indoor cycling and other tri things

I briefly mentioned that I joined a tri team in my summer-summary post, but I failed to give this detail the attention it deserves. I officially raced in a TMB kit for the Skylands Triathlon and the Princeton Half Ironman (still have to write about that…it’s been four months…). Aside from two duathlon workouts and a course preview ride in August, I hadn’t trained with the team at all until late December, when I decided to attend a spin workout at the swanky gym at which the team has secured a special deal of sorts. It’s a little bit of a hike for me, being forty minutes north, but I soon learned it was so worth it. The first Saturday morning I knew I was getting myself into something slightly over my head, just because I hadn’t been on my trainer much lately and was very un-acclimated to warm, indoor workouts.  I somehow survived, but that first day was much shorter than the weeks that followed. I went again on Tuesday night, and missed the next Saturday due to being sick, but was eager to return the next two Saturdays. It’s safe to say that I’m hooked.

Screenshot of a video (there were no photos taken) from last week's spin workout...I always take the back left corner.

Screenshot of a video (there were no photos taken) from last week’s spin workout…I always take the back left corner (you can see one half of me).

In the zone

I’ve been using the Cyclops spin bikes at the gym; I only used my bike and trainer the first time. Most of the time we do Spinervals workouts (on DVDs), but once it was coached, and we listened to good music with race footage on the TV. I began using a heart rate monitor, and now I forget what it was like not to. I hardly ever remember the sets we do once it’s all over, but that’s something I like about it: I’m only thinking about what I have to do at the moment. Sixty seconds, thirty seconds, standing, sitting, aerobars, cadence, counting down the last five seconds, drinking water, drinking Nuun, heart rate zones, adjusting the resistance. There’s not much time to think about much else. One thing I do think about is how this is going to make me better. I’m not exactly sure what it will mean for marathon training, but there’s no doubting that an extra interval workout of 2+ hours a week with no impact is going to increase my fitness.

Strength in numbers

There’s also something addicting about being with the team. The room is filled with so many talented athletes, and it’s so easy when looking around to see why people are on this team. When I get in that room and sit on a bike, it feels like the most normal thing for anyone to ever do. This is what they all have probably always done, every winter – these hard trainer workouts. At first when I heard about a workout lasting over two hours, I thought, wow, I could never do that.  Yet here I am, sad about the 6 AM text I got yesterday morning saying that the spin workout was cancelled due to snow. Biking in my backyard shed alone doesn’t seem as normal. In that room, even if I’m crazy, I’m not alone. Suddenly what it excessive to other people who don’t understand is now just as fun to everyone around me as I think it is. There’s something really cool about this. As an extrovert, it’s like the best of both worlds to me, and I’m not leaving it anytime soon. We have our team party/meeting next weekend, and I’m really excited to meet more team members who haven’t been at the spin workouts!

Thoughts on tri-marathon combo training

First off, I’m starting to understand full Ironman training as a real, fathomable thing, which means I should probably be slapped or, I don’t know, forced to go to the pool more than once a week. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how if I keep this up (I’m also doing some weekday trainer workouts), I’m probably not training for Boston in the same way as most runners. It obviously makes me fairly fatigued, so as I start to do longer workouts I think I’ll have to choose sometimes. But on the other hand…what if I just keep getting more fit and experienced on the bike and just do it, marathon training on top of it. I’m never going to be a high mileage runner anyway, if not by choice than by fear, so it might help make up for that. I’ll see. As of right now, I’m still operating under the mentality that cross training makes you fitter and therefore faster in any discipline.

What the heck happened to my trainer?

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Let’s look at it from another angle (ignore the black stuff, that has since gone away, it was just tire dust if that’s a thing):

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There’s a groove in there. I have since switched my back tire so I don’t ruin it, but that was unrelated to this occurrence, because I had used the Gatorskin on the trainer twice before. The groove didn’t get worse after I took my bike off and put it back, hoping the repositioning would help. The groove only took about twenty minutes to create. Twenty Facebook photo comments later and I still can’t figure it out. It works just fine and isn’t getting worse, but I really want to figure this out! Any guesses are appreciated.

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bobby pins

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Last week, I was out at a bar with running friends after an event at the store. I went to the bathroom and saw a bobby pin on the ground in the stall, one that was the same color as most of mine. One thing you should know about me is I leave at rail of bobby pins wherever I go. I don’t know how they all get so scattered, but they do, and suddenly the little case where I keep them is completely void of bobby pins, but they are probably on the floor in every room I have stepped into that week. So, I saw the bobby pin on the bathroom floor and wondered, is that my bobby pin? Immediately, I realized what an odd thought that was. I knew perfectly well, not only thanks to funny articles like this but also from female friends, that most girls who use bobby pins have this problem. Why would that bobby pin be my bobby pin? When was the last time I was even in this bathroom? Two weeks ago? I had not stepped foot into this bar in two weeks, yet I thought that might be my bobby pin. I did the same thing at the gym in the locker room, when I found a bobby pin in the locker I always choose. Why do I assume I’m the only one who has this issue, accidentally losing bobby pins left and right and making a metallic mess?

It’s so easy to think you’re the only one who has some ridiculous problem, or who thinks things that make no sense to everyone else. It’s so easy to think you are the only one in the world with the problems you are facing, that no one has advice for you or understands, because everything is so complex and you aren’t even sure how you feel about what you’re dealing with. It’s so easy to see people having such an easy time with life and all the things that go along with it. Everywhere you look you seem to see people who take their significant others for granted, like they are people who of course they are entitled to have in their lives, and people who have perfect little jobs they are satisfied with.People who can go on the adventures they want to go on – hiking trips and exploring foreign cities and biking across deserts – because they have money for it and they have someone in their lives who wants to do these things too. It’s easy to see these things when they are all you want, when you’re fixated on the things that are so, so difficult for you to come across and hold on to in life, even when you think they will be easy.

I’m realizing now that I’ve become the person I didn’t understand in college. Sometimes, anyway. Besides an annoying issue that doesn’t really cause me pain in my foot, running has been coming easy to me. I just wrote a whole post about 2014, and there was not one bad running experience in it. Not because I chose not to include it, but because 2014 didn’t have any disappointments. Four years ago, that was all I wanted. If I was healthy and running well, I should have no excuse to be sad or dissatisfied or lonely. Because I had running! What could be better? Surely everything else would fall into place if I was running well: I’d meet somebody and have a serious relationship because I was running and healthy and therefore happy. I would focus on school and work and everything would go smoothly because my head was all clear and not fixated on injuries.

Well, that’s not true. That’s just the way life is, it’s undeniable: there will always be someone out there who is frustrating as hell because he or she makes what you want look easy to get. The intangible, happiness-producing thing that you want. But everyone has something like this. And everyone has feelings like that. Everyone has a problem. Many problems, multiple, can’t-sleep-at-night or sleep-all-morning problems. They might not be the same as yours, or in areas of your life that you concern yourself with, but they exist.

Everyone drops their bobby pins all over their paths, I’m not the only one.

2014

Life got a little too crazy for awhile there. I’ve fallen behind with writing, when what I really want to do is write. What I’ve been doing? Working, running, being confused, sleeping. I still want to write posts about the Princeton Half Ironman and USATF Club Cross Country Nationals. For now, I’ll do a little post about the year in general.

2014 was the first year since my very first year of serious running, 2006, that I did not get injured (injured meaning out for 4+ weeks straight with no running). I didn’t think about it much until now, but that’s a pretty big deal. I ran PRs in every distance I raced (5:38 mile, 11:24 3k, 19:35 5k, 23:11 XC 6k, 1:29:36 1/2, 3:21:41 marathon), and for the first time since that first year of running eight years ago, I felt like I moved up a “level.” Certain paces and times had meant certain things to me for those eight years, and it was in 2014 when suddenly I felt an improvement again. After an eight-year plateau, I am climbing the next mountain again. Because I spent so much time, essentially my entire running career to date, on that plateau, the climb feels easy. And fun, because it’s fun to have the opportunity to move upwards instead of working hard to stay put.

Many people posted their mileage totals at the end of the year. I honestly don’t really care much about numbers as they relate to quantity; I’d rather run faster and smarter than see how much I can run. It was more about the moments and the turning points that caused me to believe I could do things that previously I didn’t even think of making my goals.

In 2014:

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I trained for my first Boston Marathon through a winter of 5 degree days and tried to make hills my friends.

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I survived the winter and ran a PR at the Boston Marathon. It wasn’t the time I wanted, but it was a great experience.

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I bought my first real road bike and started my summer of training for 70.3 Princeton.

The group pre-race.

The group pre-race.

I ran some shorter races just for fun and ended up with 3k and 5k PRs.

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I finally got on the AG podium at the NJ State Tri.

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I got to the point where weekends weren’t complete without four-hour brick rides/runs starting not long after dawn.

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I learned that beer tastes way better after these four-hour brick workouts. If you can stay awake for it (harder than it sounds).

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I competed in Ironman 70.3 Princeton and placed second in my age group. I learned that I liked long distance triathlons BUT it is very hard for me to manage to not feel nauseous as heck.

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I thought I was burnt out from the half ironman, and life, but then ended up running the best race of my life at the Princeton Half Marathon, finally breaking 90 minutes.

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I was the first overall female winner in a road race for the first time (without any complications that is…) on Thanksgiving.

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I joined Garden State Track Club and was able to compete in my first national XC meet on December 13, running a faster pace for a XC 6k (23:11) than I ever had for a road or track 5k…and a two-minute PR on Lehigh’s course over  my race there in 2010 (breaking 24 minutes for 6k was my ultimate goal in college but I never had the chance to really try).

As it typically goes, I started 2015 being sick again and losing a few days of training (and eating and drinking…) to that. After last year, I’m not sure if I remember how to begin a new year any other way. So, I’m glad I didn’t end up registering for a New Year’s Day race after all, because there would have been no way I could have run it.

So, my year of running in 2014 looks pretty good on paper. I guess having an injury-free year is bound to yield great results, which is really all I have to say about why the year went so well running-wise. That, and the half ironman training. For those of you who don’t think all the extra miles on the bike don’t make you a stronger, faster runner: I will now officially disagree. Obviously as long as you are running and running comes easy to you, cross training will only make you fitter, and being fitter = being faster.

I’m really glad I had success and stability in my training this past year…because as much as I tried, I really found none of that in the rest of my life. It was a crazy ride, and like a TV show (still don’t watch those…am I missing anything good?), most weeks I was left thinking, well, I didn’t see that coming. Luckily, aside from my training, I had a few great friends by my side throughout the entire year. This was the first year in…maybe ever…that I have had more than an individual friend or two stick around in my life geographically, socially, and emotionally to ring in two consecutive new years with me. I met new friends too, and have cried many tears over the changes surrounding old ones. In the end, there were some days when friends were placed right by my side at the very moments others walked away, and I am so grateful for that in 2014.

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