on eating and training and eating and racing

Today’s workout was a 3:30 bike ride. I was starting to get just a smidge hungry and I knew that it was going to be a long ride, so  I packed up some energy gels, some bars and a whole bunch of water and hit the road. Everything was good, munched on a few bars, sucked down a couple of gels en route and cruised.

Until mile 36.

I thought I was keeping up on staying hydrated and refueling electrolytes, carbs, etc. And then I totally, totally bonked. It was a good reminder to practice more – that is, practice eating and hydrating while on the move to replace what I’m burning and sweating out. You, too, should incorporate refueling into your training program. And here’s why:

  • The cardinal rule of race day? Don’t try anything new. This goes for food and drink. If you’re planning to take advantage of the food and drinks provided on the course, and especially if you’re planning on relying solely on them, you should try them out  in advance.
  • How does it taste? Do you like the flavor? For gels and chews: What’s the consistency like? Do you like it? If you don’t like it, this is good to know ahead of time. Race day, you’ll need to consume the gel and obviously this is easier to do if it doesn’t prompt a gag reflex. If you plan on And how do you manage when the gel or fluid is warm?
  • Then there is actually practicing the act of opening and eating – for example, if you’re on your bike – can you open the package it comes in without falling or crashing? Can you eat on the run (or bike)? If not, pre-open the packages. If you’re eating chomps or chews or bars, are they too big for you to chew and keep moving? Cut them in advance so they’re more manageable on race day.
  • How does your stomach feel? It can be a delicate balance. You don’t want to eat too much because your body can only digest so much while you’re on the move. And while biking, hunched over, this can be a challenge. But you also need make sure you get enough to keep fueled.
  • How are you planning on carrying everything? Do you have the right gear? A bento box for your bike? Some kind of race belt for the run? Are you used to carrying it?

If you’re looking for more:

Competitor Magazine has an article on race day fueling here: http://running.competitor.com/2012/03/nutrition/race-fueling-made-simple_8633/1

Active.com also has a useful article here: http://www.active.com/running/Articles/Fueling_for_peak_marathon_performance.htm

And of course, Runners’ World has a whole slew of articles on hydration and refueling here: http://www.runnersworld.com/topic/0,7122,s6-242-302-0-0,00.html


Happy training and here’s to no more bonking!


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.





“(insert self-scolding)”



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.

Weekend warriors (with the wounds to prove it…)

Weekends are a great time for relaxing and recovery. Unless you’re training for a 70.3. Then weekends are a great time for those long workouts that just can’t fit into the workweek (there is only so much daylight, right?).  Only, we like to get away on the weekends, go exploring, get out and see the world. Which presents quite the dilemma.

Thus, we find ourselves “multitasking” as we attempted to do this weekend.

This weekend we trekked out north of Seattle to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival based in Mount Vernon, WA. We hit it just right – beautiful weather, blue skies and brilliant tulips fields.

Apparently this is a very popular thing to do and we were lucky to have enough foresight to bring our bikes along with us, thinking this would be a great way to 1) avoid the traffic and 2) get a 40 miler in as our training recommended for the weekend. Two birds, one stone?  Excellent (or so we thought…)!

Here’s what actually went down. We parked our car at a local park near the river and launched from there. Three miles in, these bikes are already paying off big time. We’re soaring past lines and lines of cars. We’re really applauding our wisdom. Freaking geniuses, we are. Four miles in, we’re quietly taunting the cars as we go by, making faces at the kids trapped in the back seats.

And less than five miles in, I say something to the tune of “hmmm, I wonder if we have an spare tubes on us?” or “hmmm, I’m not sure if I have any backup tubes… sure hope we don’t get a flat!” and mere seconds later, Jason gets a flat tire. Bad timing? Karma for the taunting? That’s what we get for being ill-prepared? Eh. Yeah.

Here we realize that my hunch was correct – we hadn’t checked our backup supplies before we left home. But fortunately, I had a spare tube and just as we’re getting ready to use the only CO2 cartridge I had to inflate the tire, a guy in a truck pulls up and pulls a pump out of the back of his truck. (Turns out there was an official ride going on and his bike shop was providing the support vehicle.) Anyhoo, we pumped up the new tube, patched the old one so it would be ready for next time and we were in business, once again flying past those poor fools sitting in miles-long lines to get into the parking lot. The tulips were well worth the trouble (though had I been sitting in a line of cars, I might have thought differently…).

Here’s the kind of views were treated with:

What did I tell you? Totally worth it, right?

We left the first field and decided to take the long road to the next field and get some extra miles in… the weather was marvelous, the views were great and the riding was mostly good, except for the parts where you had to squeeze by the sitting cars on a narrow shoulder (which were fortunately few and far between considering and we avoided those roads as much as possible. About 2 miles from the second field, we rode past a huge field of daffodils on private property. Daffodils! At the end of the field, I had an opportunity to turn off the road so we could view the field safely (i.e. out of the way of moving traffic and other bikes), so I turned. As I’m turning, my back tire caught a pretty bad patch of loose gravel and… Down. I. Went.

Now, it’s been YEARS since I fell off my bike (excluding that time I fell off of the spinning bike, but I digress…). The last time I fell, I caught some gravel and ate it. I screamed bloody murder until someone came out to check on me. I was fine, but I wanted to some attention. You know how kids are… I was no different. I was hurt, I wanted some love.

The difference between then and now? Let’s see. I was going faster this time. Definitely. But I fell in slooooooooow motion. And my foot was securely clipped into my pedal, leaving me no choice but to go down with the bike.  And I’m a big girl now, so presumably, I fell much harder than before.  At the last minute, I distinctly remember thinking “holy crap, I’m going to land on my face” so I put my hands down.

The good news? Well, I didn’t land on my face. I took the brunt of the fall on my left elbow, the heel of my left hand, and my left knee.

I don’t remember if that’s how I landed last time. I didn’t scream bloody murder this time. There was almost definitely some cursing this time. And for a minute I thought I might throw up.

So now I am the walking wounded. I hadn’t put my bike gloves on because we were only going a few miles. I sliced the top layer of skin off the heel of my left hand, my elbow is swollen and bruised (and I can’t put any pressure on it without yelling), and my knee’s all skinned up and bruised (ditto on putting pressure on it) and I have varying levels of road rash from my ankle up to the side of my thigh. Awesome.

Being as prepared as we were, we of course had no bandaids. But Jason did for some reason have a little bit of toilet paper. We washed the dirt out of my knee and hand the best we could and me, being as stubborn as I am, pouted for a while about taking a spill and then determined that we would go see the rest of the flowers.

As fate would have it, as we arrived at the second field and changed out of our biking shoes, Jason looked at his rear bike tire (the one that we had changed out earlier) and wouldn’t you know it, it was flat again. Really? Really?!

Out come the tools again and we borrowed a pump from a more prepared soul who was locking their bike up next to ours. Sigh. A few minutes later, we had the old patched tube back on the tire and inflated and marched our stubborn butts across the street to the tulip display gardens with our fingers crossed the patched tube would get us back to our car.

Our very last stop was the street festival, which was within walking distance of the park where we had parked our car for the day, so we made one last stop figuring if we got yet ANOTHER flat, we’d just hoof it back to the car.

Luckily, we made it home without further incident, but suffice it to say, Saturday was a very tough day for biking. And did we make it the whole 40 miles we had planned, you ask? Oh heck no. We finished out the day with 12 miles under our belts. And which workout from this week called for 12 miles on the bike? Well, none. But sometimes you’ve got to know when to throw in the towel and live to fight another day.

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