cyclist. You just need a road bike.”
Me: “On rides through the Sourlands I have averaged about 16, but it just feels like such hard work up the hills.”
BG: “You’re riding through the Sourlands?” (shakes head) “You just need a road bike.”
It was kind of awful. However, I got a new set of tires that are even thinner, and they do feel awesome compared to the old ones. As in, I’m almost excited to see what I can do Saturday! Specifically, how close I can get to 20 mph now that I have hit those speeds on regular, easy rides I’ve done since then.
I also bought bike shorts. I’ve worn them twice – whenever I wasn’t going to hop off and do a run right after. They are definitely a nice change but sometimes don’t provide quite as much relief as I was expecting. So this was a nice little rant about how I’m the cheapest triathlete ever. If this summer had begun differently coming off the marathon I would have considered saving money for a road bike more seriously, but now that my focus is on the two relays, I will be thinking about that more later. I arranged to bike the race course tomorrow morning with three other people, so I’m looking forward to that!
Running update: I ran 3 miles Sunday! However, I ran a little less than 2 today in preparation for running 3ish with a group (!!!) tomorrow and then waiting until go-time Saturday to give my leg a rest and it did not feel so great. There seems to be some sort of knot that has traveled higher up my quad and is giving me pain when I sit down and rest my leg fully. It didn’t bother me running until after I finished today…so I’m being super, super cautious now because I really expected to be all set to go Saturday after my successful run two days ago.
In work-related news, we received an unexpected visit from a Nathan rep on Thursday for our group run. He provided optional sample hydration belts and handhelds for the runners…and beer. I wanted to stick some bottles in a hydration belt for a fun photo op, but not everyone cooperated with my silliness that night. He also brought some posters and stickers, one of which said something like the following:
…except it said that dehydration is THE leading cause of running injuries. I am very curious as to if that is the case. Could you really be slightly dehydrated on a normal run and end up injuring yourself? I will have to do some research on it. In my somewhat-injured state I’m interested in figuring out exactly how that works.