70.3 #2 recap…

We have had a crazy couple of weeks, hence my unintended absence from here…apologies.

Immediately after the Olympic tri, we headed out for a long backpacking trip. The backpacking trip tied into ‘taper week’ – does hiking with a 40 pound pack up to 13 miles a day count as tapering? Funny, it didn’t feel like I was training. At least not the race-specific training that I’d been so focused on for the past 19 weeks. But it’s not like I was sitting on a beach, reading. And I will fully admit that it was nice to do something that was active that wasn’t swimming, biking or running. The change of scenery was good too. Plus,it’s always nice to be out in the middle of nowhere where no one can reach you by cell phone or email or even the pony express.

We got back into town and had enough time to do a few last minute things – purchase last minute gear, last minute fuel and race day food, check in for the race, drive the bike course. 70.3 race day was yesterday for both hubby and me.

First, I will say this – from the get-go, I wasn’t entirely impressed with the race. It didn’t strike me as being very well organized and I didn’t get the impression that it was going to be very well supported. The shirt we got for doing the race was a baby blue sweatshirt, which my hubby was none too thrilled about… I will never understand why race directors don’t default to more gender-neutral shirts. As the race day progressed, I found more reasons to be unimpressed. For example, there were bathrooms and portapotties at the start. But throughout the course, options were woefully slim – just 1 portapotty on the bike (56 miles) and 1 portapotty on the run (13.1 miles). A learning experience, I suppose – we wanted to save a little money by doing a non-WTC, non-Ironman brand event, which I think in many cases is fine especially if the race is well-established and there are a decent number of athletes participating. However, this was a good example of  getting what you pay for…

Anyway, enough venting and on to the actual race:

The swim was alright – nothing too notable here. The turnaround was not the halfway point, it was earlier, so the second half really seemed to drag. The waters were real murky and there were FORESTS of milfoil growing… every once in a while, some would catch my hand or ankle and kind of make me recoil a bit, but knowing what was touching me helped the jumpiness.  A little. But I was in and out without incidence.

women’s wave start at the 70.3

By the time we jumped on the bike, it was probably 80 degrees and climbing. Too hot too early. I knew temperature was going to be an issue and combined with my lack of faith in the level of race support, I was pretty concerned with having enough water to survive, let alone thrive. We’d heard that we should plan to carry at least 90 minutes worth. To ease my concern, we purchased extra bottle holders so that we could each carry multiple water bottles. We sent out with 2-21 oz bottles + 1 24 oz aero bar bottle – 1 bottle loaded with frozen Hammer Perpetuem (a 3 hour bottle) and one of the water bottles was frozen the night before as well. The aero bottle was loaded with ice only the morning of the race and filled at the first aid station 12 miles into the bike.

It was a long, hot, lonely bike course and as I suspected, not well supported. It was good that we had driven the course in advance as they did not have volunteers at each turn – only some of the course turns, so you had to be paying attention. At the turns were there were volunteers stationed, many of them were sitting in their cars, just tiredly waving their hand out the window. Who knows if most of the racers even saw them. I’m usually very appreciative of volunteers and I try to always thank as many as I can, but yesterday I remember thinking at one point, “Really?  I’m out here biking 56 miles in the heat and you can’t even stand outside your car to make sure I go the right way? Just go home.”

I did a good job of hydrating – drank 1/3 of the 3 hour Perpeteum bottle and had Gus / Gels every 45 minutes. I also tried to drink enough water as well. I filled my aero bottle 2x on the course, but also finished with quite a bit. No cramps or fuel issues. Just mental stuff that had a lot to do with the fact that the course was so lonely. I’ll fully confess that I’m not the strongest biker. I have a lot of work to do on that front before Ironman next year. But I also wouldn’t consider myself to be a bad or poor biker necessarily, usually just middle of the pack… At one point in the race, I looked behind me and there was NO ONE. And I looked in front of me: NO ONE. And I thought, “holy crap, I’m going to be the LAST PERSON OFF THE BIKE!” How awful and depressing. It was totally demoralizing. Honestly, I lost some time off of it. I mean, I tried to laugh it off a little, thinking “well, someone’s gotta be the last person”. I tried to use  it as inspiration. But honestly, I didn’t think it should or would be me! I didn’t see anyone for a good 15 or 20 miles, from about mile marker 30 to mile marker 45 or 50 when I FINALLY found the bathroom.

Being concerned about the water situation, I had hydrated-up the day before the race and the morning of the race. So even though I used the restroom before the swim, I had to go again by the time I hit 8 miles on my bike. Oy. I kept my eyes peeled for a portapotty, but none came. Mile after mile, came and went and NO PORTAPOTTY. I considered a pit stop along the side of the road, but it was lined with, well, a road (it was not a closed course), and also private property. I have heard that some triathletes just pee on themselves and wash it off, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that either. I tried, 30 miles an hour, down a hill, not moving my legs and just trying to focus on peeing… couldn’t do it. I have never been so happy to see a portapotty as I was to see that one after 45 miles of holding all that water! Yikes!

Aside from all of that – being lonely and having to pee SO bad, the bike course was mechanically frustrating for me – I dropped my chain half a dozen times, something that used to happen a lot, but hasn’t happened to me ALL year. It was ridiculous. And SO frustrating. Did I mention that?

The bike is my weakest link, so I was relieved to get off the bike (as I always am) and (finally) see people again! But by this point, it was 92 or 95 or 100 degrees out, depending on who you asked. And almost immediately, you could see the impact the heat was having on people. Fortunately, the one thing the race directors did right was to have an aid station almost every mile along the run. And they were well stocked with water, ice, spots drink, electrolyte tablets, and gels. I’m not sure I would’ve survived without all of the aid stations, honestly. Or at least I would’ve had to have walked the entire thing, which would have stunk. I wasn’t necessarily moving that slowly on the run, but I stopped at every aid station to dump water on my head and back, and refill my water bottle with ice and water which is time consuming over the course of 11 or 12 aid stations. I was able to run 95% of the course, but the heat definitely threw a monkey wrench into all of my plans for beating my previous time, even if by just barely.

At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line running and feeling relatively good. Relieved to be done. The entire ordeal took about 7 minutes longer than last time, but I know that the heat on the run course had everything to do with that. It could have been a lot worse. I was happy to have avoided cramping, bonking, crashing, and DNFing so I’ll chalk it up to a success along the road to the Ironman.

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confessions from an olympic tri…

Today was the first Olympic distance triathlon of the season for me (.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike and a 10k run) – it’s a little late in the training program (I think technically it was supposed to be last week or the week before to fit ‘perfectly’, but c’est la vie!) I’ve covered the distances in training, obviously, but today was truth time. So, confession time. What did we learn? How did it go?

1) First and foremost, I must confess that I was not really excited about this race. My hubby was also supposed to do the race and he had to work so I was on my own and I was really tempted to bail on the race also. It was a 3+hour drive away and an overnight stay because there was no packet pickup this morning. In some sense of the word, it was a victory for me that I even showed up!

the calm before the storm…

2) The swim was pretty rough, choppy and at times almost violent, which is NOT something I remember from this race last time. I puzzled over this throughout the rest of the race – I think it may have something to do with the fact that I’ve aged up to the next age group. Last time I did the race, I was 29 – in the first wave of the Olympic distance with only the half ironman-ers in front by about 15 minutes. This year, at the ripe old age of 31, I had to wait for everyone in the half-iron group (still well ahead of us, but I did pass a few struggling stragglers towards the end of the .93 miles) AND I had all of my wave PLUS the first wave to fight through. The water was choppy. People were all over the place and there was seemingly no end to watching out for feet, elbows and fists. This is not something that I snobby ex-pool-only swimmer likes to see. Whether being in a different age group made the different or not, I added a couple – 2 or 3- minutes to my swim time from 2010, which I was bummed about because, ironically, I’ve been swimming a heck of a lot more this year than back then. Confession: I was/am(?) a little concerned that I’ve been swimming and somehow gotten s-l-o-w-e-r.

(trying to) swim in the crowd

3) As you may have gathered from #2, I’m a front of the middle pack or maybe back to middle of of the front pack swimmer, depending on the crowd. What’s the confession here? It’s this: the benefit of being good in the water is not really not a benefit at all – you get to hop on your bike early and be passed by people who say well-intentioned but ultimately funny and demoralizing things like “Good swim…” and leave the “too bad you’re not a better biker” hanging in the air. I know, I think so too. I even heard a guy in the water before the start talking about how he never worked on his swim because he just didn’t see it as an advantage. Now now. You may blow by me in a few minutes, but I’ll put money on the fact that I’m probably less frazzled and winded from the first leg. But I digress.

C’mon climbers!

4) Ok, this is maybe the confession that concerns me the most with a 70.3 looming: Sadly, my climbers are not what they should be on the bike. Biking is definitely my weakest link and while I’m slowlybecoming a better biker with time and practice, I find I don’t push myself as hard as I do when I’m running or swimming. I think it has to do with the fact that I associate biking with casual rides around the neighborhood as a kid. You know, relaxed. Carefree. Not grimacing, sweating, legs and lungs burning kind of biking. Nothing quite like race day to make you put the pedal to the metal, really push yourself to try to compete with the fools that are flying past you like you’re standing still (even though your bike computer insists you’re moving at what you feel is a respectable clip). Fortunately for me, today’s course was rolly, but not hilly. Twenty-five miles of really pushing it and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little concerned about how well I’d hold up and how much gas I’d have when I hit the run. Plus, my knees have been hurting on higher cadence rides and I definitely noticed it today when I climbed off. But fortunately once I was on the ground it went away. (Note to self – probably oughta get that straightened out, wouldn’t you say?)

5) I forced myself to eat and fuel all day. Forced is the operative word here. I hate eating in the morning, but I had a banana and a bar and a bunch of water before I swam, three gels on the bike and one on the run. Lots and lots and lots of water. Other than the gross queasy feeling I had before the swim (which could definitely be attributed to the fact that my stomach deemed it too early to be accepting food and also to the fact that I was ready to just get this thing going already), and a brief moment around mile 18 on the bike where my stomach reminded me how hard it is to digest folded over bike handlebars (I spent a few minutes sitting upright), I felt good. Hm. No confession here, I suppose.

6) Last time I did this race, I thought I was going to die of heat exhaustion. I’m not gonna lie – this was really a big concern of mine for this year as well. To combat this, even though I really didn’t want to, I carried a water bottle with me and every water stop (there were 4 or 5, I believe), a cup of water went on my head and neck and I drank or filled my bottle with the other. In between stops, I made sure I was keeping my head cool and drinking a lot. I felt a lot better about the run this year than I did last time, that’s for sure. And I think I was able to shave a few seconds off of my last run time for the course as well.

7) Lastly, triathlons continually remind me to be humble. I try to be supportive, talk it up on the race course and encourage people. But in every race there is someone, maybe a few someones who (in a moment of judgy-ness or jealousy or poor sportsmanship or whatever you want to call it) “have no business being in front of me”. I’m not proud of it. Yet, there they are. And they’re there, in front of you for a reason. Maybe they’ve put in more work. Maybe they’re more determined because they’ve seen more adversity and overcome more so they’re stronger. Maybe this is their life’s dream and for you its simply a training run. Maybe they are there to motivate you to stick with it or kick it in at the end. Still others may be there to remind you to be gracious and thankful for the skills and abilities you have. Or maybe they’re there to remind you to be inspired by the people around you.

Today, around mile 5, maybe closer to 5 1/2, a gentleman who I knew had been with me for a while finally picked up his pace, ran up beside me and said “Hello, how are you doing?” I said “I”m great, beautiful day” or something to that extent. He smiled, commented on what a nice pace I have (he should know, he’d been hanging out in it for a while), and then sped off, beating me to the finish line by more than a handful of seconds. And as he ran off, I noticed the numbers on his calf read: 6-8. Man. Sixty-eight years old and still rockin’. I just smiled and shook my head, I picked up my pace but I wasn’t going to catch him. Mr. 68, you are my hero for the day. You reminded me to smile and be happy with the day and to be inspired by the journey that others are on. I can only hope that 37 years from now I’m still able to do this with a smile on my face.

rain, rain go away…

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before (though I’m sure I probably have…), but every single race I had back in 2010, with 1 single exception, was in the cold and the rain. It was absurd. I mean, to the point where you couldn’t help but wonder if the big guy upstairs was trying to tell me something. Like maybe I shouldn’t be doing triathlons or something. Since we’re here, 2 years later, you can assume (correctly) that 1) I am stubborn and 2) I don’t listen very well.

The night before my first-ever 70.3, we camped in a supposedly racers-only campground (that’s a whole ‘nother story…) and there was a seriously epic thunderstorm. Complete with booming, holy crap, right-on-top-of-you claps of thunder, brilliant flashes of lightning and some serious driving rain. Big ol’ rain drops, pounding heavy on the tent. Not that I was sleeping so very soundly to begin with what with the pre-race nerves and such, but I remember waking up around 2 a.m. and saying out loud to my also awake hubby, “Seriously?!” And then thinking something along the lines of “Not again,” “Why me?” followed by “Un-freakin’-believable.” Which was then followed by a series of words that are not appropriate to list here and a list of potential accident scenarios that could happen between 2 a.m. and the 7 a.m. start that would be ‘ok’ reasons to NOT do the race (should it decide to keep on storming, that is). You know, along the lines of somehow slipping on something and breaking my ankle getting out of the tent in the a.m. Or maybe I would get attacked by the mythical grand Elk-asaurous Rex and his partner in crime, Big foot.

The chilly swim during the “calm between the storms” – Ghost Reservoir, AB, CAN. Calgary 70.3, August 2010

In the end, it ended up ok. At least in hindsight I can say it did. The water was freezing, thanks to downpour. It stopped raining in time for bodymarking and the swim (where it wouldn’t have mattered seeing as we were already cold and wet).

And then started again while I was on the bike (where it definitely DID matter). But the weather was perfect (by my standards) on the run – overcast and cool. 60-something. ­I guess there was a silver lining. It just took ¾ of the race day for me to find it.I was reminiscing about this earlier this evening as I was being drenched by a sudden downpour that consumed the last 18 miles of my 40 mile bike ride tonight. (According to weather.com, there was only supposed to be a 30% chance of rain until 9 p.m. tonight, so while I figured I might get some sprinkles, I didn’t think I was taking THAT big of a chance… though clearly I was wrong.) The deluge brought back memories – Ironman is in town this weekend, and I can only imagine the thoughts that are going through the athletes’ minds tonight as they all hope and pray for better weather on Sunday. Because you know, it’s not like there aren’t enough battles in a 70.3 or 140.6 mile long day. Clicking mile after mile under your own power present plenty of challenges without rain in the equation.

Tonight there was nothing to do but laugh and shake my head at the downpour. I had to get back to my car; I had no choice but to deal with the rain. Race day weather is just like that. You’re ready for the event. You’re trained up. Hopefully you did some training in the elements because let’s face it – the weather gods are not always nice come race day. There’s not a thing you can do about the weather but curse it or just grin and bear it. And if you’re unfortunate enough to be signed up for a race that I’m doing, you can bet that you’re gonna get rained on at some point in the day.

But I sure do hope that it clears up for the racers by Sunday…

My view of the storm I was stuck in… glad I only had it for 20 miles and not 100 miles! Since you can’t see the actual raindrops in this photo, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

open water swims…

A few years back, I signed my mother up for her first triathlon. She had been saying for years and years that she always thought about doing one, that she thought it’d be fun. And she never signed up. So one year, for her birthday, that was her present. Happy birthday, Mom! Now before you deem me to be an evil child, you should know 1) that I flew home and did the race also, and 2) my mom was perfectly capable of finishing a sprint tri, probably without even training for it (she just needed a little push. You know, in exchange for all of that love and support she gave me when I was growing up. Oh, how the tables had turned, haha).

Having said that, my hubby put together a training program for her to follow. Which she did, to a T. Except for the part where you have to get into the open water. Despite my strong encouragement to go find a lake, ALL of her swims were in a pool. Which is fine, except that race day open water swims are not pool swims. Dark, murky water. Cold, sometimes chest-freezingly, brain-numbingly cold water makes you gasp for air. Makes your lungs freeze up. Makes you want to get back out (the same way you came in – the short way!). Add the hundreds of other people splashing and kicking around (and the stress of potential fist or foot to the face hazards) and the open water swim can be enough to sink anyone. Now my poor mom learned this the hard way. She made it through and she completed the race, but not without some emotional scarring. She has since completed a half marathon and last year, a full marathon. But I’m not sure that I will ever get her in the open water again…

English: Open water swimmer

Open water swimmer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Determined not to face the same traumatic experience as my mom did, my hubby’s taken a different approach and yesterday faced the freezing cold lake for the first time. Mano a mano. Fifty-five frigid degrees seemed not to deter him though I’m not sure why. Perhaps one part of why he has already hit the cold water is because he knows that he might well be facing the same conditions on race day. When I went through this two years ago, with the exception of 1 Olympic distance race, every single one of my race day lake swims was in water temps between 55-58 degrees – not exactly tropical soaking temps. Regardless, I’m proud of him for facing the open water swim. And not only that, but for spending a full 25 minutes in it! He goes into this weekend’s 1st tri, and the tri season, wiser and more experienced than those who haven’t yet braved the cold, dark open.

It’s funny, the things that wear you out when you’re swimming in the open water. It’s tough to fight your natural instincts to gasp for air as your chest and lungs submerge. You can’t see the black line on the bottom of the pool because the water is dark and gloomy and murky. Mentally, it is exhausting to try and NOT lose your cool when you see something dark and shadowy below you. Especially if it’s big. Or moving. Toward you. Even perfectly logical and rational people like myself can easily imagine the fictitious black octopus of death swimming menacingly towards you with its eight poisonous legs ready to grab you and drag you to the depths so he can eat you for dinner. You’re such easy, unsuspecting prey. Oh wait, that’s just a tree branch. Safe…? For now…The point of all of this is to say, I highly recommend you don’t make race day your first open water experience. First of all, if you live in this neck of the woods, you can wait for the water to warm up, but really – there’s a chance the water really might not be any warmer on race day and you’re certainly going to have to deal with it then, aren’t you?

And perhaps most important (at least as far as I’m concerned), you’ll want to learn what your personal reactions to things may be – both physiologically and mentally. For example, I know I need to get in to the water and submerge myself just before the swim starts. So that initial panicky cold has faded enough for me to control my breathing. If I don’t, I spend the first leg of the swim trying not to hyperventilate. Also, you will probably want to check out your wetsuit before race day. I have a friend who didn’t and found out at the start of the swim that the neck of her wetsuit were like tiny little angry toddler hands strangling her as she swam. Joy. At least it was just a sprint distance. It was not her most favorite triathlon experience.

And I know that I’m comfortable in the (pool) water, but open water makes me J-U-M-P-Y! But the more I’m in the open water, the more I’ve “survived” the open water – maybe it IS safe after all? And I’ve found that orangey-amber colored goggles literally brighten my view. Rose colored glasses. Think about it- nothing bad or scary ever comes from somewhere bright and sunshiny. Yes, it’s a total head game. Mock all you want, it works.

Sure, you may get a little cold venturing out into the cold, dark. But all of these little things could really save your tush on race day. Doesn’t that make it worth it?

in the blink of an eye…

Yesterday we took advantage of the cool, but very pleasant weather, the Memorial Day holiday (day off) and a really fantabulous 70 mile long multi-use trail we have in the area that we had (remarkably) never used before. We were slated for a 3 hour bike ride this coming weekend (the end of week 11), but bumped it to yesterday because we had all the time in the world and who knows what the weekend would look like.

Along the way, we were graced by 3 moose and countless great blue herons in the river and marshes alongside the trail. It was quite easy to get distracted by the abundance of wildlife. And it would have made the time go by really quite quickly if it weren’t for a persistent headwind that kept us from really cruisin’.

We were making pretty good time despite the headwind. But our heads were on swivel sticks. Looking this way and that to glimpse all of the creatures we could see. And somewhere along the way, I decided to look down – at my shoulder, I think – and in that second, maybe two, I drove my bike right off the side of the trail into the soft gravel that grabbed my tire and threatened to take me down.

Now, I know what you’re thinking right now.  “Didn’t she just fall off of her bike not too long ago?”  I’m not going to justify that ridiculously inquiring line of thought with a straight answer (see answers here and here); suffice it to say I may or may not have some injuries that may or may not have originated from a certain incident approximately 5 weeks ago.

As is always the case when you’re falling off of your bike, it all happens in slow motion. Well, steering off of the trail happened in the blink of an eye, but what happened after that was Matrix-dodging bullets-slow.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”

“Not…”

“a-”

“-gain…!”

“(insert self-scolding)”

“@#%$^%)*!”

“Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Fortunately, in this particular instance, I was able to steer myself back onto the path and slow my bike to a stop. Rather gracefully considering the circumstances if I do say so myself.

And eventually, I was able to swallow my heart and put it back into its rightful place in my chest and get it to beat at a less frantic pace. Eventually.

Talk about a close call. I mean, really.

And I can hear you judging me – “GOOOOOOD-ness! Someone get that girl some training wheels!”  At this point, I can’t say I blame you. I will certainly not turn down training wheels. Elbow pads. A-D-D meds. Whatever would help. This is madness.

All I can say is this – please be careful out there. You may not have the same tenuous relationship with your bike as I do, but all it takes is the blink of an eye to steer off the trail, hit some gravel, or lose control and turn your training ride into a trip to the hospital or worse. I’ve had enough mishaps on my bike for a lifetime (or at least it feels that way with how things have gone lately). I think I might even start taking my own advice: Take ‘er nice and easy out there. Happy riding.

fear as a motivator…

You know what they say about birds of a feather, flocking together? So no big surprise that I know a few other folks who are training for 70.3 distance triathlons. And a number of people who are training for the Ironman distance this year as well (more on them later…). It’s interesting, in talking to people, how much their attitudes towards the race and towards training vary.

For example, I have a colleague here at work who is training for a 70.3 a full five weeks later than mine. I asked him how he was feeling about the race and his response was that he was worried. He may have even used the word “terrified”, a word I commonly reserve for those nights when I’m home alone and things go bump in the night or when I’m being chased by a zombie. He’s one of those people who just learned how to swim in the past year or so, and I assumed he was referring to the swim. So me, trying to be reassuring, told him that he should feel good about his swim – he’s come a long way and he still has MONTHS to practice. Funny enough, his response was that he was totally NOT worried about the swim at all. It was the REST of the race – the other 69.1 miles that he was worried about. Ohhhhh. Hmmm. Yet, I know for a fact that he’s already done 60 mile bike rides (further than what’s required on race day), while I have topped out (pooped out) at a mere 32! There’s NO WAY he should be worried about that. But eek, now that I know that, maybe I should be worried? Should I be doing more??My hubby, on the other hand, said the other day that he’ll “be glad if he makes it out of the swim” – I can only assume he means he’ll be glad if he makes it out alive – and that he’ll be home free once he’s on dry land. As a result, he has been diligently swimming his heart out. Fear of drowning and he spends all of his spare time in the pool. Very impressive dedication to something so hated. (And as a result, he has made drastic improvements, in my biased opinion.)

And then there’s me. Even though I have one of these distances under my belt, I’m still being pretty rigid in my training schedule. A little less so than last time around. I’ll give you an example – last time around I was not working. It was my first time. I was scared. Intimidated is maybe a better word. And that fear or intimidation meant that I missed very few workouts during the course of the 20 weeks.

This time around, I would say I’m significantly more comfortable with my odds of success. So it’s ok for me to miss a training session during the week – things happen, and I recognize that one session is probably not going to make or break my race day. (Plus I’ve found ways to combine bike workouts – “foundation” rides get hills thrown in to them, making them longer hill workouts and theoretically killing two birds with one slightly more grueling, but hopefully just as impactful stone.) But all in all, I’m sticking pretty close to the nine workouts a week for 20 week program. I’m hoping to drop a wee little bit of time off my last race. And while I’m not “scared” per se, I do want to be prepared enough that this race goes very uneventfully for me. Uneventful = Good. Sorry friends, post-work meetings, social engagement, nights off – out of necessity, you’re limited to one or two evenings a week max.

Anyway, all of this to say that despite our difference in attitudes towards training and towards race day, fear is a funny little motivator that seems to be keeping all of us in check and on track.

PS- On a side note, if you’re particularly motivated by fear and the thought of literally running from terrifying zombies trying to eat your brain sounds like a good way to PR, a friend tells me there is such a race, just for you. Not shockingly, the RUN FOR YOUR LIVES 5K is apparently the latest in the run/obstacle course craze, “an apocalyptic 5K obstacle race. But you’re not just running against the clock — you’re running from brain-hungry, virus-spreading, bloody zombies.” A zombie-infested 5k. Sounds awful to me, but talk about the ultimate motivator to really haul…

Mr Zombie

this guy looks friendly, but he’s got some super scary friends…  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

on why spinning bikes are my archenemy…

I was thinking about this today – remember that one time I fell off of a spin bike? No? I do. Like it was yesterday. And it’s a special story about a very special girl…

Last time I was training for a 70.3, similar to this year, the beginning of training season was a nasty, snowy, rainy mess. (It’s been snowing and raining since Day 1 of training!)  Naturally, I’d much prefer to be outside as much as possible, but sometimes it’s more reliable to just plan for an inside workout. And a good substitute for biking outdoors is taking a spin class.

photo found here

Spinning classes are a hot commodity around here. We live in a pretty active community, lots of triathletes in town and all of us are trying to get some bike miles under our belt while the roads and trails are still covered in the snow. It seems like all of them require you to reserve a space in advance and I have a hard time planning ahead, so on this fateful evening, I  found myself hitting up the spin bikes alone after the classes had cleared up – around 8 p.m. or so and the gym had (fortunately) emptied out quite a bit. The lights in the room were out and just enough light was filtering in through the glass doors for me to function, so I plugged in my headphones and went for it.

Something I have always struggled to understand is the benefit gained from the part of spin class where your bike has zero resistance and your legs are literally just spinning at the whim of the bike. Being still pretty new to the spinning scene, it struck me as both odd and a waste of class time – I get far more out of the climbs and the higher-resistance portions. Nonetheless, on this particular evening, I had decided to mimic a recent class I had taken so in between some climbs, I dove into the frantic uncontrolled spinning part of the workout.

Now, a quick note for those who haven’t been on a spin bike – there is usually some sort of hand brake that you push down on to slow the pedals. This is an important feature to remember because spin bike pedals do not slow down when you stop pedaling – not like they do on a normal bike. On spin bikes, the pedals just keep right on spinning (I’m assuming this is where they get their name…). Here’s the part where I went wrong. I stopped pedaling and as I tried to stop, my foot, trapped in the cage on the pedal, kept right on moving at Mach speed and went from flexed at the bottom of the cycle (heel driving downward) to pointed at the top of the cycle. And then my weight just rolled over that ankle and it collapsed. And I fell. Off the bike.  Bruised my ego, yes indeedy. And had a doozy of a bruise on the back of my hamstring from when the back of my leg hit something as I was falling (I’m still not exactly sure what…). And that is the story of that one time I fell off of a stationary bike.

These days, I only hit the spin bike when I have no other viable options. And I skip the crazy spin part where you have no control over what your legs are doing – I pedal on, but I keep my resistance high and stay in control. Because in truth, when I’m on that crazy contraption, all I can think is, “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall!”  And I totally mean it! And sure, it’s embarrassing to be the girl that fell of a spin bike, but at least no one witnessed this ridiculously clumsy and not-at-all graceful exhibition of extreme uncoordination. But can you imagine if you were the girl who fell off a spin bike with 20 other people present?! I would probably take someone out with me as I went. Oh man, I would NEVER live that down!

Bike Fall / FAIL; photo found here