From winning, to sucking, to realizing it really didn't suck because in hindsight, it's just another bike race.
I won a bike race last week. Great. I did poorly at a race this past weekend...not so great. In the moment it sucked; it felt like a sh*tty day. However, my day wasn't all that bad afterall because for many yesterday, it was the end of the world...at least for now. It might get better for most as time goes by, as they always say, time heals. But for some people, some might not be able to run again, some might not want to run again, some might not want to race again, some might not bring their children or loved ones to another race again, and for a few families, some will never see their loved ones again. Who knows what the future holds, but THAT is a sh*tty day.
An 8-year old boy died in the Boston bombings. "Reports say he was running back from trying to give his dad a high five when the first bomb went off." How do you fathom that? Just sit back and think about it.
Everyone that has trained for a marathon, Ironman, or any other event requiring extensive training, knows what it takes to get to that start and finish line. It takes hard work, dedication, support from friends and family, because we all know it's not an easy journey. That final moment when they cross the finish line with the feeling of relief and euphoria. That feeling that they have finally accomplished what they have worked so hard for...to finally share that joy with their loved ones. That moment was taken away and destroyed for this boy's father and family. Father crosses the finish line, his son running towards him to congratulate his father, a champion and winner through his son's eyes. Imagine that. Those of you with kids, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, parents, fellow competitors, etc...this tragic event hits close to home. Way too close.
At the end of the day, crossing the finish line in Boston for the majority wasn't all that important anymore. Now, that sucks. Yesterday sucked. People's lives, hard work, and feelings of accomplishment were shattered to pieces. But as Fit Chick of Bicycling Mag says, "we are bigger and stronger and greater than the evil that reined down on Boston’s finish line." Together, we will figure out a way to fight this evil because we all know that winning and losing are all part of the game.
September 30, 2012
It's been a while since my last post, but it seems rather appropriate. Those of you that follow my racing, I haven't raced a triathlon since April 1, 2012 at the US Pro Championships. In fact, I haven't trained for them since then because I was living the life of a bike racer. Long story short, my intention was to start a full training schedule mid-August, but due to some setbacks from bike racing related injuries, I only had 3-4 complete weeks of training prior to this past Sunday. The other women had been racing and training all Spring and Summer, so I had all the reason to be scared going into the race. But I said, "F-it, just have fun." I finished 9th and wasn't too far off of what I'd consider a great day in the office…that's impressive in my book. However, the results don't really show how I spent my Sunday morning.
As I'm prepping my bike on race morning, I realize that my magnet for the speedometer is missing. Oops! I walk over to one of the mechanics on site and asked if he had an extra magnet. He looks around, looks at me, looks around again, smiles and says, "No, sorry." I look at my watch, and BOOM! It's not working. Great, now I've got no data for the bike or the run. And to make it even worse, there were no mile markers on the bike course. None whatsoever. I like to take in nutrition every 20 minutes, but since I had nothing, I pretty much had to guess. I figured that if everything I had on my bike was gone in a timely fashion by the time I got into T2, I was good to go. It worked out pretty well for the most part.
I never seem to acclimate well to cold weather. 100% of the time, I just suck it up and go on pure grit. I'm walking around race morning as it's still dark, watching everyone's breath through the crisp air. I'm thinking, why would they hold a triathlon in the Poconos in late September? I started to exhale obnoxiously just to poke fun. It was nearing 7am, time to head towards the swim start. When it was time, the pro men and women were directed to head in the water for some warm-up. The announcer said that we had 4 minutes. About 30 seconds later, we were called back for the start. What the fuuuuuuudge. The gun goes off and my body goes into total shock mode. About 50 meters into the swim, I'm short of breath and unable to get my body to relax. It didn't ease up, so I eventually undid the velcro around the neck of my wetsuit. It helped a little bit, but nothing drastic. My arms felt like lead, my body feeling like I was dragging along an extra 50 pounds. It was a dreadful, cold swim. What seemed like a decade, finally ended as I ran through T1 and mounted onto my bike.
Since I had no working speedometer or watch, I easily distracted myself with a bunch of questions and thoughts going through my mind. Was I going out too hard? Was I not going hard enough? How would I know when it's 20 minutes? My Power Bar initially too hard to bite into, my sunglasses all fogged up. There were two turnaround points on the bike course, so maybe if I had figured out where they were before the race, I would've had some idea of where I was throughout the race relative to those two points. But no, I didn't look into the course that much. My mind was going nuts because I had no data. Nothing! T2 comes around, I rack my bike, and my right quad cramps for a few seconds. I grimace in discomfort, shake it out, and head out for the run.
I had trouble catching my breath for the first couple miles; the cooler temps taking over my body. My legs felt heavy early in the run, but started to feel better the latter half of the first 10k. Then it hit me with about 4 miles to go. You know when you're climbing a hill really hard on a bike, and your quads tighten up, pool with lactic acid and burn, and you're just waiting for the top of the hill so your legs can relax, recover, and dump the lactic acid out of your legs? Yea, well, my legs were still climbing really hard the last 4 miles. My strides shortened, every step sending sharp pain through my legs. I tried to distract myself by focusing on my breathing and running form. My quads were screaming to stop, but I knew that if I stopped, my legs would seize. No matter how good or bad your race is going, the last couple miles always seem to take forever. I crossed the finish line, looked at my time through the chute, thought, "Hey, not too bad," and I immediately went to the med tent. "I need to sit down" was the first thing I said. I eventually got to lie down; I was given fluids and some drugs while one of the docs took my info. They also took my HR-100 and BP-107/72,...the only [useless] data I had for the day.
Pro Cycling Tour__Liberty Classic: June 3, 2012
Pure Energy Cycling-ProAirHFA
This race is a pretty big deal. Being the USA's top ranked single-day cycling classic, approximately 130 riders from top teams around the world toe the line. I was given the opportunity to race this last year, but my debut came to a close when I crashed out on the final lap of the day. I wasn't totally off the hook this time around, but I was pretty happy [but not really] with my day, all things considered.
Going into the race this year, I wasn't as nervous because I knew what to expect. I knew the calibre of the race, I knew the course; I came into the race with more confidence, telling myself that I'm just as good as anyone else out there. I just had to believe it and apply it.
The race started on a calm, clear day, only to get warmer and windier throughout the day. My plan from the start was to "stay out of trouble" and ride smart, especially during the leading km's into the Manayunk Wall. The first time up the wall was a shock to my legs, but I figured it wasn't all that comfortable for the rest of the field either. Riding with smart tactics in the peloton definitely helped with my position going up the wall each lap because if I was any further back I'm sure I would've been screwed going into "the fall after the wall." I was feeling pretty confident and good about my race after the second lap because the pace up the wall proved to be tough for many to hang on.
During the second half of the third lap, I started to feel slight cramping in my calves. I thought nothing of it because it wasn't bad enough to cause any concern. So, what do you do...keep riding. After the third lap, going into the fourth, the slight cramping started up again, but again causing no concern...until we hit Kelly Drive on our way back towards the finish.
Somewhere along Kelly Drive getting close to Lemon Hill, both of my calves charlie horsed on me simultaneously. If you've ever gotten a charlie horse in your calf, you know it hurts like a bitch and they don't let up too easily. As soon as it happened, my eyes went bug-eyed, and I panicked for a slight second or two while I looked between my legs in disbelief. Thankfully, the peloton wasn't going too fast at that point; as I continued to drift back, I was quite certain that I was going to have to drop out of the race. I thought to myself in a disappointed way, "I can't end it like this." I think I almost started to cry too. But somehow, I managed to relieve the cramps by massaging them desperately and continuing to pedal with dropped heels. Unfortunately, by the time they were okay, it was time to go up Lemon Hill. For those of you that know the course, if you're not in good position coming off Lemon Hill, it can cost you your race. And so it goes.
Coming off Lemon Hill, the pace picked up along with the crosswinds. I got caught behind a few girls that opened up a gap; trying to bridge across myself in the crosswinds wasn't an option for me at that point. If it had been on the beginning laps, that's a different story. I was pretty disappointed because I was having a fantastic race up until that point. Yea, many would say that it was a good result, but not to my standards. I don't race to finish, I race to race. Really, I don't mean to insult anyone here, but you know what I mean. However, in the grand scheme of things, it was just bad timing and luck...it happens...sh*t happens. I'll be back next year.
Hunter Mt RR: May 12, 2012
Distance: 78mi/125km__Elevation Gain: ~6,000ft
"It's funny because when you look at results, it doesn't tell the entire story."
This is so true, Cheri. So, I finished in a disappointing 2nd place but maybe it wasn't so disappointing after all. The race started off around 10:25 AM, sunny clear skies, about 70 degrees at the start. There were 10 women, small field indeed, but a field that was willing to [really] race. The promoter running the race decided that it would be a good idea to combine our field with the Cat 5/45+ men's field because they didn't have a pace car for us; this was a last minute decision which I still don't understand. Right then and there, I knew something was going to happen...we just didn't know when or what.
So, they blew the whistle and off we went. I immediately took charge and went towards the front as the other gals followed. It was best that we set the tone from the gun because getting intermingled with the guys wasn't in our best interest. A few miles into the race, I attacked on a climb and got a good gap, soloing away for a few miles with no one in sight behind me. I got caught by the combined group, but then attacked again not too long after. This time, I got a gap that lasted for let's say...50km. After about ten minutes of riding solo, I thought to myself...what the heck, I might as well just go for it. The race was 125km, so I had a long ways to go with some doubt in the back of my mind. But, you never know. Besides thinking that I was nuts, I had other thoughts in my head, like well maybe they won't want to work together to pull me back in. I spent a lot of time riding solo, with nothing but me and the pace car. I had a lot of time to think. Maybe if we weren't in the middle of nowhere, or maybe if there were spectators around, or maybe......just me and the pace car.
I cross the finish line to start the second lap of the 39-mi circuit, grabbing some neutral hydration a mile or so after. Not too long after, I could sense the calm before the storm. I look back on a gradual climb, the gals hunting me down like there's no tomorrow. I settled back in with the group, getting some kudos and "atta girl" for my efforts. "You are hard to catch," made me smile, but it would've been pretty epic and sweet to have stayed away for the entire race. Anyway, at this point there were far less men than what we started with, but the few that were left, were doomed to cause some ruckus. The girls were going strong, keeping the pace high, my legs not looking to have any juice left to go for another attack. I thought about it, but my body did not want to initiate. Well, maybe if my life depended on it.
I'm climbing out of my saddle, nice and relaxed, and a dude in a red jersey rides into my right side. "What the hell, watch it," I said. Hey, sometimes people need some tough love. I'm watching this guy, in the red jersey, ride in and around the group like a friggin' squirrel, thinking I need to avoid him at all cost. Fast forward to about 3km to go, obviously everyone is getting anxious now because the race is almost over. I had a weird feeling about the finishing km's so I went near the front with the other gals, keeping the guys behind me. Whew, that was a good idea because as soon as I did that, I heard a huge crash behind me. Carbon, flesh, and pavement...ouch. It did not sound good at all, as I was almost tempted to stop to see if everyone was okay because as I looked around to see who was all left, my friend Fabienne (and Liberty Classic teammate) wasn't in sight. I kept shaking my head in disappointment because I just knew sh*t was going to break loose.
With 500 meters to go, I got on a wheel and jumped with 300 to go...a smidgen sooner than I wanted to, getting nipped at the line. Despite the loss, I felt like a winner. The guys in the pace car and the other gals were congratulating me, impressed by my gutsy move only to still finish strong; hearing the words, "I like the way you race," made the loss OK.
I asked around to see what really happened behind me in the finishing kilometers; when I heard Fabienne went down but was okay, I was relieved. I should've warned her to stay away from the red jersey...it was a shame because to work and train hard, crashing out of a road race with not much left to go is a racer's worst "what if" reality. Anyway, as I traveled back to PA, I checked in to see if Fabienne was okay, then continued to reminisce about the race. I always say to myself, I'd rather lose trying than not try at all.
Tour of Battenkill
Race Date: April 14, 2012
Everyone that's into cycling knows about the Tour of Battenkill…no need to explain the background and history of this race. Think of it as our version of Paris-Roubaix. Anyway, I went into this race kind of in an awkward position. I tapered for 70.3 nat's, which meant less miles on the bike, especially the week leading up to the race. Having to build back up after the race was tough because I was still recovering. Walking normally was a chore for a few days…running does wonders on your legs, as all of you know. Oh, I guess that's why cyclists typically avoid it at all cost (not in a bad way, I totally understand). My best bet was to recover well and ride with moderate intensity until my legs felt "normal" again. I had two weeks to do this; in the end, I think it worked out pretty well for the most part. After Battenkill, I think all the running was shaken out of my legs…it was truly an epic day.
If you've ever seen my bare right shoulder, it has a pretty neat scar. Shown below is the aftermath of crashing a few years ago while riding through gravel; ever since then I've always had a fear of riding through such terrain. For whatever reason, I got talked into doing Battenkill last year, and I remember swearing to myself that I wouldn't go back. But, I went back this year only to give myself another shot at this race with a better approach…not only physically and tactically, but mentally, as well.
Pre-race: I got to Cambridge, NY on Friday around 3:30 PM, checked in with registration, went to my hotel, settled in, and eventually got in an hour pre-race spin. Unfortunately, due to my tight schedule, I wasn't able to recon the course…which I slightly regret.
Race: The gun went off and the neutral start began. Legs were feeling good, it was a beautiful day, everyone was enjoying the first five miles or so. Then the pain started to knock on the door. On the first climb of the day, a steep one, Canadian Veronique Fortin of TIBCO, attacked. For those of you that don't "know" her, let's just say that she's the Queen of Blue Knob (of the infamous Tour de 'Toona), let alone practically the Queen of all mountains. I aspire to climb like her one day…someday. Anyway, going back to Battenkill…of course for her, she was just testing the field to see who would go with her, etc. This caused a lot of pain on the field, causing the first split of the race. I was one of few ladies that attempted to go with her, but then immediately slowed it down a notch after realizing two things: one, we've got a long ways to go; two, there were two teams that had numbers. You get the idea. The rear end of the pack got shelled, but eventually got back on after a few miles of chasing. It definitely was a wakeup call for me and the other gals.
Fast forward to mile…48ish. This is when things started to really unfold. We got to a long, loose stretch of dirt and gravel. OMG. I think it was about 2.5 miles long (correct me if I'm wrong); I knew going into it that this part was going to make or break your race. However, I realized that a bit too late. I saw Marti Shea (if you don't know her, you should read up on her) head towards the front of the pack before we got to the stretch. I thought to myself, hmm…I should probably go with her. But instead, I decided to chill in the back thinking it couldn't get worse from here on out. Going back to not being able to recon the course the day before, I paid the price. The stretch was flat and people were getting shelled…that's how crazy this section was. No matter how hard I tried to ride through to get closer towards the front, I continued to fish-tale through, dirt and dust anywhere and everywhere. I felt like I was riding through a friggin' desert. Is there a special trick to this, or am I just an amateur when it comes to this stuff? Maybe I'll figure it out someday.
A little bit of chaos from then until about mile 58 I want to say, when my chase group finally caught back on to the lead group. I was a bit disheartened when I realized that a few key players were missing; to find out that five had gotten away. I'm not saying that if I had positioned myself better on that long stretch of dirt/gravel, that I would've made it with them, but the thought of the possibility was frustrating. So, I had to accept the fact that we weren't going to catch them with a few miles left. I had to settle with what was left for us. The finish wasn't that exciting, our group finishing together in a bunch sprint. My heart had been left at the mile marker where I found out the five girls had gotten away.
Reflection: Others might look at the results and say it was a solid performance, but in my eyes it was acceptable but not quite satisfying. It's definitely a good gauge for my fitness. Given that I've officially geared all my focus to cycling for a few months, I now know what to work on and tweak for my next focus race. I'm hungry. And no, not for food.
US Pro Championships
April 1, 2012
United Airlines and US Airways SUCK!!! Just sayin'...
Getting to TX: My flight was supposed to take off via United at 5:45pm on Friday. Everyone loaded the plane; after spending close to an extra 45 minutes on the plane, we were asked to de-board. Long story short, some people booked an alternate flight, some stuck around in hopes of getting on a plane. I had no other option but sticking around. Eventually, we boarded on a new plane at 10:15pm. Yay…only to get to my hotel at 4am Saturday. I tried to "sleep in" a bit on Saturday, but only managed to sleep about 5 hours. So much for being well rested two days before race day.
We had some pissed off passengers...
Race morning: The body is an amazing thing. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off. I got my usual coffee, bagel, and Honey Stinger energy bar down while I gathered my stuff to head out.
1.2 mi swim: Your mind is very powerful. The gun went off and by default, a group of gals made their lead pretty distinctive. A few were trailing in front of me, but not even close enough to get a draft. I ended up swimming alone for the entire swim, not realizing that there was another group of gals behind me. They were far enough behind that I couldn't see them; that totally played with my head. I thought I was dead last. I exited the swim and headed to transition. It was smooth sailing...getting off the wetsuit quickly, putting on my helmet and sunglasses, heading out to the bike exit.
56 mi bike: I forgot one thing though…clipping on my race number belt. They were laying across my aerobars; I realized this after I got on the bike and started pedaling. I looked down, said, "sh*t" and decided to keep soft pedaling while I tried to get the belt on. If you've ever ridden a TT bike, it's not exactly friendly for "hands free" riding. I eventually managed to get my number on after a minute or so. For those of you that do triathlons, just use your imagination…it was pretty entertaining.
After I finally got situated, it was time to get going on the flat, out-and-back course. Of course, it was complete cross-headwind on the way out, making slow times on the way out inevitable. Being the smallest one there, by default I was at a disadvantage on this course--flat and windy (power output/energy exertion). It's simple science, but I wasn't going to let it get to my head. On the way out, I didn't start feeling good until after about 10 miles, and I managed to hammer down a handful of riders that seemed to lose their focus in the headwind. The thing about flat bike courses, not only is it mentally challenging, it also puts a different kind of strain on your body. When compared to a course like Boulder, let's say, there isn't much going on but you in a TT position for the entire 56 miles. So, I decided to take the initiative to trigger some different muscles by getting out of the saddle every once in a while, about 20 pedal strokes at a time. I might have lost some time doing this, but I would rather do that and prevent any cramping of the quads (it's happened to me before on flat courses).
13.1 mi run: By the time everyone started the run, the temperature had risen. The run course, just like the bike, was out in the open. Thankfully, we were fortunate to have a water/nutrition station approximately every mile (some races don't do that). Ironman was also very considerate for giving out sponges soaked in water. Those are my favorite and key to keeping core temperature down as much as possible. I started the run not feeling that great. I thought to myself, either I'm going to keep feeling this way the entire run and it's going to suck, or my legs are going to open up at some point of the run. I headed out for the run; I got passed by Christie Sym of Australia and Nina Kraft of Germany, about a mile and a half into the first lap (3-loop run). I told myself that I could either continue going at my pace, or try to stay with them. I stuck with Christie for the first half of the run while Nina picked up the pace. Christie and I passed a few gals on the way that seemed to be affected by the heat. It was even too hot for Jenny Fletcher, who had stopped on the first lap. I think the momentum of picking people off and the consistency of the pace did my legs good. At the halfway point with about six miles left, my legs had opened up and I started to feel really good, so I took off at one of the water stations, opening up a gap and eventually catching Nina.
Getting back to PA: I crossed the finish line with limp legs, waited around a bit, gave a couple high-five's, shook Nina's hand, and went off to gather my things. At this point, I had about 90mins to get to my hotel, take a shower, and pack my luggage/bike. The only good thing that came out of this was that I wasn't "suffering" from any GI issues thanks to GU Energy Gels, and I got to the airport on time. I got to PHL at a quarter to 11pm, only to find that my bike never made it. I spoke with a very nice lady named Tanya at the baggage claim office, asking her if this was some kind of April Fool's prank. It turns out that the guy who tagged my bike in Houston via US Airways, put the wrong tag on! I was technically "Diane" at that moment; my bike was on its way to Jacksonville, FL. By the time we got all the paperwork done to ensure that the bike would arrive safely at some point within the next 48hrs, it was 11:30pm and I had another 80mins of my travels left. By the time I got home and in bed, I had about 4hrs until I had to get back up for school. I wish I could've stayed an extra day to enjoy Galveston Island. Life.
Reflection: On a side note, TO (Tim O'Donnell) had a stellar performance...he didn't get "Lanced." But, as Lance said, this race was a different ball game. The USA field alone was deep. Kelly Williamson, Caitlin Snow, Heather Wurtele, Amy Marsh were just a few of them. And when you've got other champions from different countries fighting for a big prize purse and points towards qualifying for Worlds (World Triathlon Corporation implemented a point qualification system last year only for the pros), it really changes up the dynamics. PS, I'd love to see an American win Worlds...whether it be at Nevada or Hawaii. No pressure or anything, Williamson. Overall, I was quite pleased with my performance, finishing 10th for the US. It's amazing how much talent is out there; my hat goes off to Williamson for having a kick-ass season thus far. As for me, although I can only improve upon this result, I am taking nearly a 5mo break so I can race my bike. I can really use this mental break; it will give me a chance to rejuvenate my mind for the sport, and really focus on putting all of my energy towards another big passion of mine.
Kudos: I'd like to thank Erica Sheckler (for being my swim partner and keeping me level-headed at the airport Friday night) and Craig Sheckler of Endurance Multisport for hooking me up with some training partners, Cyndi Roberts, those individuals that dealt with my irritableness leading up to the race, the cycling community here in the Lehigh Valley, Bike Line of Allentown, Honey Stinger, Gu Energy Gel for keeping my GI normal during and after the race, and those that have encouraged me along the way.
I'll be back in September! For now...
If you never try, you'll always live in fear.
I was talking with my cycling mentor the other day, about my progression in the sport the past two years. "Your situational awareness has gotten so much better, and you're more comfortable riding near the front and mixing it up with the boys," he said. 99% of the time, I don't do anything half-heartedly. If I do, I'm dead tired and I shouldn't be out there in the first place.
Before I started bike racing in 2010, the year before I eventually made my way up to riding the Fleetwood Derby to prepare for my triathlon races. I remember how intimidated I was, and how difficult it was at times to even make it with the main pack. Going as far back as my very first derby, I remember getting popped immediately at the turnaround; also thinking that the first bump was an actual hill. I remember saying to someone next to me, "Are there more hills? Crap…"
Now, in 2012, even riding in the middle of the pack seems awkward to me. I try to rotate in the front with the guys, as much as it sucks sometimes, almost like I'm sending the message to the boys that I can hang with them. It requires more work and grit on my part, because I'm a girl (I'll explain this rationale in a bit), but it's all worth it because it has improved my fitness. When there are times that I can't rotate in the front or miss a small break, I get really pissed off. But then I think to myself, wait, I'm a girl.
I know it sounds sexist, but think about it. Take the most fit endurance guy racer, and the most fit endurance female racer, the guy will always win in perfect circumstances. It's the human body. Testosterone vs estrogen. That's what I'm making reference to, not because "I'm a girl." I, along with other female elite cyclists, am outnumbered no matter what. If you know cycling and who all lives in and around the Lehigh Valley, the derby/training races here are no joke--from pro's, to ex-pro's, to Olympians, and champions alike, we've got it all; I work my a** off to make the most of them. Not only does it boost my confidence as a racer and athlete, but it subconsciously tells me that I can; all I have to do is believe and have faith in my strength and capabilities.
I look forward to the 2012 cycling season, as I will be taking a 5-month hiatus from triathlon training/racing. In the meantime, I am thinking about that first bike race, but I must fight back with redemption on 4/1/12. With bad luck in Panamá, followed by feelings of depression for a few days, I eventually got real hungry for my last triathlon of the racing year--Pro National Championships in Galveston, TX. I have worked so hard on the bike, have been super solid and consistent with my my running, and the swimmer in me has manifested; I'm hoping it all pays off. I'd like to thank all of those that have helped and supported me along the way, to keep me focused and driven…especially the cycling community. Without you guys and gals, my strength on the bike would not exist. All of you that have encouraged me, you know who you are…it means the world to me.
After the video "Sh*t Cyclists Say" went viral this past week, I saw a post on Twitter a couple days later that had a video about the "Sh*t Triathletes Say" that wasn't nearly as funny but it made me think about something else. Being a triathlete and cyclist, and having been surrounded by both triathletes and cyclists of all levels, I hear what both parties have to say about each other and their sport. More so the cyclists about triathletes. But, it's really not their (triathletes) fault.
Part of the problem is that triathletes predominantly train with triathletes, and cyclists with cyclists. There's nothing wrong with that except when one tries to blend in with the other group with little or no group riding experience. For example, if triathletes train with cyclists, they should ride like a cyclist. When it comes to riding a bike, most cyclists would say that triathletes have poor bike handling skills.
Generally speaking, triathletes lack bike handling skills when riding with a group of cyclists for one of few reasons: they don't race bike races, triathlon courses consist of very few turns, and unless they're racing ITU races that are draft-legal, drafting is not allowed in triathlons. "Athletes must keep a distance of 7 meters (~4 bike lengths) between bikes except when passing. Failure to do so will result in a drafting violation." Cyclists however, have to deal with technical turns, jumps, accelerations; riding in and around masses of people. They have to be quick on their feet, and there's no "zoning" out in races unless they're doing a time trial as part of a stage race, for example. But, bike handling skills can be improved by riding/training with cyclists more often. Mix it up, cyclists are cool people to be around…once you've earned their respect. Warning: there are cyclists out there that have terrible bike handling skills. Work towards hanging with the elite/experienced riders, but find the right ones and don't be stubborn--learn from them. Lacking bike handling skills go hand in hand with little group riding experience.
The bike leg of a triathlon is more of a steady pace when comparing it to the speed inconsistencies of a criterium or road race, let's say. A triathlete might be able to average 24-26 mph in a triathlon for an entire 56 miles, but the same can be true in a 25-30mi criterium. However, in a bike race, accelerations and decelerations are so prevalent, you just can't compare the two. Since triathletes aren't allowed to draft in triathlons, their mentality is to train on the bike with a racing mentality. For example, one might think, why draft off of each other in a training ride when you aren't allowed to do it in a race? But, every now and then, they may hop in a predominantly cyclist group ride, and this is where the "problems" arise. Not that they're trying to be assh*les, they just don't have the experience or awareness of respecting the etiquette of a group ride. I know when I started riding with cyclists, the concept of a paceline was new to me. I was apprehensive, but I watched, I listened, I learned, and I have matured. It has made me into a stronger rider.
Anyone new to riding a bike would probably look at this picture and scratch their heads. It depicts the type of pacelines when riding in/with a group. Training-wise, one of the best things a triathlete can do is ride with cyclists…...and making the most of it. I remember after a Fleetwood Derby ride about a year ago, a triathlete friend of mine expressed that the ride was pretty easy. Knowing what their strength and capabilities were, I thought to myself, "Well no sh*t. If you're going to sit in and let everyone else do the work, it's going to be easy for you." If you're that
strong, get in the rotation at the front with the pro guys that are pushing the pace. Trust me, it's not easy.
Like for any triathlete, there are also hard days and there are easy days for cyclists. Pick and choose the right training rides. If you want a hard training session aside from a TT-specific workout, go for the Derby or the Thursday Night
training crit races (aka Thursday Night Worlds), both starting or located near our very own Cycling Center
. Local triathletes aside from me will probably never do the training crits whether it be because they aren't comfortable being in such close proximity with other riders, they're afraid of crashing, it requires a USAC license, but mostly because they don't do
bike races. Which is totally fine and understandable, but it's the secret weapon to my triathlon training. Very rarely does my bike training fail on me during triathlon races…hoping it pulls through in two weeks.
My main goal for the Rapha
500km challenge was to complete 500 miles within the 9-day time frame (Dec 23-31). In the back of my mind I really wanted to complete the 500 miles within a shorter period of time because in ideal circumstances, 500 miles within 9 days isn't difficult for me to accomplish. Here's how it all unfolded.
Day 1: 66.6 miles (107km)
Day 2: 72.3 miles (116km)
Day 3: Christmas. Christmas is about sharing time with your family and friends, to remember and celebrate the true meaning of love and happiness. I am a Christian, I have celebrated Christmas before, although I can't remember the last time I did celebrate with my immediate family, and I admire those with cohesive families that exemplify genuine and unconditional love. Since I didn't have any dire plans for the majority of the day, I rolled out for the derby ride hoping to find other rare individuals. The derby is more than just a training ride for me. It's a ride full of friends, it's my "family" (think about how much time you actually spend with your cycling friends on a daily/weekly basis), we all love our bikes, and are happy when we ride...even during those dreadful training rides. It makes you feel good when you're done. And so there were 5. Yes, people actually showed up on Christmas morning for the derby. I won't name names, and I won't say who "won" because I would consider it as just another ride where people happened to be handily around. This derby really "didn't count" in my book. It was a good training ride, and I was happy to be out on what turned out to be a beautiful day. Derby+, 80 miles for the day, legs feeling fatigued.
Day 4: 81.7 miles (131km)+swim--A great ride out towards Lake Nockamixon…a windy yet perfect day for a ride. Even more fatigued than yesterday, but managed some good efforts throughout the ride. Solid day.
Day 5: 61.6 miles (99km)+run--A cold a rainy day...raining for sub-2.5hrs of my ride. This is my leg after 30 minutes of thawing in warm water. Tremors preceded. Although I neglected the nice roads of the Lehigh Valley (I rode in circles for the majority of my ride), I was out riding. Dedication.
81.2 miles (131km)--At least it wasn't raining…but it was WINDY. For my first ride leaving from SMC
, the group stayed in the hills, so it somewhat protected us from the winds. Keyword: somewhat. There were gusts of 40mph and consistent 20mph winds. The post-ride pizza with egg and bacon toppings at Armetta's made it all worthwhile. Evening stroll into the headwind, back with a tailwind. Sweet. Fatigue+winds+hills=ice-cream.
Day 7: 57.1 miles (92km)+FREEZING+my 500mi goal complete!+run…in need of a good meal.
After I reached my goal, I continued to log my miles/km on Strava just to see where I'd fall in the standings by default. The main purpose of the Rapha challenge isn't to see who can ride the most miles, but people were going after it anyways. Sub 55 miles on Day 8, sub 54 for Day 9, 610 miles (981km) within #rapha500 week. I could've easily tacked on more miles both days because the weather was great, but I wanted to save my legs (it paid off) for church on Sunday--the derby ride. What…don't judge.
Saturday's group ride was pretty entertaining, I ended the day with 80 miles by riding more on my own, the Derby today was painful and awesome at the same time, and…okay that's enough of that.
To keep my motivation up with an upcoming [pending] race in February, I decided to have some kind of stepping stone goal. I remember last year when local cyclists were talking about the Festive 500/Rapha500
. Basically, you're aiming to complete 500 kilometers between the 23rd and 31st of December.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but we actually had "winter" weather in the Lehigh Valley at this time last year. So, I probably brushed it off for that reason, or I had no motivation to rack that many miles. Mother Nature must be in good spirits because we've been blessed with a fantastic "winter"…so far. Looking ahead to the upcoming weeks, it looks like we could potentially have a relatively dry 9 days.
After doing the math and thinking to myself, I realized again that it's over 9 days. 310 miles in 9 days. I rode 270 miles within 5 days a couple weeks ago, so technically, I can easily ride 500km within 6 days. It seems to be out of reach right now, but I thought of challenging myself a smidgen more. Instead of riding 500km within 9 days, I'd like to shoot for 500…miles. The only real challenge I will face is the weather. If Mother Nature all of a sudden decides to give us a nor'easter, I'm screwed because trainer miles don't count…as they shouldn't (I'm already thinking ahead--I'll make sure to set my Garmin
, and Cyclemeter
simultaneously for my rides. I'd hate to have an 80+ mile day and not have any proof…that would suck).
And then I realized that I am on Christmas break from the 2nd half of the 23rd until after New Year's…SWEET! I know I can do it…it's just a matter of having nice weather (I don't have a cross or mountain bike) and staying motivated. I'll be mixing in some running and swimming, as well…so it'll definitely be a challenge. Bring it! Also, if you have any extra Christmas cookies that you want to get rid of, you know who to give 'em to :)
Daily posts during the Festive500 are sure to come (it's part of the rules)!