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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The cheapest triathlete ever

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.

Last year’s results (kind of blurry…). I am highlighted in yellow, 5th in my age group. Cycling-related frustration ensued.

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.