Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Want To Ride My Bicycle: More Tri (Cramming) Training

I don't believe in Peter Pan, Frankenstein or Superman, but all I want to do is bicycle.

So, I still haven't chickened out on this sprint triathlon (yet). And now I'm five days away from the darn thing, so it's looking like I will see this ̶s̶t̶u̶p̶i̶d̶, ̶f̶o̶o̶l̶h̶a̶r̶d̶y̶ exciting adventure through very soon. Following another good session in the pool, I made a point to get on that bike that I hadn't really spent much time on just yet. With two pairs of borrowed shoes made specially for clipping in on a road bike, I freaked out just a little bit when I tried clipping in with one pair, and just could not make the left shoe clip into the pedal. After a good ten minutes of trying unsuccessfully with the first pair (a womens shoe that did fit my foot, more or less), I finally decided to go back to the mens shoes I'd used on my test ride, which are too wide and a little too long. Lo and behold, these clipped in easily the first time I tried. Relieved, I decided I'd just go with these, and plan on some pretty hefty socks for tri day. I took that bike for a spin around the neighborhood, and while I didn't feel awesome, it was something.

Oh, and that running thing! No, I definitely haven't given up that first love, and this weekend brought one of the best races of the year around these parts, the Anna Banana 5K. After two speed work sessions (one of which I arrived at very late, didn't warm up enough, and had to bail from early due to a screaming hammy), some swimming, a bike ride, and a couple of regular runs, I was, in hindsight, not very well rested for the race. I'd hoped to run sub-21 at this race, given that my last 5K, the Monument Downhill, was a PR 20:08 race. The second I started, though, I could tell the legs just weren't fresh and springy. 

Thank goodness for speed work, though. The 22:03 I ran was nowhere near what I'd hoped to do, but it did help carry me through when I felt really tired, even passing a few runners in the last mile. I was well down the overall female ranks at 8th woman, but on the upside, I got to exit the 30-39 age group at this race this year with a win. My friends Laetitia and Angela, who regularly run Wednesday night speed group, came in second and third,

 and other friends from the group dominated the age group and overall ranks. We were all pretty pleased with our ceramic bananas, the commemorative medals handmade by the Fruita Monument High School art department for the event. 

After the citizen race, we took in the high school races, which are a real treat if you've never seen a high school cross country meet. The course is very spectator friendly, and we walked around to various points on the course, catching runners coming and going before they came blazing into the finish.

Angela (remember, my friend who said I owed her a few triathlons for talking her into Imogene Pass) and I had already been tentatively planning on a REAL ride on my bike, out on the tri course, later that afternoon. Angela's been my tri-training superhero friend, coaching through all the finer points of swimming (both for good form and endurance, and being prepared for open water), and I was anxious to get in the ride. Hanging out and talking with friends while watching the high school races, there were others who thought it was a great day for a ride too, and I was more than excited to have more people telling my noob ass what to do with that bike. I was getting more comfortable with the open water swim, but the whole gears, shifting, clipping and all that? Still not super comfortable. So, a few hours later, we regrouped out on the country roads in Fruita, Colorado.

When we got started, I wasn't really sure how this would play out, and this was another case of having to fight out of my comfort zone and be okay with being the noob with very limited experience on a bicycle. It was a gorgeous afternoon, though, so I just tried telling myself that I'd be missing out if I didn't take this chance to ride with some truly very patient and instructive friends who weren't expecting to race like Lance Armstrong on a truckload of steroids today. My friends could all clip in without looking down or thinking about it, but I had to clip in on one side, get rolling, and then look down to see what I was doing. All right...I was in! Woot! Mission accomplished.

Oh, wait. Not really. We hit the first big downhill, and I got through that, but then the hill climb started. And the whole gear-shifty-thingy is just not natural to me. What happened next, and despite my rock star of a helper/coach/friend Marty saying it was his fault for not noticing I was in the totally wrong gear for a climb-let's be clear, *I* did not have myself in the right gear. It was way too high of a gear, and when I took his suggestion to stand up to get up the hill, I couldn't push through and fell over sideways, thumping onto the ground on what I later figured out was my butt, since I didn't scrape myself up anywhere else. 

In that instant, I was pissed off, frustrated, angry and ready to just turn around, go back to the car, and say screw this crap. After a superpause on the ground for a few seconds, I started picking myself back up, and Marty said "Sorry,I didn't tell you what to do there, let's go back down and try it again." He rode down and I took my time collecting myself, and rode back down the hill. I'm not a quitter. I wasn't going to let myself bow out after one fall. The mental re-set button had been hit, and I was ready to take another swing at the hill, taking in suggestions on what to do, and more aware that I needed to anticipate changes in terrain.

This time, I understood where I was supposed to be, gear wise, and had those wheels spinning loosely and easily. Well, not easily. This hill was still kind of a bitch but now that I had it in the right gear, I could pedal and keep those wheels moving. When I finally got to the top of the hill, my friends Angela, Laetitia and Josh were clapping for me for making it up. I almost felt like a schmuck for a second but I know they didn't mind and that it was motivational and not "Hey! You FINALLY made it up the hill, you dope." Continuing along the course, I tended to be the last one in the group but I wasn't terribly far off, so this chilled me out some. I asked at one point if I'd be the last one in on the bike, and they all told me, emphatically, that NO, I wouldn't. As the ride went on, I was able to chat (a little bit, anyway) with my friends without fear of falling off. When the final big downhill and uphill came, I was kind of able to get into the thrill of going down really fast on a bike. Well, not really fast by REAL triathlete standards. Fast for me, though. It felt pretty excellent to have the sunshine on my face and wind in my hair (that which was sticking out from my bike helmet...we're safety first, people). Making it back to the car, I even decided to go back and practice that last hill one more time for good measure. I didn't die on the bike, despite my best early attempt.

With just a few days left, I am going to spend a little more time swimming and getting on the bike, but I am planning on one or two good days of total rest prior to next Sunday's tri. It's still pretty scary to know I've got three different sports in one event, and the following video posted by a friend, Jeff, who is an Ironman? I'm not sure if I should laugh or run for my life.

 Okay, it's pretty funny, and at a recent wedding of a runner/triathlete friend, it actually chilled me out to hear a couple of Ironmen in attendance confirming that yes, people will kick the crap out of you, pull on you, swim over you/under you in the swim, but it'll all be good. I like to be able to anticipate stuff, even if it's getting punched in the face or yanked underwater. 

With other stuff coming up on the running horizon, like the Rim Rock Marathon in November (#4 for me!), I also had to get in a long run this weekend, and did so with my friend Cheryl, who will be running the race as her first marathon. Now, the shoe goes on the other foot here. This race is old hat for me, and I am not in that place of worrying that I can finish it, nor do I have any doubts that Cheryl will have trouble finishing. In fact, I fully expect her to rock it. This is her first, though, so she's got that anxious energy at work. It's just pretty cool to have this extended group of friends who support and talk one another through stuff, give pointers, or a friendly kick in the butt when it's needed. She wasn't feeling great near the end of the run in the heat, but she made it through and logged that time on the feet. It was the end of a challenging weekend of racing and training, and yeah, there was some contact with pavement, but I'd say it was a successful one on the whole.

I'll fully admit that there's this big chicken in me who totally wants to bail on the tri. There's a huge fear of the unknown at work, and that I am NOT master of this domain. All growth happens outside the comfort zone, though. Plus, I know I'll be kicking myself if I skip it/waste my money, and SO glad I did it afterward, no matter how slow my time. So, for now, I'm trusting that I've got a good basic fitness level and working knowledge of how to go from point A by the water to point B at the tri finish. And it's that process of getting out of the comfort zone-learning by experience and sometimes failure-that will allow me to get it done.

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