Ironman Countdown

Friday, January 23, 2015

I'm Not a Cyclist, but I Play One in Triathlon

Alright confession time:  I am not a cyclist.  Yes, I can ride a bike.  And yes, due to running and other athleticism, I can handle a bike fairly well.  But I really really really haven't a clue what I'm doing.  I am a little scared of my bike.  In fact, and to be totally honest, it is the bike portion of IMMD that makes my stomach tie in knots.

But I am looking to change this.  I need to become one with my bike.  I need to conquer my fear, bridge the gap, and embrace this leg (this super duper LONG leg) of my triathlon

Let's start at the beginning.  I did my first triathlon in 2001 on a hybrid bike.  I was not serious about the race, and really did not know much about triathlon at this point.  I was not interested in knowing more either.   In fact, at my very first triathlon, a race official was calling out, "Um, would Race # ___ please report back to transition?  You can't use a kickstand."  Yeaaaahhhhh.

Flash forward ten years, and I decided to get more involved with triathlon... and I still had only a hybrid bike.  I had done a few tri's at that point, seen what tri bikes and road bikes look like.  My sister had a gorgeous sleek road bike.   I was starting to realize I should get something, but had no idea where to start or what to do.

In 2012, I did the Dewey Beach Sprint Tri, in Delaware, with my sister.  I borrowed her husband's old road bike, thinking at least it was light and therefore faster.  And while it was easier and faster than my heavy hybrid, it was not fit for my size and I almost toppled over on the Indian Inlet Bridge with the cross winds and my lack of control.

A few short weeks after that, my sister called me out of the blue, saying she had found me a bike... it was on sale and the bike store was holding it.  We are the same height and roughly the same build, so she knew what size frame I needed.  I hightailed it down to the town where my parents are, and there she was: my first and only road bike.

Marianne, unbeknownst to me,  had consigned her old road bike as well as her husband's (the one I almost bit it on in the aforementioned tri), and put that towards the cost of my bike.  So between that and the sale, I got my very own Giant road bike.  So light, so faaaaast.  She isn't fancy, but she is all mine.  I named her Marney.  I bought my first pair of clip-in pedals and bike shoes.   I was starting to be "for real."

After I got Marney, I had decided to make the jump from Sprint distance tri to Olympic.  I registered for the Columbia Triathlon in May 2013. 

Marney, when I left her in transition overnight, so full of promise
I had a great swim, saw my sister cheering as I ran to transition, jumped on Marney and headed out.  At mile 5, I looked at my watch and saw I was going at a good clip. 

Somewhere between Mile 7 and 8, it happened.   I stood up to pedal, going up a hill and next thing I know, I was flailing, almost crashing into the bushes and trees on the side of the road.  I somehow by some unexplainable miracle, unclipped my one foot.  I landed on my right side, slamming onto the concrete and grass, but my foot was free.  I had minimal damage personally:  a nice ring scratch up the back of my calf, some road rash, and a sore shoulder from how I landed.  I looked at my bike, thinking maybe I had popped the chain.  And low and behold, an entire piece of my bike was dragging on the ground.  The rear derailleur snapped off.  A total fluke, nothing I could have prevented or even know about... but a race ender all the same.  My first Oly.  Over. 
if you look carefully, you can see my puddle of teardrops

Oh the tears.  I had to walk back two miles in the other direction, through tall grass and, I would later discover, poison ivy... all the while wiping my eyes and nose... and all the other bikers whizzing by would call out "you o.k.?"  I finally got to a place where the pick-up-crew could find me.  The poor guy gets out of the van and says "You o.k.?" And I start sobbing... SOBBING... in front of him.  He offered to take me to a liquor store, which was nice.  I had to ride around with him to pick up two others, then he brought me back to the start.  I was crushed. 

I passed by the local bike shop on my way home, so I dropped Marney off for repair, and cried all over again, explaining to the repair guy what happened. 
the race ender:  a dangling rear derailleur

And that's when my fear began.  Every time I change gears or hear a noise, I think something is wrong or my bike is broken again.  Or that I am going to crash. 

It didn't stop me from taking on other races.  I did a different Oly that summer, and I even did my Eagleman 70.3 in June 2014, with Marney.  But I hardly touch the gears... and I don't approach the bike leg like I do the run... I don't embrace it.  I don't really train for it like I should, because I had made up my mind that I was afraid.   If I rode a lot, the bike would break or I would get hurt.   I know... its totally irrational.

So once I decided to do IMMD, I knew I couldn't fake the bike leg any longer.  I had to really tackle it.  Spin class once a week on a "safe" bike with a few other trainer rides and a few long bike rides was not going to work.   Marney was sadly lurking the basement, with toys scattered around her, taking up space.  Time for action!
sad sad sad, lying on her side

My game plan?  Learn about biking.  I find bike shops intimidating because I don't know anything about bikes (which also feeds into my fear).  But I have lots of resources within my own circle of friends...

I met with my friend Michelle, who is also doing IMMD and has done IMLou and IMChoo.  She gave me a training plan book, which is amazing!  We talked about biking, how she approaches it, and how she handles nutrition, and so forth.  We talked interval training and hills... how biking on the Eastern Shore is so flat! She even fed me popcorn with chocolate, cheese and wine!  I left her house feeling excited, as we had made plans to do long rides together over the summer.

I met with my friend Jerry, who is a century (100 miles) rider and total bike guru.  He is self taught, and is so wonderful to go to for advice.  I sat in his bike studio (yes he has a bike studio in his home) and learned how to take the wheels off my bike, how to change a flat, what Zipp wheels are, what are the best "parts" to spend good money on, and so on.  He was so patient with me.  And I left his house feeling excited and soooo much calmer.  I felt a fear subsiding, because I knew how to do some simple repairs and basic care that I did not know before.

So, yesterday morning at 5:30, I had my Marney up on the trainer and rode for a little over an hour before the kids got up.    A once a week early morning trainer ride is part of my regiment to get more bike time in before Eagleman in June and IMMD in October.

early bird catches the worm!
 I am going to be getting aero-bars and a new seat.... and a "re-fit" (when the bike shop people take all your measurements and tinker with your bike til everything is at the right height and so on).  Those are my two major bike expenses for the coming year that I know I need. 

But I'm excited.  Marney and I are going to become one... so we can get through 112 miles together happily in October.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Resolutions and Revelations


Happy New Year!  It's that time when many of us pledge to do better, to be better, to look better, eat better…. LIVE better.  I tend to find the first weeks of January annoying:  can't get a bike at my Tuesday spin class because the “resolutioners” are in full force; way too many dieting program commercials on tv; annoying overheard snippets of conversation about how many calories are in this or that; people out running on “my trails” who I've never seen before…. Ugh.  Usually, by February, my world is back to normal as the “resolutioners” fall back into the crowd, promises forgotten.  And I can go about my routines.

This week, however, one of my SBMAT friends pointed out that while the crowded gym can be a hassle this time of year, we all started somewhere.  Shouldn't we encourage the “resolutioners” and others around us, instead of grumbling about their presence?  Shouldn't we see what words we can offer that will inspire the will to keep these promises into March and beyond?  Yes, I thought.  Yes we should.  I should.  I will.

And so, my “resolutioners," I share this abbreviated story of my decision to change my behavior patterns and LIVE BETTER.   In January 2011 I stepped on the scale at the docs office and was APPALLED a by the number.  You see I was only 8 weeks pregnant and therefore not at a point where I should have gained any weight.  But the number was, in a word, *HUGE.  No, it was inexcusable… It was unhealthy.  It was a sign.

*just so we're clear, I don't strictly believe in numbers/weight for healthy body… Magazines tell me at 5’10”, I should be 150/155.  Hahaha! No way!  So much depends on how you look and feel, not a number. That being said, there is a such thing as a number on the scale that's just crazy!

Around this same I saw this picture, taken at a wedding on NYE 2010:
I hate this!

What the hell?  Who was that girl?  I was a Division I swimmer for godssake!  (I hate this photo.  It's embarrassing to me, and I'm sharing it now to demonstrate my point.) And that did it.  I vowed to enjoy my pregnancy for those 9 months, enjoy my milkshakes and treats… But come maternity leave, I had some major work to do.

So resolutioners, my New Years resolutions to change came not on January 1, but January 22, 2011… Followed by implementation of the plan on October 7, 2011, six weeks after childbirth.  It was not easy, and required patience and persistence, but it got done over the next 8 months… And continues today.  I found what worked for me, what motivates me to keep moving… It's not the same formula for everyone, but there is always something that can be done to make changes for a healthier you. (For example, in January 2012 I tried a Zumba class, just to do something different and find something that I'd enjoy… It was a total fail.  I sucked at it, and just couldn't make it work for me.  My two left feet didn’t help matters… But I did try it)

Which brings me to:


Friends, here are some truths revealed.  I have heard many friends and facebook friends say “I could never do what you do.”  Or, “how do you have the time?”  Or “you are so motivated.”  Let me be real here:  it's not easy.   I have slumps and lows too… And I'm certainly not as smiley as my race photos may seem all the time on this journey.

I thrive on routine…. I always have.  Always.  That's why having races on the horizon works for me:  because I can make a plan and schedule… The tighter the schedule, the more motivated I am.  I have been this way since I was a kid with swimming and schoolwork.  I'm like that now with work and kids and life and training… The less time I have to “flounder” the more effective I am.

So a break in my routine, a change or an “end” to a particular routine (I.e. End of training for a big race), is tough on me. I get lazy with exercise, and about the food I eat… Correction, how much food I eat.  So while taking two weeks off of work at Christmas was much needed, my structure suffered.  And I couldn't stop eating large amounts of food… On top of the total feast the entire month of December was anyway  with at  least five office related lunches.  All delicious, all full of an overwhelming amount of food.

I did run over the break, but reluctantly.  And then I would follow up the run with yummy treats and lots and lots of wine with friends. Low moment confession:   I was hiding in the kitchen from the children last week, eating the glorious Buckeyes my friend made for me when Julia found me and asked what I was eating… “A cucumber,” I replied.  Yes, I lied to a three year old so she wouldn't eat my buckeyes… So I could eat them all and not share.

And so on New Years, when everyone was discussing resolutions, I stepped on my scale and saw what I already knew… I messed up.  I slipped… Was slipping… And I needed to find my will again. Again not that the number on the scale was so important, but I could feel it, and the scale just verified that.

It's frustrating, and discouraging, but I know it's not permanent.  I went for an easy five miles today, and reminded myself of the goals I've set this year.  I remembered my teammates at SBMAT and what they do to deal with life, training ruts and eating binges.

And I recalled that work resumes Monday as does my routine…and I will thrive with it once again.  Setbacks are all part of it.  So make your resolutions… And if you break it, don't walk away.  Call it a “setback” and start again.  Resolutions can be made and remade all year through.