Tag Archives: Cycling

Strava made me do it

Two days and two posts! I should probably schedule this to post later to give you a break but this is my year of doing whatever whenever, so here it is.

My local triathlon club held a duathlon recently which was nice for something a bit different (1km run/6km ride/1km run/6km ride/1km run). I ran with another lady who is recovering from an injury which puts her at my pace (except it was pushing me hard). She would leave me behind on the bike then wait for me in transition for the run. She said she wanted to stick with me because I keep a consistent pace and she wouldn’t overdo it if she stayed with me. It was nice to have a bit of a social “race” and someone to chat with along the way.

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After the race, as we were all packing up, I noticed a bike for sale on the roof of someone’s car. A nice bike. A small bike. A looks-like-a-real-cyclist bike. A probably-waaaaaay-out-of-my-price-range-but-I-really-really-like-it bike.

I took it for a quick spin around the carpark wearing sneakers and with the bike still set up for the previous owner. Oh my! It was so comfortable. I didn’t realise how uncomfortable I was on my bike until I sat on that one. I have assumed that is just how cycling is. Uncomfortable. Riding around the carpark I barely had any pressure through my wrists and palms. I’ve had two bike fits done in the past and each one has made me more comfortable than before but this? This was like putting your ugg boots and pyjamas on at the end of a winter day and snuggling up with a doona, a hot milo and a good book or movie. Seriously.

I took the seller’s phone number “just in case”. That afternoon, after a bit of persuasion discussion with hubby, I phoned the seller and arranged to borrow the bike for a week so I could take it for a longer ride and see if it still felt good. Who would want to buy a bike based on a short ride only to find out on the first long ride that it’s not really as nice as it seemed. He was kind and clever enough to put my pedals on it too. (The bike belonged to his son, which is why it’s small enough for me.)

Here are a couple of still shots from video my husband recorded for me to send to my coach for some feedback on whether it looked like a good fit. To be honest, I was going to make my decision based on feel not looks!

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It’s a shame my favourite Smashfest Queen tri kit doesn’t match the bike!
Guess I’ll have to buy a new kit.

On Saturday morning I dropped in to the local bike shop with the love-at-first-sight-dream-bike to ask if it needed any work done to it. I’d be horrified to part with a significant amount of money only to find that I need to spend several hundred more dollars getting it repaired, and I have no idea about such things. That’s why we have bike shops and bike mechanics. I’ll do my part to keep a local business going! The verdict: A new chain and new tyres and I would be good to go, but okay for me to do a 50km-ish ride on Sunday to test it out.

The bike is a full 2kg lighter than my current one (turns out it has a carbon frame – oh so tempting). If I turn too tightly with my feet in the wrong position the front wheel hits my feet which is a bit scary but as long as I’m aware of it, and remember, I can handle it. Apparently that is quite common on smaller bikes – I googled it – and I have now learned about ratchet pedalling.

Sunday morning I met up with some friends who are prepared to ride slowly with me and far enough away from me that I don’t feel freaked out crowded. If I came off, I wanted someone there to be able to call hubby and tell him. Fortunately, they weren’t required to make that call.

And here’s a still shot from some gopro footage courtesy of one of the very patient friends who rode with me. It was very chilly! I recently invested in some shoe bootie cover thingies and some decent gloves but I haven’t bought anything warm for the legs yet. We go out early to beat the traffic, starting in the dark at this time of year.

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The gear sizes are different to my current bike and the gear changing mechanism and process is also different. I am still having trouble with gear selection after 2 and a half years of riding my bike so I didn’t always pick good gears on this ride. I often couldn’t work out how to change between big and small chainrings at the front and I struggled going up the hills.

Despite my inability to select or change gears properly I still managed to nab some personal best records on strava. I bettered my time on one 12km stretch by 3.5 minutes! That is a potential saving of 45 minutes over a 180km race.

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SOLD! I juggled my budget, negotiated a payment plan and bought the bike. It’s now at the shop having its new chain and tyres fitted.

I felt more stable on the downhills and braked less. I was comfortable enough to reposition my hands on the handlebars to adjust my position and give my back or shoulders a break (on the flat anyway). To my surprise and delight, I even managed to put my hands up on the top of the bars going uphill!

What was almost a selling point on its own was that I can wheel the bike by holding the seat like I’ve seen all the super fast triathletes doing at races. I always assumed I couldn’t do it due to my uncoordinated-ness. But maybe, it was the bikes I have owned.

My last race of the season might have been horrendous but I am excited and looking forward to next season with my toy.

My new (to me) pride and joy:

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The bike purchase was the highlight of the weekend. Then I followed up with some 200m run efforts Monday morning. Who would ever have thought my body was physically capable of running at these paces even over short distances? Certainly not I!

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Enough about me, what about you? Have you surprised yourself in training recently? Have you ever made a purchase that reignited your passion for your chosen sport or hobby? What was it?

The year so far

I am still saying “no”. Anything that requires me to do something or be somewhere more than once at a particular time is getting a blanket “no”. All year.

Okay, so I thought I might post more often because I’m not as busy but it has been soooooo nice just doing my training, pottering around the flat, reading a huge number of books and basically relaxing.

I had no idea how much pressure I had put myself under. I enjoyed doing all most of things I was doing. That’s why I had said yes to doing them in the first place. Now that I’m NOT doing them, I don’t miss them and I seem to finding the right head space to push harder in my training sessions, hoping for improvement rather than being satisfied if I manage to finish.

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Running in the early morning before the sun comes out certainly suits me better.

The benefits have been multi-faceted. I am losing weight (and more importantly, body fat)! I am feeling stronger on the bike (power to weight ratio improves as weight decreases). I am swimming faster (less drag). I am running further and faster (just as well since my next half marathon is just over two weeks away in lovely Port Macquarie).

I am still seeing the sports dietician every 3 weeks to keep me accountable (okay, that doesn’t count in my “no commitments plan).

One of the main swimming tips I took away from the January camp was breathing out through my nose instead of my mouth. This has made a huge difference. I don’t get out of breath as quickly, I am not as bloated after a swim session and I’m not as ravenously hungry afterward either. I’ve even been surprised sometimes to find that my set is finished rather than struggling to make it through the full plan.

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At Tamworth parkrun recently.

I have been struggling a bit on my Sunday long runs so have opted to volunteer at parkrun from last weekend until the race. Last Sunday I managed to run 16.5km without stopping for a walk. I’ve even learned how to sip water and eat while running. Somewhere in the middle of that run, I ran my fastest ever 10km.

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At Tamworth parkrun again.

On Tuesday I did a 6km run and realised that at some point over the last few months, a 6km run has become a short run. How and when did that happen? About 4km into this run my legs reminded me that I’d run 16.5km two days before. I struggled through the next 2km then had to tackle a small hill back home. I almost turned around to do the last km on the flat but would have had an extra long walk home and I would have been late for work. I trudged up the hill and was surprised to see that I’d actually averaged 6:24 pace for the whole run. Faster than any of my recent runs, even parkrun has been slower than that for 5km. The cooler temperatures early in the morning help. I do not enjoy running in the heat but I’m trying to work through that too. In that run, I did my second fastest 5km ever (31:38). My fastest is 31:16. (At some point I claimed to have done a 30:34 but I realised afterward that my watch hadn’t actually connected to GPS so I think it was averaging something.) And those two tough kilometres? I was running at 6:15-6:20 pace. No wonder my legs were screaming.

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Self-timer through the weeds.

This morning, I set out for an easy 5km. This might sound weird, but for the first time I felt like I looked like a runner. Usually I feel like if anyone looks at me they’d think “oh well, good on you for having a go”. I have no logical basis for this. About 3km in I realised a 30 minute 5km was within my grasp, I was averaging about 5:58 and anything faster than 6:00 would get me under 30 minutes. I scraped the 4th kilometre in at 5:54 but then I needed to walk. And stop and spit (which I NEVER do). Then I sprinted a bit to try to get average pace back under 6:00, then walked, then sprinted and so on. Until I hit 5km with an all-out push and my watch said I averaged 5:59. YAY! But when it uploaded into the app it was 6:00. Strava kindly deducted the time I’d spent trying to spit and wipe dribble and gave me an average pace of 5:58 and a time of 29:56. However, if I add up my 5 km splits from garmin, my time was exactly 30:00, to the second. So, I am claiming today as a 30 minute 5km and will save the sub-30 for another day.

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Thank you strava!

Rest day tomorrow, then local club tri Saturday night before a 21km run on Sunday. I won’t be running either of those at 6:00 pace I don’t think.

New records

I have also decided to go back to running in my Altra zero drop shoes rather than the other shoes the running shoe shop recommended for me. I thought they were great when I first got them, but I do really like the extra toe room in the Altras. I have bought another pair which don’t resemble ten-pin bowling shoes as much as these ones.

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If you’ve made it this far – thank you for persevering.

This is it.

The big one.

After my one and only olympic/standard distance triathlon in March 2015, I decided I would go back to enjoying my sprint distance races. I’m just not fast enough to fit in the amount of training required for longer distance races. Trying to fit in two exercise sessions in one day along with all my other commitments was impossible. I pulled out of everything else I was involved in for a few months leading up to the race so I could get it done.

July 2015 was also my one and only half marathon. I never had any intention to run a half marathon but some of my running buddies had signed up so I figured if I was ever going to do it, I should do it with them. I finished but was forced to walk the second half with what I later found to be an ITB injury. I didn’t meet my (secret) time goal of 2:30.

Fast forward to 2016. I have signed up for a re-match on the half marathon. I’ve chosen a different course (Sydney) for this one. I’ve had my eye on the 9km Bridge Run at the Sydney Running Festival for a few years now. Who wouldn’t want to run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge once in their life? Instead, I registered for the half marathon. I have 13.5 weeks to go. The goals this time are to finish uninjured and hopefully under 2:30.

And, I’ve paid an insane amount of money to enter a half ironman-distance triathlon (but not the ironman brand) four weeks after the half marathon. This will be a 1.9km swim and a 90km bike ride followed by a 21.1km run. My thought pattern went something like:

I know I can swim 1.9km – I did that in October for a team event. I will be “half marathon fit” for the race in September. This race is only 4 weeks later. The “only” thing I need to work on is the bike. I’ve never ridden further than 45km in one go. Ever. Then I just have to put it all together and run a half marathon AFTER the 90km ride.

After a chat with my coach to confirm that it is theoretically do-able, I registered for the Forster Ultimate race.

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And what have I done since registering? Not a lot. Lost a small amount of weight over several months. Gained it all back and then some over the last two weeks while on holidays in Broome (lovely place but I had to survive two weekends with no parkrun). Skipped most of my long runs. Skipped most of my strength sessions.

I did clamber down then up this pile of boulders looking for dinosaur footprints (which we found so it was worth it).

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And I took my running gear away on the holiday with me and managed three 5km runs. Part of one was on this stunning stretch of the 22km long Cable Beach.

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I didn’t swim here but I did admire the view. At low tide, you have to walk 1.5km across the mudflats to get to the deeper water. Broome has one of the biggest tide differences in the world! Town Beach, Broome.

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ASIDE: The holiday ticked off three bucket list items for me – Visit Broome, ride a camel, ride in a sea plane. All in all, it was a wonderful trip, especially since we did it with immediate and extended family members.

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View from the seaplane over the Dampier Peninsula where we camped for two nights (near the lighthouse).

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And now back to my triathlon journey…

I had planned to keep my registration a secret until the last minute thinking I would put less pressure on myself. There are less than 10 people who know I registered. It’s at an event where I have done the sprint distance race for the last two years so I could talk about going without mentioning that I’ve registered for the longer distance race. I’m looking down the barrel of a 6 or 7 hour race.

Right now, I’m doubting my ability to push myself for that long. Somewhere in amongst all the other thoughts, I imagined that if I could learn to push myself for longer, then I could transpose this into my shorter distance training and races to push harder in those sessions.

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(from facebook some time ago)

Therefore, I decided to get it out there. Make myself accountable to the cyber-world. This is the biggest athletic goal I have set since I started this journey. For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking it’s too big (what have I done?) but in the last couple of days I’ve caught up on some blog-reading and have been inspired to get my act together. I WILL do this. Besides, it’s a lot of money to throw away if I don’t.

Some of the blogs and instagram posts that have given me a much needed lift this week were:

Annie at Unsporty Women Can Run nailed it (me) when she wrote

Delicate Runner Syndrome (as I call it) frequently stops me from pushing too hard.  I’d rather run slow and for a long way than fast and pop a valve that might stop me from running.  But I take this too far and use it as an excuse to go slow.”

Teresa wrote about the pitfalls of comparing ourselves to others here.

Watching The Weight Drop on instagram posted this

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There were others as well – it’s like I was bombarded with posts to challenge and motivate me. So that’s it. Time to knuckle down, eat healthily and do focussed training. And get to bed earlier (since it’s now 1.20am and I’m supposed to be swimming before work tomorrow).

 

What will I be saying this time next year when I look back at my doubts and fears?

What are you working on/toward at the moment?

Have you recently achieved a goal you set?

 

dontquite

(from facebook some time ago)

Indoor Cycling

I’ve finally started doing more cycling. From the comfort of my own lounge room. In summary, it’s an online “game” called Zwift which uses the data from your own bike trainer and sensors to move an animated you around an island called Watopia. People from all over the world log in whenever. Or you can prearrange a time to meet friends for a group ride. It costs $10 USD per month but if it means I’m riding my bike, then it’s worth it.

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Let’s face it – where else will I ever get to wear a green sprinter’s jersey??? (Either I’m Lightning McQueen over a 400m distance, or there aren’t many females using Zwift yet at the times that I’ve been online.)

These are some of the reasons I enjoy using Zwift.

  • It’s easy to get caught up in the “race” to not let the person behind catch you (and you don’t have to look over your shoulder to see them), or to catch the person in front of you, or see how long you can draft off someone.
  • I work harder in this game than I do on the road. I think it’s because I don’t have to worry about traffic, potholes, magpies etc. Or being stranded too far from home if I absolutely run out of puff. I can give it all I’ve got.
  • I also work harder in Zwift than I do just cycling on my trainer because if I stop pedalling or slow down, the animated character on screen unclips or sips her drink. It’s a visual reminder that I’ve lost focus whereas on the trainer I find I just drift off and then realise I’ve stopped pedalling and have no idea how long I’ve been off with the fairies.
  • King/Queen of the mountain, green jerseys, yellow jerseys, this game has it all – instant updates and comparisons of PBs on some segments (don’t have to wait for strava upload 🙂 )
  • Group rides are great – it’s not often I get to feel like I can keep up with everyone else. It does wonders for the self esteem. I don’t have to know whether they’re slacking off, I can imagine that they’re sweating and panting as much as I am!
  • The graphics are great, the concept is even better. Seeing where the many different riders online are from (country) and seeing messages flying in French or Spanish makes you feel like  you’re part of something so much bigger than just my lounge room.
  • No cars
  • No helmets
  • No crashes (and even if someone cuts you off you just go through them like a hologram)
  • Fast looking bikes and snazzy cycling clothing
  • Cycling with dolphins, sting rays, whales – where else can you cycle under the ocean?
  • Estimated calories burned are counted as a number of pizza slices!
  • It’s the best excuse for playing computer games and not feeling guilty.
  • It makes me feel like a real cyclist.

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In an hour online it’ll go from day to night with beautiful sunrises, long shadows and spectacular scenery.

My coach told me that getting my cycling done will also help my running. She might be onto something there.

In my previous post (late February), I wrote that “I haven’t run a 30min 5km yet and don’t seem to be getting any closer but my training has been rather erratic.”

I realised today that I haven’t skipped a session on my training program since 3rd March! That’s a whole month with all planned training completed. If only I was that dedicated to my food intake.

Recently, 1km intervals were added to my program – to be done weekly. 6 x 1km run at effort (preferably sub 6:00 pace) with a 2 minute complete rest/stop between each one.

The first time I attempted this, I managed sub 6:00 for one of the six only (5:51 – a new PB). The second time, I had two under 6 minutes. Last weekend had a huge training load due to the public holidays and being able to get some longer sets in. I managed a 10km run/walk (planned 8 minute run/1 minute walk repeated for the whole distance) and averaged 7:10 pace even with the walks. I was over the moon with this. I had another 1km interval set two and FOUR of them were under 6 minutes! A 5:59, 5:47 (new 1km PB), 5:57 and 5:58. The other two were 6:34 and 6:19 – not too shabby either. Considering the first two were done in the dark with a headlamp on unfamiliar paths near my parents’ house, I was thrilled.

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I’m so glad daylight saving has finally ended…IMG_20160325_100231

10km with beautiful coastal scenery

 

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That’s me in the light blue being overtaken by a huge pack of cyclists on Zwift. Would completely freak me out in real life but was strangely pretty cool at the time.

On Easter Saturday I was up at 4.30am to drive 1.5 hours to the nearest parkrun which had a 7.00am start! I was also catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

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Yesterday was another big day – 45 minutes on the bike (which I did on Zwift) then a 10km run. My plan for this was to run the 5km from home to parkrun, then have a few minutes rest during the briefings and continue with the second 5km. The second 5km was much slower than the first because THIS happened quite unexpectedly!

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So, I STILL haven’t run 5km in under 30 minutes but it’s getting closer! This was almost two minutes faster than my previous 5km PB of 32:28 which I ran in December 2014. I hadn’t even gone out with the intention of going hard or getting a PB, I was just running. The last 500m was tough but I’d seen how close I was to a PB so pushed on. Needless to say, there wasn’t much left in the tank for the second 5km so I walked a lot, chatted with other parkrunners and did a leisurely 38 minutes. It doesn’t seem that long ago that 38 minutes would have been a fast 5km for me. It’s odd how our perspective changes over time.

More zwift screenshots – because I can.

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Cycling related architecture

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Spot the whale?

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And the dolphins?

The creators have an incredible imagination. Wonder if they could develop Zwimt for swimming from the comfort of home?

I’m enjoying being on my bike again. (And swimming and running, so that’s got to be good for my triathlon pursuits!)

What’s next? A three-hour intensive swim training session with Effortless Swimming at the end of April, a triathlon in May, a holiday to Broome in June, Sutherland to Surf (11km) in July, Dubbo Stampede in August and the Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon in September (we run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge – I’m reasonably certain I’ll be stopping for a selfie!). So much for my year of spending more time at home. And in amongst all of this, I am determined to shed my excess weight. Imagine how fast I could run if my legs had 5-10 fewer kilograms to cart around!

Is there a gadget or training technique/tool that has reignited your enthusiasm?

#GCAM15

Where does the time go? It is almost two months since my last post. At that time, I announced that I’d committed to doing an olympic distance triathlon before I turned 40. Well, this time in 5 weeks, I will have completed that race. My wonderful hubby has offered to come with me to act as chauffeur and photographer. I wasn’t looking forward to the drive home after the race (about 5 hours drive I think).

I’ve had a crazy start to the year. 10 days after my last post, our house was advertised for sale. We have now sold, signed contracts, and we’ll have moved in 6 weeks.

On 13th November I typed that I had completed another 1031.1km of training or racing. This took 10 months and got me from Melbourne to Port Augusta on my virtual training trek around Australia.

Since then, in less than 3 months, I’ve covered 599.7km (why oh why, didn’t I do an extra 300m???). So I’ve made it to Calpatan Waterhole Conservation Park! I’ve started doing a bit more cycling in the lead-up to my big triathlon. That helps to ramp up the training kilometre tally.

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Speaking of cycling, I finally bought a road bike. One of the best features, is that it fits in the back of the car without having to take the front wheel off! BONUS! I am struggling to get used to the different gear set up so I labelled them. Unfortunately, I labelled them backwards. I realised, when I thought “Ok, time to get into an easier gear”.

“Oh. That’s not easier… must already be in the easy gear.” #labellingfail

I feel like I’m starting from scratch again though and wish I had taken the plunge and bought a road bike from the outset. Instead, I fell into the trap of thinking I wasn’t serious enough or good enough to warrant or justify it.

I finally got my first “stack” out of the way a few weeks ago. The bruises have faded and I had no serious injuries. Perhaps more importantly (Winking smile) my bike wasn’t damaged in any way either.

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In other non-cycling news, I signed up for a half marathon! On July 5th, I’ll be doing my first (and probably only) half marathon. It’s a flat course (I’m told) and it starts at 6am, in winter, so the weather should be perfect conditions for me. I really don’t handle exercising in the heat.

My “year of being 40” is going to be memorable to say the least! I hope you have all had a great start to the year as well! I can hardly believe it is February already.

Do you mark milestone birthdays with significant events?

What was I thinking?

About a week and a half ago, I had my first ride where I actually felt a bit like a cyclist. Something just “clicked”. I don’t really know what, and I’ve only been for one ride since so I’m hoping it will continue to stay clicked. A lot of people I know were competing at the Port Macquarie Half Ironman 70.3 that day. I’d seen the massive hill on the bike course(Matthew Flinders Drive) when I was visiting Port a few months ago. Since they were going to have a crack at that, I decided to have a crack at the hill near my home that has been freaking me out. Farrer Hill. (That’s what I call it anyway – it’s near Farrer High School.) Surprise, surprise, I made it to the top. AND SAFELY DOWN THE OTHER SIDE for a round trip ride of just under 20km in approximately 55 minutes. That’s pretty good for me. All the other smaller undulations (which up until then were considered hills) seemed insignificant.

Graph courtesy of garmin connect.

FarrerHill

 

Off the back of that exhilarating experience, I juggled my budget and found $95 to spend on a race entry to another Sprint distance triathlon. I’ve had my eye on it since my last one but couldn’t justify the expense. I still can’t to be honest, but I decided to be irresponsible and registered anyway. It’s in 12 days. Nothing like a short prep-time.

My training program has been focusing on running since I was aiming to go under 33 minutes at the 5km Armidale Fun Run next weekend. I’m letting that goal slide in favour of nailing my triathlon.

While not quite “open water” in the sense of “in the ocean with waves”, this is my first triathlon swim that isn’t in an enclosed pool or man-made lake. I have not done any training in this type of water at all. It’s also my first triathlon that isn’t “women only” other than my local club meets.

I think the run is also on grass through a park. I have only ever trained on concrete paths and roads although again, our local triathlon run leg is on gravel and grass so hopefully it won’t be too bad.

I was toying with the idea of dropping back to the enticer distance for this event and going “hard”. However, the enticer starts at 9.30am and the sprint at 7.00am. So, if I do the longer race I should will be finished before the enticer even starts. My theory is that I will beat the worst of the heat.

Transition opens 12 hours after I finish work on the Friday night and it’s a 3.5 hour drive to get to Forster. So, I won’t be well rested but I’m sure adrenalin will give me a boost!

Saturday was my first tri for the season at Tamworth Tri Club. My goal was to beat my time from March when I did their long course (200m/10km/2km) for the first time.

It’s a twilight triathlon so we started at about 6.30pm. 33° celsius. The water was nice and cool! It’s a handicapped race – I start at 30 seconds. I didn’t get overtaken in the swim or in T1 but I did on the bike. It was soooo windy. I thought I was going to be blown sideways off the road. There was lightning over the hills (a fair distance away but off-putting out of the corner of my eye). It was starting to get a little dark so I decided I didn’t need my sunnies for the ride. Oops. Forgot about those pesky little things called “bugs” that are around at that time of day. Ewww.

I struggle on the first half of the ride. At times I was able to tell myself “suck it up – you did Farrer Hill, you can do this”. Then I got to the turnaround and realised I must have been riding into a headwind because I was fairly flying on the way back. Up to 38/39 km/hr at times! I’ve never ridden that fast on the downhill (I brake going down – I am most definitely not a speed-freak) let alone on the relative flat. Check out my cadence graph below to see the difference.

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I shouldn’t have ridden at 100 cadence although it felt fantastic. It didn’t leave much in my legs for the run. Combine that with my lack of brick training due to the running focus and I had a pretty slow run.

The end result though was a time 1 min 27 sec faster than in March – despite the windy ride. It’s possible that most of that time was made up when I opted to go sockless on both the bike and the run. No fiddling with socks on wet feet.

Happy tri-ing. Smile

Heather

My first sprint

Last Saturday, I completed my first sprint distance triathlon.
750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run. This is my race novel report.

Women’s Triathlon Festival,
International Regatta Centre, Penrith

Pre-race:

I woke at 6am as planned and posted on Facebook, as you do these days that I was feeling ready for this race. I knew I could do the distance but the head game would be my biggest risk factor. I was feeling confident though. I followed signs to Penrith but somehow ended up driving through fog on an 80km/h road instead of on the motorway. Needless to say, I arrived later than planned. I registered then headed off to transition to set up and find the entry and exit locations. I even remembered to count how many bays down my row I was so I could find my bike. As I left transition (right on closing time because of my lateness) I realised I’d worked out where my bike was in relation to the bike entrance. That wouldn’t help much coming from the swim! Oh well, I couldn’t do anything about it now. Hoping I had everything set up as properly despite the rush, I headed up to where the briefings have been every other time I’ve done a race at this venue but noone was there. Then a friend heard over the PA that the briefing was near transition so back down the hill I went feeling a little silly.

Lesson 1: It’s better to arrive too early than too late, or “just in time”.

Swim:

Briefing over, we shivered our way to the swim start. If the temperature of the wet grass was any indication, we were in for a chilly swim. The last two triathlons I did at Penrith had a 150m swim and a 300m swim. This time, I was looking at 750m and it seemed like we were walking for a looooong time. I remember walking past the 1500m rowing marker. Then we finally stopped and made our way into the water. I don’t own a wetsuit and have never considered buying one. Until now. Once my race started I didn’t feel cold. I just felt freaked out by the murky water. I was expecting weeds from previous swims there but at times I couldn’t even see the weeds my hands were touching. Swimming is my weakest leg so I was expecting to be overtaken by the following waves and was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t get bashed in the process. People seemed to swim around me. I had no concept of time or distance since all my training was done in a 25m pool and my basic garmin isn’t waterproof. When I thought (hoped) I was about half way through, I saw the 1250 (or 1750, I can’t remember) marker. Eeek! I’ve only done 250m. What am I going to do? I started to freak out about whether I would make it to the end of the swim and worried about using energy unnecessarily zig-zagging across the lake so I ended up doing my poor imitation of “sighting” on almost every breath. Eventually I made it to the finish and stumbled out of the water. I still didn’t cold, I was just glad to have made it. I walked slowly to transition and found my bike.

Lesson 2: Take note of surroundings and try to find some features to gauge where I’m at on the swim… Eliminate the guess work.

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T1:

Found my bike easily – there weren’t many left to choose from. I took my time calming myself down again and putting on my garmin. Drank some Gatorade and water. I looked at my sneakers then back at my bike shoes. Sneakers. Bike shoes. Sneakers. Bike shoes. I bought my bike shoes with cleats 3 years before I found the courage to ride with them. This was the test. Eventually decided on the cleats and set off. What joy! I managed to mount without mishap.

Lesson 3: Don’t think about it – just stick to the plan. Coach knows best.

Bike:

I actually felt good on the ride. I passed a couple of people, was lapped by several people and passed by many more. However, I was able to maintain a relatively (for me) steady cadence of around 85 which was my goal. I was aiming for 2:30 kilometres and my actual kms ranged from 2:24 to 2:40 so I was very happy with that. My (non-official) time for the 20km was spot on 50 minutes which was my goal. I also managed to focus on sipping my water which is the step I usually forget leaving my dehydrated for the run. I was NOT going to let that happen today. Somewhere in the 3rd lap I realised my toes were getting cold and I realised I hadn’t done any training with wet socks in my shoes (I wear socks due to the location of a very irritating seam in the shoe). I had dry socks to put on for the run so I wasn’t overly concerned. I didn’t want to spoil the bike leg with a crash so I unclipped my left foot around 50m from the dismount line and coasted/pedalled-one-legged to the finish. I think the winners were finishing their run as I started my 3rd or 4th lap of the bike course. (Strangely, although I felt like this was my best leg, it was my worst result in terms of placing in age category!)

Lesson 4: Practise riding with wet socks, or investigate the existence of thermal sport socks.

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T2:

Shoes and wet socks off. Dry socks and sneakers on and away I went.


Run:

My plan was to walk the first 2 minutes refocusing my mind on my goal for the run: to run the whole run, except through the water stations. I tend to take off too fast and can’t maintain the pace. I walked the first minute or so and realised the dry socks had not helped my toes at all. They were numb! I thought that only happened to ironman competitors! Walking felt weird and jogging felt unsteady. I’ve run in sub-zero temperatures for winter training but my toes had never been that cold. I walked off and on for a bit (ran past the finish chute and the grandstand of course – people might be watching!). Out of curiosity, I switched the screen on my garmin to the time (clock) to see how I was going. It was 10.33. The race started at 9am. My goal of finishing in under 2 minutes was shot to pieces. Even my flat-out sprint pace wouldn’t get me home in time and I’d already walked more than I wanted to. At this point the real mental drama started. I thought “I can’t finish in under 2 hours, so what’s the point of trying any more” and I walked. Then the debate started – like a cartoon devil and angel on each shoulder. “I’ve travelled all this way – I might as well see what I can do… But I’ve already blown my chances… but I survived the swim… just!… And I did fine on the bike and didn’t crash!… Yeah, but others are walking too…Suck it up Heather! You have your perfect race conditions and you promised yourself you’d run the whole way” This was the clincher. I had been hoping for lower temperatures, especially for the run, because I don’t handle the heat well at all. I ran from there to the turnaround point and some of the way back. When I thought about stopping I had to tell myself “You’re not hurt, you’re not injured (you just have numb toes), you’re just being lazy.” Then I saw the start point for the swim and it was pretty much at the 1750m (or 1250m – whichever the other one wasn’t). So then I started beating myself up about how much I’d freaked out in the swim unnecessarily – I’d already swum 500m when I thought I’d only done 250m. The last 250m felt a lot longer than the first 500m because of the stressed state I’d got myself into. This mini rant (at myself) caused me to lose concentration and before I knew it I was walking again. I’m not sure how long for but eventually I realised and switched back onto run mode and picked up the pace for the finish line. I even managed to pass two ladies who stopped for water at the aid station that was only a couple of hundred metres from the finish. I didn’t need water that badly and wanted to pass “someone” on the run. That, and I didn’t think I’d start running again if I stopped.

Lesson 5: I need to learn to wrap up the internal debates more quickly. Stressing makes everything feel harder than it needs to be.

The finish:

I looked at the clock as I crossed the line 2:02. Soooo cranky! We mustn’t have started right on 9am so when I saw it was 10:33am, I hadn’t really been going for over 1½ hours already. If I had run just a little bit more I could have achieved my goal.

I was disappointed that I struggled so much mentally. I knew that was likely to be my weakness and I think it was made worse by the pre-race rush caused by my late arrival at the venue. However, I am extremely happy that I didn’t fall off my bike. I didn’t reinjure the calf I tore last October. The weather co-operated with me. I prepared properly and didn’t end up with a headache on the run. 12 months ago completing a sprint distance triathlon would have been impossible but I did it.

Lesson 6: Don’t look at the time during the race, just watch the pace and cadence and get out there and do what I came to do.

The highlight reel:

My very first triathlon was the try-a-tri (150m/5km/1.5km) at this same venue in March 2011 in 40:03.

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The second triathlon I did at Penrith was an enticer (300m/10km/2km) in November 2012 in a time of 1:03:12.

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My third Penrith triathlon was this sprint (750m/20km/5km) so more than double the distance of the previous one, in less than twice the time.

The best bits:

I had friends doing the sprint and enticer races too. This was only the second time I knew someone else who was going to the same event and it really made the day a lot more enjoyable.

I forgot I was in the second wave which started about three minutes after the first wave, so I DID come in under 2 hours despite all the mental dramas I experienced. Yay! 1:58:27.

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The following day I did the Color Run with a bunch of friends:

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Do you have any tips and tricks for winning internal debates? Do you make time for mental training in addition to physical training?