Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Triathlon 101: The Bike

I am excited to be coaching another Triathlon 101 training group at Fleet Feet Spokane.  Since we only have 8 weeks to assimilate a lot of information I'm going to post each class on my blog so we can refer to it if we need to.  The bike is my strongest leg and favorite to talk about so let's start there.

A Dozen Bike Tips for New Triathletes

  1. Maintain your bike.  Yup the one you have now.  As long as your bike has two brakes and is not a "fixie" it will get you through your first tri (those are USAT rules for bikes).  A bike that has filled tires and shifts easily because it is clean, lubed, and tuned will make riding easier and more pleasant.  Once a season have your bike tuned.  I recommend Velofix because I don't have time to be without my bike.
  2. Make sure your bike fits you.  You will probably hurt in some sensitive areas for the first few weeks but that goes away (I promise, don't give up).  Avoid the big squishy, wide, heavy "comfort" saddles and saddle covers.  Its better to allow time to help tone you muscles, and ligaments than to prolong your adaptation to riding.  Neck, shoulders, and back are other areas that a bike fit can help make more comfortable.  
  3. Maintain good form on the bike.  Even the best fit in the world won't help if your shoulders bunch up, back sags and hands are white knuckling the bars. Relax, engage your core, and drop your shoulders.
  4. Learn to shift.  Practice moving from the big chain ring in the front to the small one and back again (while under tension).  Learn when to shift the rear derailleur to maximize your power output to create the most efficient effort.  This is especially important on hills.  You will probably drop your chain a few times practicing this but better in training than during a race.  It may still happen in a race (says the girl who dropped her chain during her first Ironman. And century ride.  Always on an up hill).  Learn how to put it back on quickly and how to avoid dropping it at all.  If it falls off all the time have someone adjust your limiter screws and put a guard on.
  5. Learn how to brake properly.  This will give you confidence in technical situations and on descents.  Squeeze evenly with both hands and learn to "feather" gently rather than abruptly.
  6. Practice pedaling smoothly to use your power to your best benefit.  Push through the front half of the circle you are making with each foot, scrape your foot across the bottom of each stroke, and pull/lift it through the back half of the circle.  Do this even on each side with a cadence between 80-105.  90 is considered ideal in terms of reducing leg fatigue and setting you up well for the run.  Also: clip in.  you can do it.  You will fall. Everyone does. You will not be able to pedal effectively on flat pedals and your quads will hurt on the run.  
  7. Practice changing a flat.  On the back wheel too.  Be confident that you can do this, carry the right tools, and then stay out of the debris so you can avoid getting one.
  8. Look ahead of you and choose a line to follow.  Be careful not to stare at that rock, tree, post, curb, etc that is ahead of you as this makes you more likely to run right into what you are looking at..Be alert to moving obstacles such as pedestrians and vehicles and always make eye contact with vehicles turning right.  They often forget that you are there and turn without looking.  
  9. Love the hills.  Think of them as strength training you do on your bike.  Choose hilly routes often and figure out what works best for you to climb them.  Get familiar with when and how to shift and practice it.  Judicial use of a standing position can help stretch your legs but it also raises your effort level and takes you out of your endurance friendly heart rate zone.  Most people find that shifting to an easy gear, sitting tall for maximum aerobic capacity and spinning with smooth, even pedal strokes works the best.
  10. Ride with others and become familiar with the movements that other riders are likely to make. Learn the rules and etiquette for passing, following and signalling to other riders and motorists.  Be sure to practice reaching for your bottles and staying hydrated and alert.  Riding with experienced, stronger, faster cyclists will eventually make you faster so don't be discouraged if initially you get dropped (do know your route).  That said, don't make all your rides social rides, sometimes you've got specific work to do.
  11. Train in the shorts and other gear you plan to wear on race day.  Tri shorts with their thinner, quick drying chamois (pads) are much more comfy for triathlon that big, squishy, gel filled shorts.  Make sure they fit and that you don't react to any of the fibers or construction techniques.  Also use Chamois Butter, Body Glide, Ruby's Lube or similar to protect your sensitive parts.  For tops make sure you have adequate support (from a great fitting sports bra-we fit those at Fleet Feet) and sun protection.  Some people bike without socks.  If you want to try this make sure its far enough ahead of your race for blisters to heal.  Always wear an approved helmet.  Train with gloves as well.  Your palms will thank you if you fall.
  12. Lastly be confident and relax.  Learn the rules of the road and the rules of triathlon so that you can stay aware and  take responsibility for your safety.  You belong out there on your bike.  Have fun and enjoy being a cyclist.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ironman Coeur D'Alene 70.3 Race Report

This was the 2nd running of the 70.3 distance on this course and last year I had so much fun cheering on participants that I decided to sign up for 2017.  I also signed up for Ironman Canada at Whistler so it seemed like a great warm up race for that.   Since I had done IM CDA full 3 times in the past I was optimistic that a half here would be a breeze.  I underestimated the challenge that is long course triathlon.

"I only have to do one loop" is what I kept telling myself leading up to the race.  Yes I know it's a two loop run.  No I didn't dwell on that enough.  Looking out at the swim buoys my confidence was high the night before.  Just one nice straight loop.  My bike was checked in after some super stressful mechanical difficulties and I knew it would make it up those climbs for at least one loop.

Race morning dawned a little chilly (as it usually is at 4 am).  I dressed in my Fleet Feet tri kit, pulled my Team Blaze long sleeve and a pair of pants over it, mixed my nutrition bottles and breakfast drink and headed to transition.  The day before when I checked in my bike I had traced all the paths that I would travel from my spot on the Team Blaze rack.  I was lucky enough the be close to the fence, close-ish to the run exit and close to the bike exit (that meant minimal running with my bike in cleats).

Transition set up went smoothly.  I got to see and hug lots of friends and team mates. My friend Kym took a few minutes out of her race morning routine to braid my hair. Everyone followed the racking instructions and even in close quarters there was room to set up gear next front wheels. I ate my Ucan bar and finished my drink before pumping my tires, gathering my wetsuit, goggles and earplugs and packing up my morning clothes and pump to hand off to my awesome sherpa Ken.

No long line for the bathroom, made it for the team picture, heard the national anthem and still had time to get to the beach and warm up a bit. Pre-race things went really well.

Rolling swim starts are nice.  Nicer than mass starts. Doesn't mean people won't grab your feet, elbow you or push you under but it's a lot less likely than in a mass start. None of those things happened to me and other than getting  off course coming back in (I have a hard time sighting the beach) my swim seemed pretty strong and I pushed the right watch buttons going into transition 1.

We had wetsuit peelers this year and my friend Jonathan was open when I ran up. Yes! Jonathan is 6'5" and the strongest person I know. These are very good qualities in a peeler. And it's nice to see a familiar friendly face when you are disoriented after a long swim.  I got my watch back on, grabbed my suit and headed to my bike.

Birch tree with the red streamer on it, close to the end...yikes someone had put some of their gear on my stuff.  I made a quick guess that is was my neighbor with the matching Newton Motion VI running shoes so I respectfully moved their things over and went through my routine: rolled up socks over my feet, then helmet on and buckled while I slipped my bike shoes on.  Secure the velcro and roll my bike out to bike mount line.  It was way out there. I stopped for sunscreen and kept running in bike shoes until I finally reached the mount line.  I even remembered to push my watch button.

Rolling out I felt awesome. This was my strength and as we headed out to Higgin's Point I passed people all the way.  Guys are weird.  A few times I passed a male participant only to be re-passed seconds later at which point he would slow down again to the pace he had been going so I would need to re-pass.  I was maintaining a consistent effort level and speed and so I concentrated on following the rules, not blocking, not drafting.  Before long I was heading back to town and then on my way out to highway 95. I heard Wade and a few other cheer as I went by but I was trying to focus.

Hwy 95 is my least favorite bike ride.  I admit it now. I tried to fool myself into thinking I should love the hometown course but to no avail.  I like rollers or flat. I am not going to pretend anymore.  This race I felt strong on the dreaded grinding hills and continued to pass women in my age group. Mostly on the short flatter spots and the downhills.  Obviously it's a strength to weight ratio thing.  I'm going to work on it because I hate seeing that 43 on the woman's calf again when she passes me back on the steep spots. Despite the weather predictions for zero wind there was a decent headwind when I went around the turnaround.  This was demoralizing to me and I let it affect my mindset for the rest of the ride.  Wind and hills ugh.  Then I realized that I had paused my watch at some point and it was in sleep mode. That point was T1 (swear words).  Plus my saddle suddenly became unbearable.  I had a strange pain in the left side of my groin. Lots of shifting around and too much standing to set me up well for the run ensued.

I did make it back.  19+ mph on that course is actually a PR for me so I should quit complaining. I had a smooth T2 that included a Porta Potty stop. Running felt crappy  but it always does in the beginning.  Except it didn't get better.  It was hot. I had definitely overbiked. And my heels were not healed.  I had a really bad flare up of Plantar Fasciitis about a week before.  Stretching, insoles, trigger point, Strausburg socks, all helped a ton but my feet still hurt.  Still I kept going. The first two miles felt so slow but turned out to be my fastest. That was eye opening: have patience on the run and know that the first 5k will not feel great but don't give up on your goals until you've had time to find your rhythm.  Since I didn't realize that until after the race,  I walked a lot.  Ken started to run beside,  around,  and back and forth to me on the second lap which was hugely entertaining and helpful to me and all who were in the vicinity.  Seeing Stacey, Jeremy, Holly, Cassie and more friends out there volunteering and cheering helped too. I had dropped my flask of Ucan "paste" somewhere so I was without my favorite fuel (darn tri tops and their shallow pockets) but I took some cliff shots, sips of coke and lots of water and ice. I probably didn't need the Cliff Shots because I had taken enough Ucan on the bike but it was a distraction so I did have two.  My attitude improved as I hit the park on my second loop.  Up that last uphill, then turn the corner and I was back on Sherman Avenue.  Suddenly I could run like the wind so I did.  Right on through the finish shoot and across the finish line.  The girl who "caught" me led me right up to Jess, my friend and co-worker.  Jess was trying to make me understand something but I was just so happy to be not running.  Slowly the light dawned and I realized Andy Potts was putting my medal over my head.  Whaaaat?! He shook my hand too.  That was a pretty cool moment.

I felt horrible for the second half of this race and it was because I over-biked. It made the last part of the race less than fun. As in "I never want to do this again" type of less than fun.  I executed my race poorly and have been really down about it. Until I went to swim with Team Blaze tonight.  It should have clicked sooner, like when one of my friends who helped me with my foot pain pre-race missed the bike cut-off but did the run anyway. Or when a friend who missed the bike cut-off last year made it this year but only got to do one loop of the run and was still happy and optimistic about her upcoming full Ironman in November. Me complaining and grumbling about my performance was really insensitive and short sighted. I finished well and broke 6 hours which is really respectable.  I need to stop wallowing and look forward to Whistler in 4 short weeks.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May The Fourth Be With You

I am really loving having two cycling classes a week again.  So much so, that I invested a bunch of time in a fun themed class for this Thursday, May the Fourth.  There were plenty of awesome options for music and I thought I'd share the ones I found.  If you are local to Spokane Wa, class starts at 6:00 am and be sure to check out the other great family activities going on all day at the Central YMCA 

Cycling May 4, 2017

Star Wars in 99 Seconds
Jon Cozart
Intro, surges, getting ready for our intergalactic journey
The Saga Begins
Weird Al
Incase anyone is unfamiliar with the story.  Warm up continues with stretching, more surges and hill practice.
Star Wars Main Title-Extended
DJ Snare
Continue building Intensity from warm-up into vigorous hill effort.
The Killers
Sprints (3x intense effort @ 100-120 rpms)
Star Wars-Techno Mix
Space Track
Fast Flat with surges and mixed terrain. (Escape the Tie Fighters)
Supermassive Black Hole
Building Climb
Rebels’ Theme-Flux Pavilion
Kevin Kiner
Seated/Standing Climb
A New Hope
Blink 182
20/20/20 (seated/standing sprints @ :20 flat)
Beastie Boys
Climb (heavy gear, slower cadence)
Help Me!
Climb (con’t)
Zack Martino
Fast Flat/sprints/varied terrain
Star Wars Imperial March
Jiri Sevcik
Climb (all positions-mtn bk)
Star Wars-Cantina Remix
Climb (heavy and steep alternating with false flats)
Weird Al
Cool Down
Rocket Man
Elton John
Cool Down
Seagulls (Stop it Now)
Bad Lip Reading
Bonus track
Ride Happy! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's the End of the World as We Know it and a little bit of Chicken Fried

I've had some requests to share some cycling workouts and I thought I'd do it here. I'm calling these "sample workouts" instead of classes because the laws for licencing music for Group Exercise Instructors are complicated and restrictive so consider these my personal indoor biking workouts. Since I'm usually at the YMCA when I indoor cycle, I try to be respectful of language and content so I often use covers (these are also usually more in line with what's allowed legal-use-wise).

I couldn't resist a few political commentaries in song form though I wanted to keep things light and positive for the most part. Like many Americans I'm sad and confused by the outcome of this election. I really love my life here, and am grateful for this country, I think this country has been great all along (not perfect but great) and I am not convinced that the changes on the way are for the better. I don't want to be told "it will be ok" as I've seen enough of the effects of the hate mongering this election has wrought to know that that is just not true for many people. Here's to working out our frustrations in a productive way:

Cycling November 2016 "It's the End of the World as we Know it and a little bit of chicken Fried
Nobody But Me
Michael Buble
Warm Up Surges
My Way
Calvin Harris
Warm Up Climb
Still Falling For You
Ellie Goulding
It’s the End of the World As We know It
Long sprints 1:30 min on 0:30 off
Send Them Off
Long climb
American Idiot
5 seconds of Summer
Move Your Body
Andy Grammer
Seated accelerations (push 5-10 rpms harder at "pushing all my life" part)
Waste All My Love
Coleman Hell
Hard Tempo
Highway to Hell
Sprints or  Seated accelerations
One Republic
I Wanna Be Sedated
The Ramones
The Presidents Of the United states...
Hard Tempo
Grandpa’s Groove
Parov Stelar
Grow Up
Olly Muirs
Cool down
All we know
Chain Smokers
Cool Down 
18. Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band...to leave on an upbeat note because I still love this country.
Thanks for checking this out.