What Motivates You?

It’s 4:30am, and my alarm is going off for the third time. I set it for three different times in case I accidentally turn one of the alarms off. 4:03am. 4:20am (because it’s funny for this former high school teacher who’s students got a kick out of this particular number and begged to write the date on the board). 4:27am. I choose weird times so my brain doesn’t know when to expect the early wake up.

It doesn’t matter. I’m up at 3:50am.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to stay up way past midnight and get up no earlier than 8:00am. That’s all changed with trying to fit in triathlon training around family and work schedules. Getting up early ensures that I get at least one of my two to three workouts for the day completed.

So, how do I motivate myself? Lots of ways! Please add some comments below and tell me how you motivate yourself to workout early in the morning, after work, or even late at night:

  1. I lie to myself. “It’s not that early.”
  2. New gear helps: “I get to wear my new swimsuit today!” Woohoo! Or, “I get to test out my new shoes, watch, tights, shirt, hat…”
  3. I joined US Masters Swimming, so my coach and teammates will wonder where I am if I miss a practice.
  4. I organize a 5am Meet Up run, so I know my running buddy is waiting for me on the corner at 4:45am in order to run up to the meet up location. No kidding. I used to think 6am was early.
  5. I get to show off my race gear. Yeah, I like to silently brag while wearing my Ironman Maryland cap.
  6. Strava will show that I didn’t train today.
  7. My friends on Garmin will rack up more miles than I did.
  8. I can go to Starbucks later and get a mocha and not feel that bad about it.
  9. I have a race or event to train for, and if I don’t workout, I won’t be ready.
  10. I can watch the sun rise while I run.
  11. I can run or bike through a new neighborhood or check out a new trail.
  12. I overcome my fears and know that anything is possible, especially in the open water.
  13. I meet the best people through triathlon and running.
  14. I can post another swim, bike, or run post on Facebook because that’s what I do all the time besides writing, reading, gardening, doing crafts, drinking decaf coffee, eating chocolate, or driving the kiddo to gymnastics.
  15. I am going to realize my dream of kicking butt into my 90s. Keep moving!

What motivates you? Leave a comment below!

Post Ironman Blues

I’ve eaten too much leftover Halloween candy. Bia hasn’t moved from where I left her after the race, front tire askew against the basement wall. I dust off my bikes every now and then and spin the pedals, but they haven’t moved more than that. I feel like I’ve abandoned Ikaika and Bia. I struggle to go on a run because I’m sick and tired of feeling slow with faster runners passing me as they huff and puff up the hills on the trail. That’s when the “I don’t care” attitude sets in, and I pretend I wan’t passed.

Swimming and strength training have been my salvation at least, but I haven’t done much else. I love the water and hearing nothing but bubbles as I fly in between the lane lines. 

I haven’t signed up for any races next year as I’m staring at the winter wonderland outside my house while I type this, hot cocoa in hand after eating more than my fair share of the kid’s chocolate stash. I just don’t want to train for anything after being so focused the last two years on the half in 2017 and then the full Ironman in 2018. I’m done. Or D-U-N done because I’m too lazy to spell.

Post-race blues are real. And if you experience this, it’s totally normal. If you don’t, then you’re a freak of nature or something. So, to deal with these post-race blues, I plan to do the following: 

  1. Plan out my race schedule with family stuff in mind for next year. I’ll sign up in a few weeks to make it all official. 
  2. Be thankful that I can race and focus on strength training and doing what I love the most: swimming. 
  3. Take care of myself first. I already went to the doctor for an ongoing ear infection and saw a podiatrist about my foot issues. Rest and recover. 
  4. Enjoy the ability to bag a workout or put everything down to do something revolutionary like read a book while sipping cocoa, finish my painting, or finish revising my book for publication. 
  5. Give presents to others–this makes me really happy. 
I like brown paper packages and surprises. Keep checking back for freebies! 

Surry Century Ride

SurryCentury

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!

Firecracker Kids’ Triathlon

This little gymnast did her second triathlon over the Independence Day holiday in Cambridge, MD, where Ironman Maryland is held, with her BFF from Norfolk, VA. She’s done more than her fair share of 5Ks, and even though triathlon is not her main sport, she can still hold her own in a race with swift kicking on the swim, an easy transition to the bike, and then nailing the run. She’s strong and determined to succeed.

The kid already has her eye on my road bike with the aero bars to replace her current hybrid so she can ride faster. Maybe when I upgrade my roadie, she’ll get my old one? She already hops on it while it’s on the trainer even though her feet barely reach the pedals with the road shoes attached. Her eyes are aglow when gazing at my time trial bike that she refers to as my “Ferrari”. She can’t have that one though.

She’ll have to wait on a new bike until she outgrows her old one. In the mean time, she’s still fast on her hybrid and is learning about the support from other athletes on the course, especially from her BFF.  In one of the photos, her friend took off her shoes since she finished earlier, but she wanted to run her friend in, which is exactly what she did–barefoot.

Triathlon is always more fun with friends who are willing to go on this crazy journey with you. I hope that these two will do many more races together and have a sport they can grow into.

Triathlon on the Cheap

 

I kind of see the sport of triathlon as mid-life crisis sport because it’s so freaking expensive. TT bikes, aero helmets, designer tri kits, fancy bike shoes–all of that costs lots of money brand spankin’ new. And it’s nothing short of intimidating to see athletes donned in full tri gear when you have a hybrid bike and a regular swim suit. So, how can you get into this sport if it’s so expensive? It’s possible with a little bit of cash saved up and some patience. In fact, lots of triathletes didn’t buy all of their gear new before they even did a triathlon, so why should you?

Your biggest expenses will be a bike and a gym membership with a pool. Many road bikes can be purchased used for around $500, and gym memberships vary. Oftentimes, if you teach at least one class at your local gym, you can get a discounted membership, so look into that. I pay $120 a month for a family membership to the local Y, but since I work there, it’s a lot less now. For the record, my road bike cost $500. However, a word of caution if you’re like me: your bike(s) will be a hole that you throw money at all the time on maintenance and gear. The thing to remember is that the cheapest way to buy speed without upgrading your bike, helmet, jersey, tri kit or whatever is to become a better cyclist. Anyway…

You’ll need some bike tools, spare tubes, and a helmet. But other than that, here’s what you really need:

  1. A swimsuit–buy on sale on Swim Outlet or your local shop. I got a Speedo Endurance swimsuit for $50 at Toad Hollow in Paoli, and it will last me for a few years. Yes, a Speedo Endurance suit will last for a very long time, so buy one you like! And, it’s cheaper than spending $20 on a suit that will only last a month (I did that and won’t do it again).
  2. Cap and goggles–$15 for both. Make sure the goggles fit your eye sockets without the strap before you buy. The most expensive pair may not be the best pair.
  3. Running shoes–look for sales! I got a new pair of Brooks Adrenaline for $80 instead of $120 at my local store. Replace them every 300-500 miles.
  4. Cheap running shorts or cycling shorts.
  5. A used road bike $500-$800.
  6. Helmet, spare tubes, saddle bag with tools, CO2 cartridges. $20-$60 for a helmet and $40 for everything else. Bonus if you buy cycling glasses to protect your eyes from rocks and whatnot. Tifosi is a less expensive option compared to Oakleys. $70 vs. $120.
  7. Beach towel–for your transition mat (find one at home).
  8. A bag to put it all in–check thrift stores, use a canvas grocery bag, anything works.
  9. Water bottles–free at many races or pick up two for $10 each or less.

I guarantee that you will not be the only one at a triathlon to swim in a regular swimsuit and throw on a pair of running shorts for the bike with your running shoes, especially for a local sprint tri. That’s another thing: do local sprint races that are way cheaper than branded races.

It took me a few years to get a tri kit, clip in shoes for my bike with the new pedals, an aero helmet, Roka goggles, a TT bike (I bought mine used for $1800 on Ebay), and all of the other stuff that goes with the sport. Heck, I’m still saving up for gear like new racing wheels for my awesome TT bike because my bike and gear is how I like to spend my money besides family trips. So what are you waiting for? Borrow a bike, get a used one, and sign up for one of your local triathlons!

Tri Shoes or Road Shoes?

So, which shoe is better for you: triathlon shoes or road shoes? As a triathlete, I’m all about the gear that goes along with the sport, but I am also frugal when it comes to dropping my paycheck on unnecessary accoutrements. Yes, I have a road bike and a TT bike, but I bought them used after a long search. The hybrid I have is my beater commuter bike, and that one was free! Sure, I have a wetsuit that I found on sale online. Of course I have more than one swimsuit; swimming is my first love with this sport. Three pairs of running shoes line my staircase, and I have a drawer full of running and cycling clothes. And, yes, I do have a pair of Roka open water goggles because I love them so much.

But when it comes to my bike shoes, I have two pairs: a mountain bike shoe with SPDs that I use for spin classes, and road shoes that go with my Shimano Ultegra Pedals for all of my trainer rides, outdoor rides and races. Many athletes will ask: aren’t they harder to put on after the swim than triathlon specific shoes? What about the flying mount and dismount? Doesn’t that save you time in transition? Will my feet be soaking wet after the swim in a pair of road shoes? To answer all of these questions, I ask questions: how far do you ride and how comfortable do you want to be?

You see, road shoes are way more comfortable than triathlon shoes, and if you’re an athlete who enjoys long course races or rides lasting a couple hours on a Sunday, then you need a pair of road shoes. I’m all about comfort over squeezing a few extra seconds out of transition time for most age group athletes. If you don’t believe me, time yourself in a mock transition. Do one time trial by putting your cycling shoes completely on, then reaching for your bike, and then mounting your bike. Next, do it with a flying mount with the same distance to the mount line. Which one is faster? And which one is safer in the mounting zone when other athletes are scrambling to get on their bikes as well? Unless you practice the flying mount and dismount so you can do it flawlessly, it won’t save you time, and it might even cause you to fall over or hit another cyclist before the bike portion.

But, if you want to spend the money on two pairs of shoes, keep the triathlon shoes for short races and rides–sprint or Olympic distances and draft legal races, and use the road shoes for long rides or long course races. If you are only buying one pair to save cash, I recommend the road shoes.

This video is really helpful when deciding which shoe to buy:

Tri Shoes or Road Shoes?

Pictured above are my current road shoes. To make it easier in transition, I loosen the velcro so I only have to worry about closing and tightening the top, and sometimes, I leave it open on a short ride, but still take the time to put on socks, always. Gasp! I know, socks? Like I said: for a long course race comfort is key. If you’re a draft legal athlete, elite, or pro, you probably have a pair of triathlon shoes for your draft legal races or short distance races. That’s OK. There’s a shoe for everyone.

Last of all, I made my road shoes even more comfortable by adding inserts so that they feel like a pair of Birkenstocks. The inserts keep my arches from collapsing on a long ride and prevent lower back pain as I pedal. So, when cycling shoes cost almost as much as running shoes and don’t need to be replaced as often, I’ll have one pair, please: road shoes.

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Last, last of all, these are my mountain bike shoes with SPDs. The clip is embedded so you can actually run through transition with these on; however, since the sole is softer, it doesn’t offer as much support for really long rides. I use these for spin classes now, but they were my first pair of bike shoes that I used in a triathlon. I went with these shoes for a few years when I first started the sport because they were less slick when starting and stopping at traffic lights (road shoes take some practice), I could walk or run in them through transition without a problem, and I still got the benefits of riding while clipped in by pushing and pulling the pedals. I switched to a standard road shoe since I’m riding longer outside, and I needed more support for my arches.

So, when you go to the shop to buy a pair of cycling shoes be honest about how you ride and what you do. Try on different shoes and pick the one that best suits your needs and wallet.

What’s in Your Saddle Bag?

For bike rides, there are a few essentials that you should have with you in your saddle bag, just in case of a flat or to fix something on your bike when things go wrong. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to correct the problem and continue on your ride.

  1. Spare tubes. You’ll need these to replace the tube inside the tire in case of a flat (unless you ride without tubes, and then you’ll need a patch repair kit). The guys at my local shop recommend taking the tube out of the packaging, coating it with baby powder to keep it from sticking, and then wrapping the tube with plastic wrap. Your new tubes will be ready to go when needed. I carry two tubes with me at all times.
  2. A set of allen wrenches for all of the nuts and bolts that can get loose on your bike.
  3. Tire levers for removing the tire from the rim so you can take the tube out. You’ll need at least two levers.
  4. CO2 cartridges. Have the right size for your tire. My TT bike has smaller tires than my road bike, so 16g is what I need to not overfill my tire, but my road bike needs 20g. Use the bad tube or a glove to hold the CO2 cartridge because it will get really cold.
  5. A saddle bag for everything.

Make sure you have lights for your bike and check them before you leave just as you would fill up your tires. Use the lights during the day too so that you’re more visible to vehicles. I always assume that cars don’t see me: I’ve had too many friends injured while riding because of cars, trucks, and even a school bus. On the trail, look out for dogs on retractable leashes, runners with headphones, and unsteady kids on bikes. Let’s not forget squirrels or groundhogs too. I keep my jersey zipped tight because bees often hit me and fly down my jersey… fortunately, I didn’t fall off of my bike.

Other cycling essentials:

  1. Bike helmet
  2. Padded shorts and cycling jersey (for the pockets)
  3. Cycling glasses to protect your eyes
  4. Padded gloves to keep your hands from going numb
  5. Bike lock

Carry keys, water, food, cash, a credit or debit card, ID, and phone too. Your cycling jersey can keep some of these items, but have water bottle cages for drinks and possibly a bento to hold food for those long rides. Happy riding!

How to Change a Flat Tire

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Yes, that’s my road bike, Bia, off the trainer and appearing to be dead on the basement floor. I had an hour and a half ride planned, my podcast was ready to go, I logged into Zwift, and set my watch to view my heart rate. About ten minutes into the ride when my heart rate should have been up in zone 2, it kept dropping to zone 1. Frustrated, I switched gears to make it harder to pedal and increased my cadence. Nothing happened until I got off of my bike and realized that the tire was completely and totally flat even though I filled the tube moments ago.

I had a few choices: go to the Y and pedal away on the spin bikes, leaving the flat for later, or taking the rear flat tire challenge head on and learning once and for all how to fix a flat. I took the challenge. I repaired the flat all by myself, and then, I finished my ride before heading up to my local shop to purchase some spare tubes for Bia and Ikaika, just in case.

If you’re like me and nervous about changing a flat, go to your local bike shop when they do bike maintenance clinics or watch a helpful video like the one below. And, above all else, practice often.

On the Main Line at Trek Ardmore, check out this event:

Ladies’ Night Out

Here’s an excellent video (I’m not affiliated with Trek, but they do have great information; I really wish I could get paid for advertising for them, but I don’t).

How to change a flat video