Music to Ride By

Threshold repeats are hell. I know I can crank them out at a low cadence because of all the hills in my area, so I tend to alternate low cadence with the higher cadence I’m continually striving towards with each repeat to break up the workout. If I have 5×5 min at zone 4 power, I’ll do the odd numbered repeats at 90-95 rpm and the evens on 65-70 rpm. Yes, getting comfortable with uncomfortable will make me faster. And, yes, my heart rate is higher with a higher cadence, which is why I like low cadence work any day. Hey. No one is perfect. I like my 85 rpm average, thank you. I know that I can do the work. I know that on most days, I just don’t want to ride that hard.

For most hard workouts like today’s threshold repeats, I usually blast rap music in my earbuds to drown out all the cursing I’m doing on the bike when I’m able to breathe. However, I opted for alternative music for my workout that totally fit the current situation we’re all in. So, what song did I listen to on repeat for the duration of my hour workout? “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” by R.E.M.

Sure, it’s enough to drive most people insane, but I’m already there. Endurance sports aren’t for the faint of heart, and you must be OK with your inner crazy, your demons, whatever, and you need to tell them to shut up so you can get the hard work done. Did I feel like Sisyphus on my trainer? Yes. Did I try to sing along with R.E.M? Of course. And, I was off-key with the headphones and, you know, the hard workout because of the difficulty breathing.

I don’t have any advice or wise words of wisdom to offer like “we’re lucky that we get to do this” or “we have our health”, etc. Because some workouts just plain suck. Some workouts make you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over for nothing but exhaustion. Some workouts you’re just glad they’re over. That was today’s workout. I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad I did it. And, I’m looking forward to my easy run after dinner tonight because this is what I get to do while “it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”. Chin up, people. We’ll be fine in good time because sometimes the end of the world as we know it is actually a good thing.

What are your favorite songs on the run or ride? Share them below, and if I like them, I’ll add them to my playlist.

Hey, White Triathletes…

Why isn’t more being said about how the sport of triathlon is so incredibly silent when it comes to addressing the inequities and lack of diversity? Worldwide, BIPOC make up almost 1% of the sport of triathlon. The burden is not on BIPOC to join the sport, but the burden is on the sport of triathlon itself to figure out how it can adapt and attract more diverse athletes.

The sport of triathlon is uniquely American, getting its start in Mission Bay in San Diego in 1974. John and Judy Collins, who moved from California to Hawai’i, wanted to create a competition for endurance athletes. In 1978, the Around the Island Triathlon took place, and the race was 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling, and running with the winner called the Iron Man. IRONMAN gained even more popularity in 1980 when the Wide World of Sports filmed the event. Since that time, the sport of triathlon has grown, but it is still mostly wealthy, older, white men.

I am in a minority in this sport and as a coach since I’m female. Some of my athletes are too, but we’re all still white and participate in much greater numbers than BIPOC. Female participation is at 30% for triathlon and 37% for cycling.

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are organizations for Black athletes, but there are only a few of them. For most women, one of the largest groups is Women for Tri, sponsored by IRONMAN, and it’s the one I’m having the most issues with right now because the moderators are actively silencing posts about Black Lives Matter and other political posts, citing the rules that it’s not “triathlon related”.

Excuse me? How is being a black athlete NOT triathlon related? Black athletes face a whole bunch of issues I don’t even have to think about when I go for a solo run or ride. Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while on a run. Black athletes who train solo are not first assumed to be training, but to be up to no good or running away from something. Really. I know athletes who won’t run alone because they have been stopped on their run and asked what they are doing with the white person who stopped them threatening to call the cops. For real. So, to say that being black is NOT triathlon related is racist, and Women for Tri can do so much better than that. But, no. They aren’t. I recently checked in on the group’s page to see a post about “what is the best way to carry a firearm while cycling” (seriously, wtf?). Another post about “how do I look in my swimsuit” (again, how does this advance women’s rights?). Whatever.

The admin just updated to clarify that political posts are not acceptable (or hashing out political discussion will be deleted), which is subtext for: don’t post anything about race or Black Lives Matter. But, carry on about complaining about “Runners’ World” articles and how women are treated in them (how is this not political?). Carry on about which tri kit to purchase (how does this not promote a business?). Carry on about how beautiful your open water swim was (bragging when some of us are still on stay at home orders). But, when you carry on like that you’re leaving behind so many people. You are leaving behind BIPOC athletes, and I’m done with that.

That being said, “Triathlete” Magazine did post an article about how you can help: https://www.triathlete.com/culture/heres-how-you-and-we-can-help-right-now/

That’s a start. I’ve got work to do as a white female athlete and coach. And so do you because if you’re reading this, you’re probably a white person. Let’s change this sport from the inside out.

If you feel the need to get moving as I do because I can’t sit still when there is so much work to do, here’s another way you can support Black Lives Matter by donating $1 for every mile you run, ride, or walk to the NAACP here: https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/Anniston/1MillionMilesforJustice?fbclid=IwAR08SLairNfX_4SUrtjyWyPf_NUbi5NBn9ruX130XckYuQY5NgSXHmOfV8A&remMeAttempt=

I put my money where my mouth is and will be donating miles to the NAACP through the Civil Rights Race Series posted above. I am also running a virtual 5K to support LGBTQ+ youth. We need more diversity in triathlon with BIPOC athletes and more LGBTQ+ athletes too. Because only together, we are strong. That’s what the V Formation means. And that’s what I stand for. Always.

#Go By Bike

We went by bike to explore new hiking trails and safe routes in our neighborhood.

If you want to do something to make the world a better place right now. Like NOW. Then, it’s as easy as riding a bike.

Think of all the little trips to local spots near your home and in your neighborhood and how you get there. Sometimes, you might walk, but oftentimes, you may hop in your car to shorten the distance between your home and your destination. With a little bit of planning though, you could be going more places by bike instead.

Here’s what you’ll get when you choose to go by bike.

  1. You’ll see your neighborhood in a whole new way.
  2. You’ll see your neighbors from a distance and wave.
  3. You’ll notice the flowers along your route and shade from the trees.
  4. You might hear someone’s wind chimes in the breeze.
  5. You’ll pass small businesses in between the big box stores.
  6. You’ll ride on streets you’ve never driven down.
  7. You might find some neat artwork or a mural.
  8. You will certainly get some exercise and reduce your carbon footprint.

Going by bike is an adventure, powered by you. For more information about the #GoByBike movement, safe places to ride, how to ride with your kids, and all about bike safety, visit: https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/gobybike/

To join the Go By Bike Movement is simple:

  1. Choose your bike over your car at least once a week.
  2. Take a picture with a caption and #GoByBike
  3. Invite others to join by tagging them.

For those of you local to Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia is a fantastic resource for safe routes in our area and so much more. Consider joining the Coalition or making a donation to them so that they can advocate for more bike lanes, bike paths, and bike infrastructure in the Greater Philadelphia Area to make riding a bike safer for all. Check out their website here: https://bicyclecoalition.org/

If you live near Montgomery County, PA, here is yet another great resource: https://www.montcopa.org/BikeMontco

For news and more information for Lower Merion, check out: https://www.facebook.com/LMSafeCycling/

Trek Women’s Advocate

I almost don’t even know where to begin. I applied to the Trek Women’s Advocate Program because I love to get more women on bikes and more women in triathlon and simply outside. If I applied, I would have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded women to grow the sport, get more kids and families on bikes, and maybe even snag a few women into the sport of triathlon, which also has low female participation like cycling–stuck at 30%, for now, but that’s not what the future holds. The future is female, and with more women on bikes, more kids and families will enjoy a lifetime of cycling for sport, leisure, commuting, and quality time. Plus, on a bike, the world looks fresh because you are out in it instead of behind the windshield of a car.

I am truly humbled and grateful to be part of this Dream Team of women, and oftentimes feel like I don’t belong, or I got into the program by mistake. Many of the advocates have been with the program for two or more years, yet there was about 1/3 of us who were brand new. Not to worry because those women and the wonderful people at Trek Headquarters in Waterloo, WI are full of ideas, share them, and support all of us newbies.

During the summit, we learned all about how to host fantastic rides, had social events where I rode a mountain bike for the first time (and I rode a bike off road on a CX course). I can’t wait to see what the year holds! I’m busy planning events at Trek Ardmore because cycling is for everyone. Stop by the shop to pick up a Halloween Scavenger Hunt or come to the Definitely Donuts Ride this Sunday at 7:15am at Betzwood. There are more fun events coming up! So get out from behind the windshield and ride!

Represent Women

I find numbers fascinating. One number that sticks in my head is 37. It’s not the answer to life, the universe, and everything like 42, but it’s the percent of female athletes in the sport of triathlon.

Thirty-seven percent. Women make up fifty-one percent of the population and have begun to dominate the running world, slowly at forty-four percent for the marathon distance; however, women make up for what they lack in numbers as seen in the recent New York City Marathon where American women performed better than expected with four U.S. women placing in the top ten. Shalane Flanagan placed third and got on the podium once again (last year, she placed first), which is a huge feat.

So, why only thirty-seven percent in triathlon? Gwen Jorgenson won gold in Rio in 2016 for triathlon, but didn’t seem to inspire lots of women to join the sport. As for cycling, women make up about 25% of riders, and for open water swimming women only make up 37%, the same as it is for the sport of triathlon. I can’t bear to look at the numbers for African Americans in triathlon: it’s .5% in case you’re wondering. POINT 5%. But that’s another post.

In the U.S., Title IX didn’t allow for girls’ teams until 1972, which kept my mom and the women who came before me from participating in organized sports–we had few role models because adult women we knew weren’t on any teams of any kind, didn’t run in road races, etc. Because of Title IX, I was on my high school’s first girls’ soccer team in 1992 when I was a junior in high school. We had swimming, track, and other sports, but soccer was late to the game even though we had a boys’s team prior to 1992. I’d like to say we’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go, especially in the sport of triathlon with only 37% participation for women.

What keeps women out of the sport? Intimidation? Time? Money? Work and family obligations? A bigger problem is that women currently in the sport don’t give themselves enough credit: women apologize before they even begin group rides or runs even though the guys don’t care.

This has to stop, and I know I’m guilty of this too. I often apologize for the few group rides I go on, not expecting anyone to wait for me. I let other swimmers go ahead of me in a lane even though I may be faster. I pick up the rear in runs when I want to give up. I plan to change these attitudes about the three disciplines with myself, and I would love to see other women stop apologizing, get some more friends, and get into the sport so that we represent ourselves properly. Maybe then that 37% will go up to 51% like it should.

Surry Century Ride

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The Surry Century Ride on September 8 was my second century ride of the summer while training for Ironman Chattanooga. My friend, Catrina, suggested the ride because it was perfect timing in our training schedules–she’s training for Ironman Maryland the day before Ironman Chattanooga.

This ride is in it’s 26th year in rural Surry, Virginia on rolling country roads through lush farmland. Compared to my last century on July 28, I would have to say that this one was a success: I didn’t get hit by a car, I didn’t get lost, and I didn’t get a flat. And I finished all 102.41 miles of the three loop course.

The three loops for the full century was an ingenious idea compared to one incredibly large 100 mile loop because after each loop, I could return to my car to get anything else I might need, fill up on more food, or refill my water bottles. The first loop was 50 miles, the second was 28 miles, and the last loop was 23, which made tackling all 100 miles mentally manageable. The long 50 mile loop had three rest stops, and the two shorter loops had one rest stop half way through the ride. All of the stops were well-stocked with homemade and store-bought goodies: the banana pudding was a favorite.

My goal for the ride was to keep my heart rate in check. Sure, I could have gone faster, but for the Ironman, I must be in zones 1-2, and that’s exactly what I did. I averaged 14.7 mph for the full century– all despite the hills, a headache that began around the three hour mark and intensified, menstrual cramps that made me want to double over the on bike, and hot and humid conditions. Even though I kept getting blasted by bursts of hot wind over the fields, my heart rate stayed within the required zones. I’ll call that a win! My speed for zones 1-2 used to be in the 12-13 mph range, but now I’m close to 15mph for a century in the heat and humidity with some hills thrown in. Let’s just say that I am pleased. I could have easily gone the 14 miles more that are in Ironman Chattanooga’s bike course, and I would still have time to enjoy the full marathon run afterwards. Because I can run on tired legs for pretty much forever.

I made sure that I fully enjoyed this ride: I rode with five guys riding in a pace line, maintaining 17 mph and weaving in between the tires, I rode slowly with some single riders needing a boost, and near the end I made sure to ride in aero to cut through the relentless wind while going uphill without a care in the world for my speed.

Thank you to those pace guys who let me join them for awhile and were confident that I could keep up–the Star Trek jersey one of you wore was perfect. Thank you to Arnett who was a pink beacon of hope in the distance when I saw absolutely no one else on the second loop through Chippokes Plantation State Park and thought a bear and her cubs would come lumbering out of the woods; I’m glad I caught up to you! Thank you to one of the ride organizers who rode me into the finish and chatted the whole time.  Thank you to Michael who could read the cue sheet expertly while riding and made sure we were on course. A BIG thank you to Catrina for recommending the ride and for keeping me on the right track at the very beginning  (you rocked those hills and rode FAST). And, thank you to Phil and Sophia who support me through all of this crazy Ironman training. No one does anything alone. Ever.

USAT Nationals

 

Cleveland is my home town, so when USAT decided to hold Nationals for 2018 there, I was beyond thrilled. Two of my athletes were also competing as well, which meant that a trip to Cleveland was in order.

If I’m not participating, I love to be a spectator for these events. The weather leading up to Nationals looked iffy at best with thunderstorms in the forecast, but by race day the skies cleared, and the Lake was deemed safe for swimming after high bacteria levels from storms forced beach closures on Tuesday.

At 7am on race morning, the water was calm like glass. That quickly changed–winds picked up and hacked at the smooth surface, creating greater than two foot choppy conditions far away from shore where athletes cut through the water. Sighting with water slamming your face from every direction is nearly impossible, yet the swim went on for over two hours with staggered heats to prevent bike traffic and congestion on course.

I set up the app to track my athletes, got coffee, and sat down on the rocks near the Lake to watch the swim. From the rocks, I could see where the bike and run courses seemed to overlap from the Shoreway to the trails below, which made this event very spectator-friendly. The Lake was clear from my vantage point revealing the rocks hidden below. But don’t let the calmness fool you–Lake Erie is one of the most treacherous of all the Great Lakes with an average depth of 55 feet and a max of 210 feet combined with a nasty undertow that has pulled many swimmers offshore and has swallowed numerous ships en route to interior ports. One man from Oklahoma died during the race and was found floating at the surface, rendering CPR useless. He was pulled out by the US Coast Guard who did their best to resuscitate him. (I didn’t find out about this until after I got home since I was already waiting for one of my athletes to exit the water).

Because of the location at Edgewater Beach, I was able to see each of my athletes finish the swim and locate them on the bike and run course. This was a challenging race with one of the hardest swims I’ve ever seen combined with hills on the bike and run. Athletes who competed in this event are tough, just like the city of Cleveland.

Cleveland is the kind of town that gets up when it’s knocked down, and this event is part of the revitalization of this rust-belt city.  I hope that all of the athletes enjoyed Nationals, despite its challenges and tragedy, and will come back to visit the city to appreciate its museums, especially the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, the restaurants, the West Side Market, Playhouse Square, and much more. If you are an athlete visiting the city of Cleveland, bring your gear! Cleveland has hundreds of miles of trails and roads through the Cleveland Metroparks and along the Towpath for the Ohio and Erie Canal. I’m happy that USAT chose Cleveland to host Nationals, and I’m proud to be born and raised in this great city.

Congratulations to my athletes for competing in a tough race with the best in the nation!

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Basic Triathlon Terms

When I first started the sport of triathlon, I had little knowledge of triathlon terminology. I asked what some of these terms meant if I didn’t know, or I requested an explanation in conversation. Below is a list of basic triathlon lingo and definitions. There are many more, so if you have a favorite, please leave a comment below.

T1: The transition between the swim and the bike. Transition is where all of your gear is stored during the race; you will have a designated spot, or you’ll find a spot. Rack your bike by the saddle or handlebars and place your gear at the front tire. You have about 12 inches of space in width off of your tire.

T2: The transition between the bike and the run.

Pro: A professional athlete

Age Grouper: Amateur athlete–most athletes fall in this category.

Athena: Division for women 165 lbs. or more. These athletes can still be age groupers if they choose.

Clydesdale: Division for men 200 lbs. or more. These athletes can also be age groupers.

Aero: Riding with your arms on the aero bars. It makes your body smaller and more aerodynamic so you can ride faster.

Clipless Pedals: Triangular clip on the bottom of a road shoe. If you are attached to the bike by the pedals, you can push and pull through each pedal stroke, making you a more efficient cyclist than simply riding on platform pedals (flat pedals that come with most bikes).

Road shoes: Usually have a triangular clip on the bottom of the shoe and have more support for long rides. Adding special inserts are a good idea to keep your arch from collapsing, causing toe numbness and/or lower back pain.

Triathlon Shoes: Similar to road shoes, but there is a loop on the back of the shoe for flying mounts. These shoes are more breathable, but may be less comfortable for really long rides.

Hybrid Bike: heavy and multipurpose bike for the road or trails. Some new triathletes will have this bike. Great for commuting.

TT Bike: The geometry is a bit different from the road bike, with a steeper seat tube angle that forces the rider over the handlebars for a more aero position. Great for fast and flat courses or spring or Olympic triathlons. Shifting is in aero, but brakes are on the hoods.

Triathlon Bike: A road bike with aero bars that came with the bike. More comfortable than a TT bike. Shifting and brakes are on the hood with a ram horn handlebar setup.

Road Bike: Similar to the triathlon bike, but no aero bars (can be added later if you get a different fit for the bike). Has a ram horn handlebar, shifting and brakes are on the hoods.

Cockpit: The whole front area of the bike where all of your stuff is located.

Bento: Bag for food and fuel (original word is from Japanese and refers to a packed meal).

Saddle: The bike seat. There are TT saddles and road saddles. Find one that is right for you. If you go numb, get a new saddle.

Bar ends: Caps for the end of your handlebars. If you don’t have these, officials won’t let you race.

Draft Legal: Refers to cycling close to other cyclists to save energy, especially when windy. If a race is draft legal, you can draft off of other cyclists. Most triathlons are not draft legal, so you need to leave three bike lengths in between you and the next cyclist. If you enter this zone, you have 15 seconds to pass or you may receive a time penalty from the officials.

Drafting: Drafting is legal in swimming. You can draft off the hip of a slightly faster swimmer or at their feet and swim in the bubbles coming off of their feet. You may swim any stroke in a triathlon, so be careful if the swimmer you are drafting off of starts doing breaststroke! You might just get kicked in the chest or lose your goggles.

Sighting: Bringing your eyes to the surface to look for buoys on the swim course.

Kayak: Lifeguards in kayaks. If you run into trouble, swim over to a kayak or signal for one, rest and/or get assistance. You cannot make forward progress with a kayak or paddle board, but you are allowed to rest.

Duathlon: A race where you run, bike, run.

Aquabike: A race where you swim and bike, and then you’re finished! No running. These races are great for athletes who can’t run, are injured, etc.

Aquathon: A race where you swim and run.

Tri Kit: A one or two-piece suit to wear for all three sports.

Wetsuit: Worn over the tri kit if the water is cold. Wetsuit legal is below 78 degrees F for age groupers and below 68 degrees F for pros.

If you have anything else you would like to add to the list, comment below!

Do What You Gotta Do

Streetlights lit the rain slick roads before sunrise. The headache that started on Friday throbbed above my right eye, making it droop with the weight of pain. Ikaiku was already waiting on the trainer with six water bottles lined up and muffins wrapped tightly on the ironing board near the charging iPad in preparation for a five hour trainer ride. I planned to binge watch episodes of The Crown and check in with athletes racing in Lake Placid.

But, this wasn’t how everything was supposed to go. I was scheduled to ride outside for six hours on a hilly course, meeting a local group ride in the middle of my long ride that was to be followed by a one hour run. I was signed up for the NJ State Triathlon on Sunday too. But, I’m still in recovery mode from over-training. And, then the rain rolled in and spiraled around a low pressure system overnight and with that–all of my plans flew away. Plus, Phil had Navy Reserves all weekend, which left me alone with the kid and the weather. Should I have gone early at 6am and rode on wet roads up to 45 miles away from home before the rain came back? Who would come and get me if I got a flat? What if I slipped off the wet roads while going downhill?

All of these thoughts stressed me out. I don’t mind riding in the rain, but I like to have backup at home–someone to call and pick me up if necessary. So, I did what many triathletes do: I rode on the trainer for five hours in the basement, starting at 5am to minimize the time suck on the day. Because I still have a kid at home. Because I am a mom. Because Phil was gone for the weekend. Because I still had laundry to do later, the house to straighten up, and dinner to make, the kid to check on from time to time, and a movie to go see. Because like most Ironmen before me, I am not a professional athlete and need to find the time for training in my schedule and balance a life outside of the sport. I marked the hours with each episode of The Crown and moved one finished water bottle at a time from the desk to the ironing board each hour. I ate a muffin, cranberries, or a banana every forty-five minutes to keep from bonking. There are plenty of worse things to be doing for five hours straight than riding my bike on the trainer–driving a car because I fall asleep at the wheel, being stuck on a plane on the tarmac for mechanical difficulties (two hours), spring cleaning the house, packing or unpacking for a move, waiting at the DMV for any length of time…

So, even though the rain held off until late in the evening on Sunday, the roads were dry by mid-morning, and all of my other plans fell through: I did what I had to do despite the long list of “buts” filling my head because I got it done instead of not doing it at all. That’s what makes an Ironman: getting it done as best as you can.

Searching for the Light

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While wandering through the darkness, trying to find the light, my toes catch the side of the dresser; the bed stabs my knee. All I want to do is find that light switch to see everything in the room clearly, find my phone, and set my alarm for morning. But that switch is not where I thought it was on the wall, so I sit down in the middle of the room that is so dark I can’t see my hand in front of my face. I see nothing.

This is where I am in training for my Ironman in September–trapped in the darkest room during the time of year with the most light. Ironic. I am sitting on the floor with my eyes closed waiting. Waiting and recovering from the deep fatigue that has set in as evident by too high of heart rates on charts in Training Peaks–all of the analysis and science pointing to the same conclusion. Waiting to make a move and hop back on the bike or to go for another run. I can’t do any of that now, until I find the light. I’ve been jabbed and hit too many times by all of the obstacles around me. So now, I wait and visualize what the room looks like before coming out of the dark.

I’ll get out of the darkness, eventually–out maneuver the what ifs and possibilities of a DNF.  I am better than that and can already go the distance necessary. I know that. I can swim 2.5 miles easily (.1 miles longer than the Ironman), and I can run a marathon on tired legs–I’ve done that five times. When I ran Chicago three weeks out from the half Ironman, I wanted to quit at the 5K. I didn’t and kept going. I’ve been on my bike for almost five hours, so what’s a few more?

I know what I am capable of. So right now, I’ll rest and recover. I’ll enjoy the midsummer free time to garden, to read, to paint, and to do all the things I was too tired to do a week ago. Because in the darkness, I can see the layout, and I’ll follow the plan.