Waterfalls

Sometimes we chase waterfalls,

the rush of the wind and the tarmac

under the tires fills the ears

with a gushing sound

until nothing is heard

but the trees, the loose rocks in the shoulder

and the roar of the road left behind.

There’s no need to linger long,

the waterfall spilling anew each second

over the bedrock,

and so, we ride on

Bear Triathlon Prep and Results

I just have to brag about this athlete, Ben. Ben started working with me to complete an Olympic distance triathlon. For his first Oly, he finished feeling like he could have done the race again. But, at the Bear Triathlon this year, he not only finished the race, but knocked 20 minutes off his previous finish time. This was his first race in cold water with a wetsuit as well.

In order to prepare for the cold water swim in a new wetsuit, we did what every athlete should do: practice. A week prior to race day, we headed out to Medford Lakes, NJ where the water temp was a chilly 60 degrees that froze your face and numbed your feet. It was so cold that my teeth hurt during the whole swim. After starting out too fast, Ben caught his breath and continued to swim for 2000 yards in that freezing lake because he knew what to do to get comfortable swimming in water that cold.

Congratulations, Ben! You never cease to amaze me! He finished his swim fast, held 18+ mph on the bike, and ran a fantastic 10K after having knee surgery earlier this year. I can’t wait to see what else the season holds for you!

Pockets, pockets, pockets

I had a chance to ride with Phil and test out my new kit from Coeur Sports as part of The Collective Beat, a team of women in triathlon supporting and encouraging all athletes. If you’re interested in being part of The Collective Beat team, which I highly recommend, here’s the link to do that: https://www.coeursports.com/collections/collective-beat

But, this post is a clothing review, so more on The Collective Beat in a future post. Since I started triathlon, I’ve worn lots of different clothing brands in the search for something that fits well and is comfortable without chaffing on long rides or runs. My favorites are Terry, Bontrager, Santini, and Coeur Sports. All of my tri kits, two of my bib shorts, triathlon shorts, and a few of my cycling jerseys are from Coeur, and here’s why: they are soft like butter, stay in place, and are comfortable for all day wear.

The bib shorts keep everything in place for long rides and were so comfortable, I bought two after getting tired of washing them immediately after every ride because that’s all I wore. The bib shorts also have pockets like the running shorts and are big enough to stash a phone and other goodies, one pocket on each leg. The cycling jersey didn’t bunch up or ride up above my waist and has three pockets as well as a zippered pocket for valuables. As for tri kits, Coeur is the best. I wear the one-piece sleeved kit for all of my races because it feels like I’m not wearing anything at all. It’s like being naked, but supported in all the right places. And, it has pockets!

Everything Coeur makes has pockets! Pockets in the bib shorts, three pockets in the back of the tri kit, two pockets on running shorts big enough for a phone, yet it doesn’t weigh down the shorts as I run. The tri shorts have tiny pockets for gels and paired with a cycling jersey, you have pockets, pockets, pockets! Pockets for all my friends!

It’s no surprise that Coeur Sports is one of my favorite brands: it’s also a triathlon clothing company run by women for women. And women know that women want pockets for all the things. Check out their site for swim, bike, run, and triathlon clothes for women of all shapes and sizes because everyone should look awesome while training and competing. https://www.coeursports.com/

Exploring the Schuylkill River Trail Again

I must have passed the Smith Run Ravine too many times to count. It’s nestled in between Conshohoken and where the pavement ends and the towpath to Manayunk begins, easily missed on my numerous training rides for Ironman Maryland as I made my way back and forth from Betzwood. I stashed extra food in my parked car near Valley Forge, so it was vital to pass it every two hours to get a solid 5+ hour training ride in where it’s safe from drivers and flat and windy like the race course in Cambridge, MD. The Schuylkill River Trail is one of the flattest stretches nearby, compared to the 3,000 feet of elevation gain possible in 30 miles on the roads of Gladwyn.

But by the time I passed Smith Run during Ironman training, I was almost an hour into my ride–fresh legs spinning into the headwind. The second time, there was a crosswind, and all the other times after that, my head must have been down from sheer exhaustion. Sure, I noticed it, but I never stopped. I never read the sign. I never looked and wondered.

I learned a lot from my Ironman training about what it takes to do something that is really hard, but I also learned how important it is to slow down and enjoy the ride. I’m currently training for the Ohio 70.3, but I have a much more relaxed approach, scheduling easy rides and making sure they are easy and doing the hard training solo on the trainer or outdoors without distractions. I’m consistent, but not perfect. And, that’s OK.

I’m glad I stopped in the middle of the ride to read the sign for the Smith Run Ravine, and, if next time is a longer ride, I’ll stop and eat my snack there too so I can enjoy the view.

Learning to Ride

I thought I knew how to ride a bike, but riding a mountain bike is a totally different experience. On the road, I avoid potholes, debris in the shoulder, and look out for drivers all while riding fast and holding my line. I corner and brake properly and know how to climb massive hills. My body is narrow and the pedals are spinning as fast as I can go. Not much of what I know about road cycling applies to mountain biking; however, riding a mountain bike will make me a better roadie, and it will make you a better cyclist too when you head for the trails.

Fortunately, Deborah Leedale-Brown of dlb2-Full Potential was ready to teach me the basic skills needed for tackling some of the local trails with ease. We started in sloped field filled with cones and a sky blue ramp that didn’t look all that intimidating until I realized that the ramp is about as wide as the handlebars on my new Fuel EX 8 GX, and every time I approached it, I noticed the downward grade to the nearest tree. I would like to avoid hitting trees and falling off the ramp entirely. The ramp was only a foot high, but when Deborah took off the 2nd ramp that drop seemed much, much higher off the ground.

Of course, I didn’t start on the ramp. She reviewed everything from proper body position on the bike with my heels down and wide knees to how to shift and brake while I slalomed in and out of the cones. I soon realized that on my previous mtn bike ride, I was gripping the brakes with all available fingers–white knuckles all the way down. When I did ride the ramp, I practiced different positions on the bike, and was able to do a nice peak and push when that second ramp was removed, placing the front wheel where I wanted it to go. I surprised myself when I did it, jarring my brain a bit the first time.

At the end of the lesson, we did ride some of the trails nearby. Rocks and roots were scattered about like forgotten toys. Logs crisscrossed the path, and I had to pay attention, holding my line and ignoring the drop off to the left. I didn’t second guess myself and knew so much more about how to handle my bike thanks to Deborah’s expert coaching. Mountain biking allows me to be comfortable and take up more space as I roll over all the obstacles in my way. That’s why I love it. And, I’ll be signing up for another lesson soon.

Birthday Ride

The best birthday gift is warm weather in March and a ride with Phil. We headed out after a leisurely breakfast and made our way down to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before heading to Manayunk for coffee at Volo. This is an easy ride to do with Martin Luther King Drive closed to cars for the time being. Usually, it’s only closed May-October on weekends for cyclists and runners, allowing more room than the Schuylkill River Trail on Kelly Drive that tends to be filled with people.

With temps in the mid 50s, on a Wednesday, it wasn’t too crowded. Recent snow melt and rain filled the Schuylkill and there was the usual headwind throughout the ride. The sun was shining, and it’s always a good day when you’re on a bike.

If you’re interested in rethinking MLK Drive in Philadelphia, check out the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia’s post and sign the petition at the bottom:

https://bicyclecoalition.org/the-future-of-mlk-drive-your-questions-answered/

Snowfall Running

roads are silent,

with snow smooth like skin.

soon, tires scar the surface

to reveal scabs of ice–

slush oozing near curbs.

but now, it’s quiet,

heavy wet flakes float

softly pressing fresh wounds

with gossamer gauze.

Before Morning Coffee

I started running in 2010 when we moved back from Japan, even though I dabbled in the sport while doing run/walk intervals along the Odakyu Line that stretched out from the center of Tokyo to Kamakura. It was the only flat road, and I would go back and forth from our house to the local playground. Phil would run with me when we started, offering encouragement, even though I ran/walked super slow. If he ran ahead for a mile or so, he would come back to check on me before heading father once again. By the time we moved back to Florida, I ran my first ever 5K race without walking.

Since then I’ve added triathlon when my friend, Cathy, found out I used to swim in high school. She wanted someone to go to the pool with her because she knew that if she made plans to meet me there, she would show up without fail. It was a 50 meter indoor pool, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to swim there, being a much better swimmer than runner. We would go twice a week and swim 1600 meters for the swimming gods before hopping out. I also ran with her every day at 6:00 AM and the whole 6@6 group, and after many runs, she convinced me to get a road bike since I was already swimming and running–why not add the third sport of cycling?

And, that’s just what I did. I bought a used road bike for $500. I then went on my first road ride with Cathy and Gene to the Norfolk International Airport and back and just about died trying to keep up. Within a week, I got myself a pair of road shoes, clipped in, and proceeded to fall a few times while practicing in the apron of our driveway. The kid came out and drew chalk outlines of everywhere I fell so that our driveway looked like a crime scene.

I’ve managed to stay on my bike more often than not, and have kept up with swimming and running, but it’s way easier to get out there when you have friends waiting for you in the cold, pre-dawn hours. Marianne is that friend. We typically run at 5:00 AM to beat the traffic, the heat of summer, or crowded streets during COVID, and she’ll ride with me for miles in winter as we chase the sunrise to the city and back. One thing we always do is get coffee afterwards, which makes all of that hard work in the cold, the dark, the windy, the rainy, the snowy, totally worth it. We’ve talked about just meeting for coffee at 5:00 AM, but I’m still asleep at that hour because it’s the running or the cycling that wakes me up so I can really enjoy the coffee.

Throughout my time in this sport, meeting my friends in person or virtually has helped me get out of bed when I would rather hit snooze. Because most days, I’m not motivated to be getting up at 4:30 AM, and there are many times I hope to see a text from Marianne before 4:30, saying she can’t make it. I often stare at my messages with one eye open, hoping to see that cancellation text that will never come. So I shut off my alarm and get up for the run or ride before coffee.

Looking Forward and Back

With the New Year upon us, many people look to make resolutions to improve themselves in the New Year with the hopes that they will be better for it. I’ve done it and have been disappointed each time.

This never works.

Resolutions only leave me frustrated because it implies that I wasn’t good enough last year–that nothing is ever good enough. What does work is knowing that there is no finish line, no end in sight. Sometimes I’ll get lost on the course and start a century ride over again (did that before realizing what I did and called for my personal SAG vehicle, thanks, Phil!), other times, I’ll come out with a shiny new PR and reach that 5K finish line in record time, and sometimes, my daily workout sucks ass on the treadmill with a side stitch because I ate too much garlic bread. Through all of it, I am consistent, accountable to my training plan, and am flexible as needed.

Consistency is key.

Consistency is also boring. I go to bed and get up at roughly the same time, I have meet ups for some workouts, virtually or socially distant now, for accountability (it’s hard to sleep in when someone is hopping on their bike trainer at 6am waiting for you to ride, but a virtual breakfast after the ride with coffee is the best!), and I pretty much eat the same stuff throughout the week. Boring. Not the “get off my lawn” old person kind of boring, well, sometimes I’m like that. Damn kids.

Accountability goes along with being consistent. Who are you accountable to? Your running, riding, or swim buddies? Do you have a coach? Do you have a friend who expects you to run fast once a week with her so you work hard all week just to keep up? Do you have a training plan or schedule? Adapt your plan day to day, but be consistent with your workouts. If you’re accountable, you’re also consistent.

Lastly, be flexible, but not to the point where accountability and consistency are forgotten. Move your workouts around based on your schedule, but make sure that you get most of them completed with the proper training intensities. Grab a coffee on the go, but maybe not a mocha. Keep your priorities in mind, but have some indulgences every once in awhile. Be kind to yourself. This has been an interesting year, and the next one will be too. Happy New Year!

3,000 in 2020

There is still snow on the ground from last Wednesday’s storm, masters swimming is on hold through the New Year, and I’m currently going to PT for my elbow injury that decided to flare up in September, although my recovery will have to wait a little longer with my next appointment canceled.

I found out I was exposed to COVID-19 last Monday, but wasn’t informed until yesterday. I quickly made an appointment with my doctor for a test, and even though it’s unlikely that I contracted the virus, I’m taking precautions and staying home like my doctor recommended through the next seven days, even though I have no symptoms, and I will know my test results on Thursday, just in time for Christmas.

Until then, I’m staying home and doing my best to keep others safe. I have been wearing a mask, social distancing, and only going to work or running errands as necessary when this exposure happened, but nothing is 100% fool-proof.

So, since I can’t leave the house, I decided to take on a new challenge: ride 3,000 miles on my bike for 2020. I’m less than 200 miles away from this goal and will be riding virtually on Zwift to reach it. In addition, I’m checking to see which courses I haven’t completed to earn those badges too.

When I’m finished riding, I’ll have extra time to bake and give these kitties some much needed attention. Stay safe, stay home, wear a mask, and wash your hands.