Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

Well, it’s been a sufficiently long time since I raced in the Age Group World Championships for Triathlon in Auckland, NZ.  I thought it might be time for a recap.  Obviously, had I WON THE WHOLE THING, I probably would have posted a bit sooner.  So, just to kill the excitement, you should know… the race wasn’t spectacular.
On some basic level, it’s worth noting that I think the course favors a cyclist who climbs hills a lot.  Needless to say, not me 🙂
The Day
On October 22, 2012, I raced in the Age Group World Championship Olympic Distance triathlon.  It was a mild day after several days of storm which continued to ravage the Auckland bay in which we would be swimming.  The chilly conditions had Team USA nervous at our team meeting the day before, but I decided to stick with my plan and raced in my all too cute 1-piece tri unisuit.  Clearly built for function over form 🙂
SWIM
My wave started with a 20 minute delay.  The whole day was delayed in fact because the sprint course had gone before us and the swim course had to be remarked.  I knew the swim wouldn’t be easy because I could see the wind picking up the water in the far distance where I knew I’d be swimming.  The result was “ok”– I posted a great time comparatively but not absolutely.  My time was, in fact, 5 minutes slower than my PR for a 1 mile swim owing at least in part to the 4-5 foot swells in the bay off the coast of Auckland where we were swimming. I held on by citing the swimmers in front of me, rather than buoys that I could only see on the off chance I was breathing and not at the depth of a swell simultaneously.  Because I couldn’t see the buoys, I defaulted to quite a bit of vertical… “meerkat swimming.” This should be self explanatory but if not, here you go–
Though, I’m not that cute :-/ Needless to say, I was exhausted getting out of the water.
Transition
Then, to my unpleasant surprise, I found that we had to run AROUND transition to get into the gate at the far end of the pier, at the end of all the competitors’ bikes.  The reason for this is totally logical– there was no way OUT on the other side.  To avoid have mass chaos, one side had to be entry and the internal side (the part connected to the land) had to be the exit.  Still. Annoying.  In my case, that added 3.5 minutes to each transition!  Argh. I didn’t even consider the lengthy transition at the time because I was just exhausted and I generally try to avoid the whole self-pity thing in races– it rarely helps.
BIKE
Woe. Is. Me.  Ok, I say I TRY to avoid self pity, sometimes, it’s inevitable.  The bike course, for me, was a disaster.  So, I got on the course trying to relax, get warm again, and just feel fluid.  It didn’t start too badly– I did get warm and fluid just in time to hit the first of… 8 hills.  I got through the first 4 and felt… hurty. I was sore from clenching in the cold, sore from non stop climbs and even the descents were a little less than awesome because each ended in a sharp turn– so I couldn’t carry any momentum beyond the descent 😦  Beyond the physical strain, which I was simply unprepared for, I hit an unusual mental strain– my clock was reading a pretty disastrous race time.  I hadn’t noticed how long my swim or the transition had taken but I did take not of my bike lap finish with 13 more miles to go– it was ugly.  So, that said, I headed out for loop 2.  The first hill hurt but I got it done, the next one was incredibly painful with my old hip injury flaring up because of the stupid muscle pulls I was feeling in my legs.  But the 3rd hill was…. bad. As soon as I hit the hill, I JUMPED my gear down as far as possible to release my muscles.  Not only did that BARELY help but in addition, my chain fell off.  UGH!  I pedaled into a plateau for a moment so I was actually able to get the chain back into place with some quick pedaling and shifting.  However, when you do that you always run the risk that you set up your gears incorrectly which I had clearly done because ont he 4th, it dropped again… and this time I had to get off the bike to fix it.  From there- you can imagine, I was not the happiest kid on the course. From that point, I did my best to thank volunteers, smile at cameras, and basically just wish and hope that I could be off the bike as soon as humanly (maybe a faster human than I) possible.  I transitioned to the run and basically just jogged out my tired muscles.
Transition 2
At least this time I wasn’t surprised, but it took a really, really long time.  We’re talking over 4 minutes in total. I promise, I wasn’t having glass of wine at my bike, really!  It was just a long way to run… twice.
RUN
My body was so sore that my chest and lungs weren’t- a clear sign that I wasn’t able to work hard enough to get into the cardiovascular system, which  is where my system tends to do best.  I’ve mentioned this in the past but my type of fitness is about performing at a good level when most other people have worn out– that means my heart can keep up at a pretty decent pace even when I’ve been going pretty hard for along time.  This had the feel (to me) more like a sprint because my muscles were simply super saturated.  Going harder made me wobble on my sore quads instead of dig into my chest/lungs for more air.  I wasn’t at the point of breathing insanely hard because my silly legs were just incapable of giving more speed.  Lame.
Finale
Clearly… this was not my best race. I finished in a whopping 20 minutes from my PR– but considering the choppy swim 5 mins slower than my pr, 5 minute transitions instead of 1 and a dropped chain? I don’t think it was actually as bad as it appeared on paper.  It was however, as bad as it felt.  Blech 🙂
The COOL PARTS?  It was AMAZING to rep the USA.  I loved getting cheered on by the Aussies and Kiwis and others, who clearly weren’t American but it didn’t matter.  They were all cheering “GO USA” as I ran by.  I also had an awesome fan cheering me on the whole time!  James actually saw me about 6 times over the course of the event.  There are LOTS of [super attractive  wet dog, tired cyclist, pathetic runner] pictures!  He was an awesome supporter 🙂
Now the crazy fun highlights? Those were all on the South Island of NZ.  I’ll give you just a taste:
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The title makes neither common nor grammatical sense but that’s ok, it’s Tuesday.  I don’t love Tuesdays.

Lobsterman 2012 was a really fun race!  Before I really considered myself a “triathlete” (2010), I borrowed a bike, biked to and swam in Walden Pond a few times over the summer, and completed this race as my first every Olympic distance triathlon.

There are a few reasons it’s a “repeat” for me– 1. It was my first and you know, there’s nothling like your… first.  2. It has a lobster bake– and people who like to sit on the ground in spandex and eat Lobster after kicking some serious butt in a race are my kind of people.  And 3. It looks like this–

This is the only race, therefore, that I feel I can compare apples to apples from one year to the next.  So, without further ado- I present– 3 years of race results!

2010: 2:35 Overall Time
193rd Place Overall
24th Female
1st of 9 in my Age Group
Swim: 22:54
Bike: 1:23 (11.4mph)
Run: 46:50 (7:30)

2011: 2:27 Overall Time
48th Place Overall
5th Female
1st in Age Group
Swim: 24:57
Bike: 1:16 (19.5mph)
Run: 43:33 (7:02min/mi)

2012: 2:23 Overall Time
57th Overall (Fast field!)
5th Overall Female (yet again!)
1st in Age Group
Swim: 21:18 (1:18/100m– if this isn’t an advertisement for my swim club, I don’t know what is…)
Bike: 1:13 (20.5 mph)
Run: 45:30 (7:19 min/mi)

The final delta is 12 minutes faster than 3 years ago, 4 minutes faster than last year… AND… I’ve been injured!  Not altogether terrible 🙂  (Let’s get that RUN in shape now, eh?!?!)

This is my take-home message: while I’ve been injured a lot of the season, running very little, I’ve managed to make up for that.  I’ve ALWAYS said, don’t waste time on your strength in Triathlon; rather, focus on your weakness. this is in stark contrast to what I’ve done this season.  Without being able to run and with my hip bothering me a bit on the bike, too– my most consistent training has been in the pool.  And wow… it works.  Granted, I don’t putz in the pool.  My workouts aren’t long either though.  I stick to a hard pace, very little rest and really pushing it.  I don’t swim a lot- during the broken ankle incident I was up to 4 times a week?  Now I’m dialed back to just 2.  However, those workouts are really solid.  This morning’s was a 1000 meter warm up and drill, followed by this:
2 x (400HARD, moderate 8 x 50)
2 x (200 HARD, moderate 4 x 50)
2 x (100 HARD, moderate 2 x 50)

The whole set was 3800 meters and the majority of the pace was 1:25/100meters (not yards).  I was DEAD by the last 100. And if you’re not? You’d better be going for longer than I was 🙂 I think the key is to understand how to maximize your time and sustain the RIGHT effort for that time.  If I were training for Iron distances, I would need LONGER swims.  If I needed more distance I would slow down my pace.  I wouldn’t have swum so much this year but not only did I have to… stupid injury… but I also LOVE my team!  I swim with a talented group of mixed-age masters swimmers.  They absolutely ROCK the pool at 5:30am most mornings.  I’m there as much as I can be and no matter what I’m doing next season, I’m signing on for another year of the team because I can’t fudge these numbers– clearly swimming is keeping me in awesome (or well, good enough) shape.

I’ve fared MUCH better this season than I would have anticipated in May.  In May, I thought I’d re-break my ankle during a transition in a race, not kidding.  I was afraid I’d actually try to unclip from my pedal and crack the ankle all over again because the whole joint felt so weak and fragile.  But nope!  With a little faith and a LOT of slow work, I’ve manged to recover about as well as anyone might have imagined I think.  I’m pretty psyched. I’d like to be a lot faster in NZ for World Championships, but I have a good training plan,I’m working toward a well executed race, and I have a fan coming to watch :)– so I’m pretty sure,  I’ll have a great time.  Proud of 2012 thus far!

Larry, the Lobster, and me 🙂

My pseudo National Championships recap briefly mentioned a struggle in the bike portion.  It’s not that struggling in a race is uncommon; in fact? it’s generally the case, physically, anyway. I race because I love to race, I love to feel fast and I really, really like to compete.  Therefore, I recognize that no matter what I do, racing will also, on some level, hurt.  That’s how it works!  The indicator of a good racer is not the lack of physical struggle he or she confronts but rather, how well they can sustain the hurt.  Yes yes, it sounds masochistic.  Well, it is! Training for triathlon is not intended to make it so that races don’t hurt; it’s to enable you to sustain physical depletion better than the next guy (or girl).  Maybe you’d disagree- I’m open to other opinions but I’m pretty sure athletes generally agree on this point.

But that isn’t the point of this post.  Clearly, races tire you out, make your quads scream, make your hamstrings lose their spring left– let alone your lungs’ lacking air and your chest’s tightness in the last 1 mile “sprint” at the end of an olympic-distance triathlon.  My struggle at Nationals on the bike was two-fold– my injured hip/glute felt broken– I had shooting pains from my  lower back through to my shin.  Yep, it wrapped around my right side.  No one likes racing injured… I especially dislike it.  The real, technical, holding-me-back struggle however was mental.  The combination of the injury and a few key passes by girls I didn’t think would pass me… well, that began to deplete the one part of me that I’ve always thought as a forte– my mental game.

My mental game often requires dancing to my ipod… pre race. I’m not embarrassed… perhaps I should be…

The mental game can make or break races for me.  When I raced in both swimming and kayaking, the mental game was crucial.  I was known for racing in practice (teammates LOVED that… no wait… they didn’t).  But the reason I did was because I wanted to know I could pull ahead, I wanted to know I had a kick left, all I needed was the knowledge. I had to practice to build that confidence but eventually I could train myself to start as the slowest in the group knowing that my kick would, in the end, beat everyone else’s.  That was predominantly mental– it wasn’t really about fitness.  It was about confidence and… well.. surprising the hell out of my teammates with 150 meters left in a 500 at Nationals for kayaking.  If you’re wondering what connects my various athletic endeavors– from gymnastics, to diving, to swimming to kayaking and eventually triathlon– it’s the mental edge.  I’ve worked my whole life to build the confidence I need to kick hard at the end.  To not get beat and to, as my 1BandID says, “Dig Deeper, Finish Faster.”

Nothing like a come-from-behind “win” (well, the heat anyway) in a 1600 swim race.

But when I fail at the mental game, I fail. Hard. And, I need help. I came up to the 10 mile mark at Nationals feeling ok, with just 15 miles to go.  The pain was tolerable, the hills weren’t atrocious, the wind was high (which is usually in my favor) so my mental state was steady.  Then I got passed.  Not by just anyone, but 2 girls, in my age group, neither of whom had worn wetsuits in the swim.  That, was bad news bears.  In that moment, I honestly felt that I wasn’t worthy of being at Nationals.  My mind wandered… my heart sank. I thought to myself, “what would happen if I just DNF’d (did not finish)?”  That was an unsuccessful line of thinking; if you’re ever considering it,  don’t.  I slowed down, I thought about how hard this race was, how much I had tried to train but couldn’t do enough because of my stupid injury.  I yelled at myself for being injured.  I thought about how no one would really care if I just coasted through the end and made this just basically a training ride.

Cycling’s never been my forte– those are the parts of the race when the mental game matters most! Physical weakness needs the most mental strength!

But somewhere, deep, down … was a much stronger voice.  It was most definitely my friends, my family, my teammates… it’s everyone I surround myself with daily.  They were all saying, “Who is this and what have you done with Julia?”  They know I could do better– they all know, I’m not a quitter.  Left to my own devices I was feeling incredibly depressed, sunk in my injury.  But no single person in my life would let me get away with “just coasting.”  So I leaned on their strength.  I thought about all my incredible friends who work their tails off– and not to win some arbitrary race, but because working hard feels incredible.  Because there’s reward in the simple knowledge that you made your own strides in a day.  My teammates kick butt in their workouts– partly to win some awesome races, of course– but partly because they just love working really hard.  There is nothing akin to the feeling of utter depletion.  Pushing yourself to a limit you didn’t know you had is the reward in and of itself.  Why would I squander this opportunity to work it, hard, all the way to the end?  I just couldn’t.  They wouldn’t let me. Right then, I told myself, “Buck up champ.  Racing isn’t about winning. Racing is about making it hurt… sustaining the hurt… and telling the tale after.”

At that moment, with the strength of all my friends, family and teammates, I turned it around.  I picked up my cadence, I refocused, and I took off after those two ladies in my age group.  And, with a mile to go in the bike, I passed them.  (In full disclosure, they caught me again on the run… but not for another 3 miles!)  And, everything about the race got INSTANTLY better when I decided to take it on, not give up, follow through to the end.  When I took my whiny self OUT of the equation and thought about how my awesome friends and family would all work their hardest in a similar situation, that they’d never give up and they’d never let me give up, I felt like I had the strength of 10 people.  It was incredible.

I submit that the next time you think you need to give up, you need to “just cruise” instead of working to your best ability in a race, a workout, a project– take yourself out of the equation.  Ask yourself what your friends would say to you– what your family might say (as long as it’s positive, people…) and then hit the RESET button.  Or at least, try.  Sometimes you don’t have it one day– that’s ok too.  But when you’re wondering whether you’ve got something more… ask your (imaginary? in-your-head) friends what they want you to do… and believe me, they want you to keep working to YOUR best. And if you ever need it, you can imagine that that is what I would tell you.  I’d say– “you got this… dig deeper, finish faster.”

I owe my friends and family and teammates SO much for their consistent encouragement, their own hard work and determination because it’s completely, awesomely contagious.  Keep it up guys, I need it 🙂

So, long time, no blog. That’s pretty lame.  The truth is that it’s really hard to write, talk, communicate in any way about triathlon when you’re injured.  Well, when I’m injured anyway.  It’s not as though I’ve thought that I’m invincible… no wait, yes I did.  As I posted earlier this spring, I was stuck in the pool a lot over the course of my broken ankle recovery.  The recovery was slow, but by May at least the cast was off.  I worked up to being able to jog again and in fact, I posted a 5k “PR” at the end of May.  Only to find out later– I think the course was short. Nonetheless, it was a decent time followed with… serious hip pain.  That hip pain is reminiscent of pain I was experiencing in November/December, which caused me to stop running last winter. So here I was again, unable to run, in the middle of the tri season.  I’d take breaks of a week or 2 off of running, riding and swimming as much as I could.  I’d then return to the track or tempo runs, only to feel this radiating, killer pain in my low back, right side of hip and down into the hamstring.  I write this now, not because I’m all better, but because I think, I hope… I am improving.  All I know is that I can’t bring it back full force.  If I do, I’ll risk a PR at Worlds, which is what I want more than anything else.  I couldn’t care less about placing… I’d just like to hit that pretty stride I had last year at Nationals.  So, that’s where I’ve been.

Just for fun– here are my quick Summer highlights of 2012:

1. May 17: Summer Blues Run— 5k PR (ish?) 19:27

2. June 1:  Rev3 Quassy!  I never wrote about this race despite it being a ton of fun, actually.  Firstly, #Rev3 events are fantastic.  The race was incredibly well put together, my name was on my bike holder, and the support throughout the race was spot on!  Obviously, I’m a teammate for Rev3 but I’d have this opinion either way– it’s just a festive event when it’s a Rev race.  Given the opportunity I’d be going to Cedar Point, Dells, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Florida to do their races.  The timing just doesn’t work, sadly!  In any event, it wasn’t a terrific finish by time, but I placed in my age group and overall, I was in the top 10 women to finish.  That felt awesome.  Despite pretty much hurricane conditions on the bike, I managed to NOT fall.  That’s probably a win in and of itself, right?!  Yeah, I know. I fall a lot.  (At least I’m smiling as I churn up a puddle:)

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3. June 22Racemenu 5k Overall Winner 🙂

4. July 6-8: Black Fly Tri.  This event was AMAZING.  The festival weekend is comprised of a Bike TT on Friday night, Olympic Tri Saturday and Sprint Tri Sunday.  You can pick and choose- or do the “Lord of the Flies” Competition, which is all 3 🙂  You know which one I chose… obviously.  After not quite enough training for it, and a BEAST of a hill in every event (it takes place ON a ski mountain after all), I still had a fantastic time.  I ended up in 2nd for the Oly, Sprint and the Overall in my Age Group.  I met a TON of people and got to hang with some old friends too.  LOVED it!

5. INJURED   There was just no getting around this. From mid July through mid August I was just plain old injured.  There was no racing and there was barely any running.  I worked on the bike as much as I could and I swam… but it was tough all in all.  I actually made time in my life for other fun things– I spent time with my family in New York, spent time exploring Boston’s eateries and the rock gym, I went to Florida, and did my best to put the anxiety of being injured at bay.  It worked, for the most part.  My friends noticed it, as I’d snap, “I don’t want to talk about Nationals!” or Worlds, or even generally about triathlons.  I felt like a fraud– I was this athlete previously in pretty decent shape ready to take worlds by storm and then boom– a crazy, injured season.

5. Age Group Nationals 2012.  OK, so, they happened. But even the day before I caught myself saying, “this race had a limit, maybe I should have sacrificed my spot so that a real athlete could be competing.”  Ew, self-loathing, useless thoughts.  So, I bucked up the best I could. After a terrible night’s sleep, I woke up with the beginnings of a RIDICULOUS poison sumac attack.  It was laughable, really.  In any event, I raced!  I put up some interesting numbers–

Here is my comparison of Nationals 2011 (fresh and tapered!) and 2012 (freshly injured!):

2011 Results:
23:33          T1: 1:35        Bike: 1:13.06        T2: 1:25            Run: 41:39

2012 Results:
Swim: 22:37     T1: 2:04     Bike: 1:13.49    T2: 1:28      Run: 44:03
Deltas:
1. Swim = 2012 much faster!  1:35/100m vs. 1:23/100m this year!  2012 swim training worked!
2. Bike= negligible.  In pain so I know my mental game was way off.  Also, SO thirsty on the bike and if you know me you know… I didn’t have water with me. #dumbtriathlete
3. Transition 1: Hilarious. WHAT was I doing…
4. Transition 2: Tired AND very dehydrated
5. Run = 2012, whoa. As expected, really slow.  However, I stopped to walk through the first water stop and pull my shoe lace tighter.  I think this might improve by October.

The swim was a great take-home message. Training consistently really does help.  The same is likely the case for the other two sports but… silly, injured me, wouldn’t know.

Lastly–

August 26: Rev3 Old Orchard Beach!  Another fantastic event! I did this as an Olympic Relay, having just come off of Nationals the weekend before.  My awesome guy got coerced into it as our runner- his little bro has just gotten into tri’s and is flying!!! So, I swam, Jeff cycled and James ran and we WON!  I had never done a relay tri before and this was such a fun race race for it.  So many spectators and fanfare!  I definitely didn’t pay attention to course maps and ended up running to the swim start a mile away– but that’s clearly human error- not a race problem 🙂  I’ll pay better attention next time…. #oops.  This was its inaugural year and it went incredibly smoothly.  Everyone should head up to Maine for it next year!

So that’s it… so far.  This morning I hit my 10 x 100 @ 1:15 and it actually didn’t kill me. I’m psyched to think I could even get a little quicker by October.  But no guarantees. I need some open water practice, for sure.  I have a few races in the next month then it’s taper time for Worlds.  I’m finally able to talk tri again so I plan to do a bit more of this in the next few weeks.  Hopefully I’ll find something interesting to chat about.  Requests welcome, as always.

(Classic “fitting” shot on my new-to-me Quintana Roo Seduza! Although the two main components (the bike and the jules) in this picture appear to be normal sized, it’s just an allusion; we’re just both mini. 🙂  More fun (funny?) pictures follow…)

As many cyclists and triathletes will admit, a professional bike fitting can ostensibly seem to be a big, unnecessary cost. We will also admit, that’s just not the case. Professional bike fitting is a bit of a nebulous term– the costs range dramatically between bike shops (and friends who know bikes “real well”) and the actual service itself ranges as well. There isn’t one, best way to ensure a great fit for a new or even old bike. That isn’t only because each person’s shape and flexibility is different but when you add the complex geometry of the bike, the differences between cyclists is exponential (or factorial, actually). I think women might best understand this by thinking about the ways that clothing fits… or doesn’t… even if technically a size 6 should just be a size 6, right? Yeah, I know, never that simple. Guys- your clothing is ridiculously simple so the analogy stops there.

Why get fit? A proper fit bike will make your time on the road and trail (or the race course) more enjoyable and maximize efficiency. Whether it’s a new or old bike, you could probably benefit from finding optimal riding position (even if it’s just YOU who’s changed and the equipment is the same). If that weren’t enough reason, a “fitting” is the type of initial cost that has a long term benefit in injury prevention– and let me tell ya– nothing is worse than being a sidelined athlete. Often things such as: saddle sores, sore knees, tweaked hips, lower back aches, shoulder strains and neck soreness are directly related to your bike fit. I don’t want to overpromise here (note: I’m not even a good cyclist let alone an actual bike fitter!), but I have also read and heard that a good, tight fit on the bike can lead to an overall increase in output by 10% (I presume this is talking about wattage). So, to recap you might consider a bike fitting if you’re a) new to the bike, b) dislike being injured, c) want to increase cycling efficiency or d) want to be faster. If you want none of these? well, you’re probably not reading this blog.

What is involved in a bike fitting? That depends.

1. The basic fitting: although it might vary a little from shop to shop, for the most part the basic fit will analyze the following:

  • Pedal-shoe interface (yep, this is actually variable      and can be optimized based on your quad/hamstring flexibility)
  • Seat height (fore/aft)
  • Cockpit sizing (handlebars, brakes, gear components)
  • Bar/stem height, length, rotation
  • Handlebar placement
  • Aerodynamic position
  • Proper Pedaling Mechanics–how to effectively pedal, so      the power will be transferred to the pedals.

Cost? Usually around $80-100. OFTEN this will be included in a bike purchase! So make sure to ask. It might be discounted if you spend some money on gear and equipment too. I’d say this is basically mandatory for anyone getting a new bike, but possibly insufficient for a seasoned cyclist looking to ameliorate aches/pains or improve pedal-to-power stroke.

2. The mid-level Option: The mid-level bike fitting is also completed by professional bike fitter. This fitting not only measures everything from a basic fit, but in addition adds in aspects of motion, flexibility, and angular momentum. Specifically, a professional fitter will look at your overall movement on the bike to see where you might have muscle imbalances (or flexibility differences), mobility, stability and strength (specifically core!) that will contribute to a great fit versus just an “ok” fit. These fittings span the gamut for price- you want to make sure this is going to be at least an hour’s session and just ask the bike shop what the fitting includes to make sure it’s really getting into the nit and grit of your cycling. The average costs I’ve seen? $150-$300. Communicate what you need and what you’re looking for and you’ll find that either a higher cost is justified (is the fitter recording the stroke and analyzing dynamically? might be worth a little more because then YOU get to see what he/she does!) or it’s a lower cost with less frills (just some extra expertise and dynamic analysis).  Either way, I’d actually say this is worth it if you’re going to be cycling more than once a week– no matter the distance. If you’re getting on your bike that consistently, a bad fit will be contributing to overall pain in other parts of your life. And why invite that? No need for discomfort (well, no more than what happens in daily, grinding workout sessions of course).

3. The High-Tech Option: There are really high tech fittings; these include clipping into your bike in a way that not only measures your power around the pedal stroke (watching for inconsistencies, or where the “waste space” of your pedal stroke is) but in addition this allows a sophistacated software system to understand where your flexibility is insufficient and should be “supplemented” by your position. The software/hardware combination does this by measuring the weight the foot is carrying around the stroke. Then in addition, they include the bike mechanics measurements included in the basic and pro fittings as well. These are completed by a professional bike fitter (certification is pretty stringent) and can run over $300 per hour. Yep, I know… that’s kind of pricey. Honestly, this isn’t money I (personally!!) would spend. This is because I know I could get a great (albeit slightly less fancy) fit for less, but also because I’m not talented enough to benefit from the delta in price (meaning, I might as well use the extra $$ to race some TT events and improve my handling). If you are a good to great cyclist– this might be a fun opportunity to explore your inefficiencies and improve your cycling in a way you are less likely to by cycling through the same motions that you have for multiple seasons. Fewer places offer something like this though, so it’s usually worth a quick google search (Aw, I know, you just wanted an easy link right? try this: http://ww1.lmgtfy.com/).

I have been incredibly fortunate to be introduced to a fantastic cycling couple– Don and Elaine Vescio who run the triathlon center VMPS, which I’ve mentioned before. Don and Elaine led computraining sessions I took part in all winter; they analyzed my pedal stroke, they told me to stop pedaling a bike that was too big for me, they let me borrow a bike when mine was stolen!, and have been incredible mentors in all things triathlon. In addition, Don helped me not only pick the bike I so badly needed in order to train and compete (to replace my sad stolen TREK) AND helped fit me to the bike. In fact, we are still working on optimizing the fit and the components to suit my exact needs! It was a laborious effort on Don’s part– it’s definitely a pro-fitting (and beyond, really), which he offers anyone for a very very reasonable rate and the time and care and expertise that he has are worth much more. And because we were having fun– we took some pictures! Good fit, right?? Pretty aggressive and tight and I’m lucky to have the flexibility for it (or so we hope!). I’ve only clocked ~100 miles on her, but I’m happy so far!

Tell me– what’s your experience? Is the bike fitting worth it? Are there tell-tale signs of a successful fitting? Any requests you’d make specifically to improve a fit?

Computraining for Beginners

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Cycling, Training, Winter

My Saturdays have been awesome lately.  I’ve added quite a bit of cycling to my regimen for several important reasons: 1. It’s my weakness and it would be awesome to stop being scared of being so slow; 2. I have had to cut back my running severely and 3. turns out, it’s wicked fun!

So Saturdays now look like this:

1. Sleep in until 6:30 or 7am.

2. Make coffee and decide on some sort of leisurely breakfast.  (excellent for step 4)

3. Drive (ok, so this part isn’t my favorite) while catching up on several favorite NPR shows/podcasts (This American Life, The Moth, Science Friday. Yep, I’m that girl, no excuses.)

4. Computrain! This part is awesome. I get to “ride” an Ironman course every week.  Not the whole 112 miles of course, but a big chunk for at least 90-120 minutes.  To explain– a bike is set up on a trainer with full view of screen airing the video shot on the Ironman course, the day of the race from the perspective of a motorcycle.  Your trainer automatically adjusts the resistance on your bike to match the hills on the course as you ride your butt off.  It’s hard, it’s long but it’s really neat.  VMPS is a triathlon center and service group, owned by Elaine and Don Vescio, who are by far some of the best people in this sport– they have been incredible guides for me this fall and winter.  Don runs the computraining class and Elaine is always riding too, setting an insanely quick pace with ease.  Over the course of the ride, we cover all sorts of important topics: when to shift optimally, where your strengths are on the bike, when to push it and when to ease off (yes there IS a time for that! shocking, I know), and how to adapt your position based on the terrain and changes in elevation.    It’s been a wonderful way of tracking my improvement, too- if I were to wager a guess, I think my power output has increased by about 10% at least and I haven’t been doing this very long at all! It’s neat to see how my power shifts, how the speed changes- and also… how fast I am compared to everyone else “riding” along side me in the session– all of those numbers all appear on the screen (watts, MPH, “place”- compared with your fellow riders). But I have to be careful not to over emphasize the Wattage numbers I can see on the screen as we “roll” through the course– clearly, you’d like to see your wattage increase, but it will change based on what we are working on that day and also the terrain of the course.  If I’m a strong climber but the course only features one big hill, my wattage will look significantly different than if we were on big rollers.  Nonetheless, I highly recommend this type of training if you have any need to be inside training on your bike.  It’s engaging, fun, hard and all in all, a great way to learn about yourself as a cyclist.

5. (Best part of Saturday)-– Call Mom on the way home.  First thing she ALWAYS asks, “SO! Where were you this morning!?” And I get to say “Utah” or “St. Croix” or a variety of other awesome Ironman locales.  Even if it’s only wishful thinking, it’s pretty neat to take a weekly “vacation”  🙂

Do you do trainer rides? What do you watch? What keeps you moving? Have you tried computraining? Are power numbers (watts, etc) over rated?

Training your Strength vs. Weakness

One of the most fundamental issues in triathlon training is time.   This post is NOT a breakdown of hours per each tri-sport exactly (because that’s boring); the hours themselves are not as formulaic as the ratio of hours training strong suit vs. weak suit vs. everything in between.  What does that mean? Well, I was a collegiate swimmer and I never competed in the other two until well after graduating, so swimming tends to be my stronger suit.  Granted, I was a 2-year, small college, BREASTROKER and IMer.  Not exactly super helpful as a triathlete.  If you want to choose a water sport in college for triathlon training?  Choose water polo No joke.  It’s the most similar type of swimming as you could get!

Determining your strength

So, figuring out one’s strong suit is a question of how you have performed or trained– or– what comes easiest and at what energy cost?  I’m pretty comfortable in the water.  I can go for months without a ton of training and not feel awful getting in a 3000 yard practice.  It won’t be fast or pretty, but it’ll get done.  Because I cannot do that in the other 2 sports, I call swimming my ‘stronger suit.’  NOTE! This HAS to be a relative value.  You are most likely NOT going to be a rock star in all three events- in fact? you might not be a ‘rock star’ in any one either!  That’s SOOOO fine!  People overestimate the value of the single-sport awesomeness.  The sport is a mesh of swimming, cycling, running, taking off clothing (well, it is part of the race), racing and sustaining yourself.  There are a lot of moving pieces.  In terms of training, you simply need to understand how to allocate the time you have to train.  Deciding how to divvy up your time-crunched schedule is a matter of triage because you’ll never be able to train as much as you might ultimately like to.  In my opinion, there’s no reason to focus training (time wise) on your strength if you can avoid it.  (Perhaps a little different for runners because running is a way to sustain overall triathlon fitness, but it is not the end game.)  I argue that you ought to train your weakness because it will likely create the BIGGEST bang (performance increase) for your valuable triathlete-hour (triathlete’s ‘buck’).  Because of the relative ease of swimming for me (only compared with the other 2 sports!), I tend to train only once hard and fast per week and as a recovery a second time per week.  I also make sure that my strength training (which is applicable to all 3 sports) targets my lats, pecs, and deltoids- attempting to compensate for swimming less than most triathletes might.

What’s your Weakness

Check out that gear-- biggest one, and I'm about to go straight up hill. Brilliant, I know.

Well, let’s be honest, this one is probably more obvious.  While you might not be stand-out, incredible in all three sports, you’ve likely got the one sport that just makes you sweat: literally and figuratively.  That’s the jam right there.  That’s where you’ve got room for change, impact and improvement, which is great.  You know what isn’t great? Training that part.  I know– it’s the thing you always choose the snooze button over if it’s an AM workout, or choose drinks with friends over at night, or well, just a bad Sunday afternoon movie 🙂   It’s SO easy to forgo that workout.  Because? You’re not good at it. And honestly, we’re not in college any more, why spend time doing something that you’re good at and genuinely enjoy?  I will tell you- it doesn’t take much.  It takes just 30 minutes twice a week more than you’ve spent in the past to probably make an appreciable change.  Those 60 minutes could be– drilling with a stretch cord for swimming, single leg drills in cycling or cadence play on a hill for running.  I really think it takes just a bit of added effort and you could see some pretty good results at very little cost to your other sports.  I could easily say both running and cycling are weak spots for me. But the truth is that my cycling is kind of ridiculously sad.  I’d say there’s good reason, but there isn’t really. I probably didn’t bike enough as a kid so I tend to be way too timid on the bike- my gear shifting is hilarious and I’ve been known to ride in “the hardest gear possible” until I can “no longer push the pedal around” and then change gears.  For the record? Don’t do that.  That, shockingly, is not how one ‘rides a bike’ or … so I’ve been told, through bouts of laughter on group rides.  To train my cycling weakness, I’ve been increasing the amount I’ve been cycling and specifically, I’ve been targeting what I’m worst at (if you’re going to train the sport you’re general ‘worst at’- train the weakest spots, right?).  So, for me, that means cadence increases and better connectivity to the bike- lots of single-leg drills teaching me about floating the foot that isn’t working, increasing hip flexor power, et cetera.  So far so good! My power numbers have been getting better (I have pretty low power compared to where it should be based on muscular weight ratio)– but obviously, I don’t know anything until I’ve raced.  Also, I have to thank VMPS triathlon center for letting me use a Cervelo P3- this is my first time on a tri bike! It’s incredible! It is different– I’m pitched forward throughout a whole ride, there’s little ‘rest’ space but I don’t mind.  The harder the better for now 🙂 At least cycling is getting to be more fun than it ever was last season!  That’s simply from become a little more comfortable on the bike, or.. in my case… on that crazy tri saddle.

So, that’s how I break tri training down: where is your triathlete comparative advantage and disadvantage?  If you look at the ‘law of comparative advantage,’ but inflect the definition inwards– it means your relative “costs” of producing three “goods” (sports) are different.  So your comparative advantage is the sport whose production value comes at the least opportunity cost.  Turned around- the sport that’s your weakness, has the least output pre hour input.  To continue the nerdy reference, your job as a triathlete is to reduce the delta between those 🙂

So that’s what I’m trying to do.  What do you do? Do you train your weakness? Your strength?  How does that differ for singular sports?  There’s always something to train- even just a piece of a stride or cadence, or climb skill– so what’s yours? Do you ignore it? Overcome it with strength instead of finesse? Is this all overrated?

WINNERS!!

Results of my Bike and World Champsionship Fundraiser: Thank you to everyone for donating!  More than 65 donations were made, which totaled over $2500 towards a replacement bike (mine was stolen in the fall 😦 )!  I am incredibly grateful and humbled by everyone’s generosity!  Thank you thank you thank you! The bike will be purchased shortly.  I want to make sure I get the best bike possible for me (a short, new-to-tri, but still going to World champs … type) and so I am working with my local triathlon center and my tri teams to see what the best deals are.  I will be purchasing soon and, believe me, I will update you as soon as I do!

Thank you, additionally, to all of my incredible sponsors.  Wheelworks, Landry’s, VMPS Triathlon Center, TriGuyCoaching, Mina at Riverbend Massage, Nancy Clark, Tufts University, Mix1, FIRM Racing, UbiSoft Games and Everstride.

World Championships are not until NEXT October though so in the mean time I will probably host yet ANOTHER spin-fundraiser and continue to fundraise in general.  If you are interested in coming, or simply supporting, please let me know!  The next spin-fundraiser will likely be in March 2012.

I will be contacting our winners individually– but if for any reason a winner does not hear from me (by January 7), please get in touch! (jledewitz [at] gmail.com or just leave a comment below!)

The following donors have won these awesome items in the World Championships Fundraiser Raffle

Meg Reilly Barnes and Noble Gift Certificate (from Tufts University)
Adam Rosenberg Jules’ Baked Goods
Christopher Schaffner 1 hour Nutrition Counseling with http://www.nancyclarkrd.com/
Stephen Normadin Free 2012 FIRM Race Entry
David Meyers UbiSoft Video Games
Danielle Marquis 1 free 1BandID www.1bandid.com
Benjamin Berry EverStride Gift Pack
Emma Kosciak VMPS Triathlon Center Gift Certificate
Jessica Kraus Case of Mix1
Whitney Rauschenbach Landry’s Bicycles Gift Certificate
Flavia Chen Jules’ Baked Goods
Katie Bond Landry’s Bicycles Gift Certificate
Josh Flanagan VMPS Tri Gift Certificate
David Altman 1 Month coaching/training plan from http://triguycoaching.com/
Joe Vukson 1 hour Massage from http://riverbendmassage.weebly.com/
Jeffrey Longcor Landry’s Bicycles Gift Certificate
Michael Nislick Swim Lesson
Rod Azadan Landry’s Bicycles Gift Certificate
Allyson Huntington WheelWorks 90-Minute Bike Fitting
Ben Martens Barnes and Noble Gift Certificate (from Tufts University)
Charlie Ticotsky Jules’ Baked Goods
Thomas Rodrigues  Stefani Danes’ Homemade Quilt
Joanne & Ryan Kennedy Jules’ Baked Goods

Anatomy of a Spin Class

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Cycling, Training

As some (mom and dad?) of you might know, I teach a spin class every Monday at the ripe ol’ hour of 6am.  I love it.  I know the idea of that scares the beejeezus out of some of my acquaintances who think ‘spin instructor’ means I scream or that I channel some weird version of Richard Simmons.

This is not me, I promise 🙂

To be honest, there might be a hint of Simmons; but I don’t scream- I coach and encourage?  My class tends to be a group of 15+ ‘regulars’ – they’re an A-type crew mostly over the age of 30,  8am workers or stay-at-home parents trying to get home before their kids’ alarms ring.  Then there’s a flex group of 5 or so who might or might not ignore their own Monday morning alarm clocks.  So, I like to make sure there is a lot of variety in their workouts.  I’ve taken spin classes, I know how monotonous they can be and how much fun they can be too. Sometimes, it’s just an issue of defining that version of “fun.”

If you’ve ever “spun” you know the deal- you’re sitting on an indoor bike, but it’s fitted like a road bike- you’re pitched forward, hopefully set up in a way that has your hands level with your seat so that you can mimic the feeling of the road.  I actually just tried to search for a good picture of this and couldn’t find one- but looking at decent cyclists on an ascent gives you a good idea.  Then, depending on the instructor, you adjust the resistance on the weighted front flywheel so that it feels as though you’re on a flat road with a headwind or as though you’re climbing an ascent.  Your resistance change is “up to you” but I try to guide my crew with a scale- either 1-10 or breath-ful to breathless.  The difference I’ve found between my class and others I have taken is that I leave very little room for “recovery.”  One of my best metrics for ‘fitness’ is recovery time and I’ve found that recovery time is an acquired skill- if you don’t practice it, it won’t change.  That’s something I’ve been working on in my class for a few weeks now and it still allows for plenty of variety in the classes.  What I aim to do is to take recovery periods and reduce them as a percentage of the ‘work’ portion.  So:

Recovery from a 2 minute piece=

100% = 2 min (full recovery)

50% = 1 min. (most recovery)

25% = 30 seconds (little recovery)

In a given workout, I’ll try to keep most of the pieces at a consistent percentage recovery depending on the workout.  That still allows me to use 4 minute pieces, 3s, 2s, et cetera.  I should mention that a “piece” @ effort can be something with high Rotations per minute (RPMs), high resistance, or ascent (hill).  It’s up to you- it’s something that rev’s your heart rate!  Then you ask for some amount of recovery depending where you are in a macro training cycle, or micro, or… just because it’s Tuesday and you feel like you need 100% recovery.  That’s what I enjoy about creating workouts– keep the variety while always keeping fitness AND fun in mind.

So, today’s workout included mostly 25% recoveries- I really wasn’t letting people rest today.  I’ll do that for most of December.  The way that works, however, is that the sustained effort pieces will NOT be above 80-85% because they can’t be.  There would be NO way to repeat a 90% effort without a most-to-full recovery. I picked music that was pretty high-tempo’d as well but also shared the variety of the pieces I wanted to do.  We basically alternated between one big hill climb and several pieces “at effort.”

Music included (I’ll update this later, forgot the playlist at home!):
Hill climbs: MJ’s “Billie Jean,”  Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen,” Black Keys’ “Howling for You”
Flat intervals: Rhianna (remix) “Disturbia,” Usher “Dj got us Falling in Love,” Robyn, “Indestructible,” Florence and the Machine “Dog Days are Over”

Lastly, just for fun, I’m going to leave you with a bit of the vocab I use during class.

attack: get after a hard piece of effort

breakaway: a speed burst

bull horns: the outer limits of the handle bars; the most aggressive handlebar position

“Hold onto it”: Don’t let the pace slip (at the end of a hard piece of effort)

Up the resistance: to increase resistance

release the tension: to decrease resistance

“jam it”: a power or acceleration bursts

seated climb: used during actual racing to economize energy before a breakaway

standing climb/position 3: in actual racing, usually used during a very steep ascent or a climb

over the top: taking a climb to the “top,” pushing through the end of a climb

 

Do these make sense? Would you use other terminology?

What do you like about spin classes? Or have you never tried them? What would entice you?  Other spin-related questions?

Say it, DO IT: Better Biking

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Cycling, Training, Wheelworks

In my last post, I wrote about my reflections from last season.  The real reason to write a post like that is to determine what changes you’ll make in seasons to come.  One of my first realizations is that I have, on occasion, sandbag-ed my cycling workouts.  If you know me at all, you know this doesn’t mean I didn’t at least attempt a hard workout each time- the issue is that I would let every other kind of workout come first.  (Well, except Yoga and strength, also “to be improved”).  In general, it meant that these workouts would happen in the evening, when I’m least in the mood to workout, when I’m often fatigued from an earlier workout, etc.  This isn’t on purpose; it’s out of… well… fear on some level.  I know my cycling isn’t great- in fact I know it’s my very big weak spot, if I were to only have 1.  On some level, if I bag those workouts a little, I can excuse my poor performance on the bike.  That sounds AWFUL to say “aloud.”  However, I’m not going to stand behind that facade any longer.

Why and how will my cycling get better this season?

1.  I have support!  I am absolutely in awe of the support I’ve received simply by asking for it.  It’s amazing how helpful people can be when they know you’re feeling a weakness and would LIKE some help!  This is me saying: you’re surrounded by support- it’s from your teammates, twitter, facebook, your local bikeshop!, your not-so-local but awesome triathlon center, et cetera.  Before you resign yourself to “just not being good at that”– try asking for a little help!

2.  I am cycling, HARD.  I am trying new workouts, I’m recording my levels of fatigue and I’m really thinking about how to do more cycling each week.  I’ve been doing more cycling than I ever have before and it’s hard but it is not, in fact,… scary.  I know I’m weak, I dislike ‘not being good at it’– but there is really only 1 way to combat that: PRACTICE!  For example- an awesome way to improve is to “ride” with people who are really good cyclists.  My teammates are fantastic cyclists and you could catch us dancing cycling all out to some awesome “80s Cardio” Pandora in a basement last week.  We were looking “hot.”

3.  Strength training.  Through a variety of means I’m beginning to look at how strength training- the real stuff, real lifting- not little endurance sets with resistance– can make a change for me.  I’ll post about that another time but suffice to say, I’m excited to be able to concentrate my efforts in this way.

4.  Making it “fun.”  Well, I use that term… liberally.  I am definitely figuring out that I enjoy cycling much better with other people.  So that is the first step- cycle more with friends, tri teammates (see above), etc.  Secondly, I like numbers- I like seeing improvements and I enjoy creating cool workouts.  So, I’ve been investing more time into composing hard spin classes (seriously, come try my spin class! it’s fun!) and trainer rides that are challenging but have *variety*.  Don’t underestimate the value of variety.  Hugely important for keeping it spicy.

Three cheers for cycling! And possibly getting better!?

How about you? Do you train your weakness?  Or can you see a way to make it ‘fun?’