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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Hey, I’m alive…here’s what I’ve meant to write about since August.

A blogging hiatus was not planned at all, but it happened. I was going to write a post in late September explaining that blogging was the one thing that ended up getting cut out of my life during half ironman training, but now that it’s November (oh gosh, really?) it’s not a viable excuse.

A lot has happened. I’m going to dedicate a couple posts to specific races, like the Princeton Half Ironman and the Princeton Half Marathon, and will probably summarize the rest of my summer and fall training and racing into another. I really do miss writing, and the blogging community that comes along with it. Life always seems to get a little more complicated and a little harder to deal with in the fall, and I’m hoping that returning to writing regularly will help me keep my thoughts organized. Because there are so many.

I might as well make this post the summary one. In my last post, I wrote: “Until everything is all announced and the storm has passed, I’m counting on continuing to be stressed out of my mind and as busy as ever.” I’m pretty good at predicting things. Luckily things all came together, quite successfully, and I’m in a much better place as far as work stresses are concerned. An interesting place, because my life tends to trend that way. But a good place. Looks like I was scared about getting plantar fasciitis that day too…I still can’t really bend my big toe much but there’s no pain and I’m going to add that to my list of mysteries for the time being.

Half ironman training, the final month

Training went well, overall. I was doing long rides once a week and made sure to make them worth it by doing a brick run afterward. Some weekends I would do a regular long run the following day, too. I remember my first long ride (50+ miles), I was really sore later that day and the next day. By August they felt no different from the aftereffects of a 10-12 mile run, which made me confident that I was in fact getting stronger and more comfortable on the bike and that the race was going to go okay.

I joined a tri team.tmb

I joined the TMB Tri Team sometime in July I think, but I obviously wanted to meet everyone and do a workout with them before officially considering myself part of the team. It’s a huge team full of really inspiring athletes off all ages, and enthusiastic coaches. I finally went to meet the team for a duathlon workout in Bedminster the third Wednesday in August. It had its complications, obviously, as I was freaking out for 48 hours before that my summer of racing was over due to developing a very infected bug bite on my calf (I’m not kidding…it was scary, I have witnesses). But I made it, and had so much fun!

Me chasing down a runner at the du workout at Far Hills Fairgrounds.

Me chasing down a runner at the du workout at Far Hills Fairgrounds.

I went again the following week and had an even better time, even with 90 degree, humid weather. Being the first one on the bike from the first run portion (we did a shorter running workout before the bike, a ~13 mile bike, and then a longer running workout), I was discouraged at first at how easily everyone seemed to catch me on the bike, because I felt like I was going almost at a racing effort. The second time I went I averaged 18 mph though, so it was good to see that I wasn’t really that slow, relative to my solo rides. I have a long way to go in cycling though! More on that later.

Princeton 70.3 course preview ride

On Labor Day weekend, the team was getting together to preview the Half Ironman course, so I made sure I was free for that. It was quite the adventure. First off, I had never been on a ride with more than one other person ever, and here I was riding with a group of twenty or thirty. I knew the course a little bit but I trusted the guys who were leading the ride to provide directions. Honestly, I expected to be falling off the back and trying to get a glimpse of the turns up ahead. That was definitely not the case though; I managed to stay up with the front of the subgroup of ten or so riders I was with, and it felt pretty easy. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the course at nearly every turn though…and there were a lot of turns. Around mile 40 or so, Brian and I hastily decided that everyone was going the wrong way and we were going to go the right way, and we broke apart from them for the rest of the ride. Slightly bonking from lack of adequate nutrition and sleep made the park a welcome sight after…62.4 miles. Oops. Averaging my fastest ever (for a non-race ride of significant length, 17.2 mph) for my farthest ride ever certainly made me happy though.

Skylands Triathlon

The next Sunday, I decided to do the Skylands Olympic Tri. It was at Spruce Run, the same location as my first tri of the season, Jerseyman. I registered for a few reasons: 1. I got an awesome discount, 2. it would be my long brick workout for the week, and 3. I really hadn’t been swimming enough. At all. This race had a one mile swim which would be great practice for the big race in two weeks. The swim was pretty choppy and I felt slow for most of it…but I got it done. The bike…well, let me just say that I’d been doing 50+ mile rides in some really hilly areas and all oft hose hulls did nothing to prepare me for the giant mountain in the middle of this one. And I had to do it twice.

skylandstrielevationIt was so steep there were people – fast cyclists – walking their bikes to the top. Someone was playing “Eye of the Tiger” for us as we climbed, and there were a number of clever signs. It was truly brutal. Hence my 16.4 mph average for the 28 miles, in a race….The course was honestly not great overall; part of it was on a 4-lane highway and there were sharp turns. The sprint tri began after the Olympic but we all ended up on the bike course at the same time. I saw Brian heading out as I was heading back from my first loop, who I wasn’t sure was even going to be at the tri, so that was nice motivation. An incident on my second loop had me really worried  though. I was coming up on a group of people doing the sprint (ST was written on their calves), we were going uphill slightly, and I knew there 20140907_071117was a sharp turn ahead and then a bigger hill. At the turn, I could see a cop car, there to alert traffic, etc. There was no room ahead to pass them at that turn because of the cop car, and I didn’t think I could do it at the time, so I planned on passing them soon, after we had turned on the hill. I didn’t want to get too close, so I was trying my best to follow the rules and stay three bike lengths back. I ended up having to brake more than I planned, slowing down from 16-17 mph to 12-13. That kind of sucked. To make things more complicated, the course marshal, this woman on a shiny red motorcycle, was definitely patrolling this part of the route. She came so close to my left at one point that I wanted to ask her, “excuse me, where should I go right now? I definitely can’t pass because you’re now boxing me in, and I’m braking as much as I can.” To this day (okay that sounds funny, it was only two months ago…) I still think the only way to avoid the 2:00 bike penalty she gave me was to just pull over and literally stop in the middle of the race. Why would I have thought to do that though?! I didn’t know I had a penalty until it was almost time for the awards. The run went better than I expected, besides some minor nausea at the end. It ended up being 6.4 miles according to my watch, and I ran splits of 6:38, 7:03, 7:01, 7:06, 6:59, 6:58 and finished at 6:23 pace for a total time of 44:38ish. It was confusing (but also made the time go by faster) to figure out who was on their first lap, who was on their second, who was doing the sprint, and who was doing the run part of a sprint or olympic relay. Phew. Post-race, I heard someone tell me, “Nice job! You were fourth!” Shortly after, I heard another girl from my team tell me, “What happened? You were third but you got a penalty, that sucks!” WHAT. Long story short, that woman on the motorcycle could not be convinced that I did not draft, or that she impeded me from passing. I let Brian find her and try to appeal because I was too mad. We left shortly after claiming age group awards (which you had to wait in a line for?!) and I reasoned with myself that in the end the race didn’t matter much. It would have been cool to “podium,” and I still don’t know what else I should have done in the situation, but oh well.

birthday run, birthday fun

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Friends and a magic wand, can’t get better than that.

My birthday was the first day of Girls on the Run. I didn’t want to get up really early to do a long run, but I knew I wanted to run pretty far. It was my favorite running weather to start: overcast, breezy, and not super warm. I started at 1:00pm and didn’t try to find a running buddy since the time was so random. But I found Greta on a hilly road about four miles in! I was feeling tired and wasn’t sure if I would slow her down, but I took the chance and turned around with her. We ended up dropping the pace to 7:15-7:25 for most of the run, totaled 12ish miles, and ended in a downpour. I love picking up friends mid-run, it was a lucky day for sure! Later of course I celebrated in other ways, and I have to say it was one of my best birthdays ever. I even found a magic wand. Or rather, I was so intrigued by the fact that a woman had a wand at a bar (from a wedding that day…) that she ended up giving it to me for my birthday. Lucky indeed.

And then…it was Half Ironman week! The week was pretty low-key, but it included 50 hours of work and some last-minute tune-up lessons on fixing a flat and the like.

Underwear run

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know that this happened. On Saturday the 20th, the morning before the race, we hosted an underpants run, like the one that began in Kona before the Ironman World Championships and has since become a pre-race staple at many Ironman events. We tried to promote it well…but the first time for something is bound to be small. So there were six of us participating. We read the official underpants run oath in front of the store, and ran down to the Princeton stadium tiger sculptures and back. It was pretty…liberating, naturally. I’m glad we all had each other, and especially Pat from RunBucks, who was a big reason the whole thing happened.

Just a normal Saturday morning pre-race stroll...

Just a normal Saturday morning pre-race stroll….

The rest of the day was pretty chill, aside from expected night-before-my-first-half-ironman stress buildup (basically I thought I was getting sick after having dinner at Triumph and decided to lay on the floor until it went away, worried I wouldn’t be able to race…only last 20 minutes or so). Pickup at Ironman Village went smoothly, and by the end of the night I was ready for Sunday!

20140920_145429Up next: Princeton 70.3 race report!

It’s good to be back writing, thanks for reading. 🙂