SIX WEEKS TO IMLP … Weekly Workout Plan June 17-23

Ok, so…officially the worst blogger ever. MAH BAD. Let’s move on.

Training is draining lately. No joke. I’m tired, cranky, achy, and hungry…all of the time. This past week has been especially tough.

At the same time, I am BEYOND excited for this upcoming challenge. It’s coming down to the wire and I’m really starting to believe that I can actually do this.

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Last weekend I checked off my hardest workout yet. 106 miles.  Big I was with me for the first 8 or so miles, but then he flatted, and we were both apparently woefully unprepared for such a thing, so I was off on my own!

I rode a pretty hilly route, and made the climb up Sugarloaf mountain my halfway point.

View from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain! (Read: needed some time to seriously catch my breath...)

View from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain! (Read: needed some time to seriously catch my breath…)

I also crossed from VA into MD on White’s Ferry…old school. Luckily I had some horses in trailers to keep me company.

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I can safely say that this ride was the hardest workout of my life. Not only physically, but MENTALLY. I was out on the road by myself for almost 9 hours. Tears came several times. I’m glad Hubz was out of town with the car, because it meant I couldn’t call him and demand that he come pick me up. But finally, I triumphed!

Proving to myself that I could do it was a HUGE boost for me. I covered almost the full mileage that I’ll cover on the Ironman bike, almost entirely without anyone for company but my own thoughts (scary). With fellow athletes, spectators, and the energy on course, I’m hopeful that the race itself won’t seem quite so long and boring…

But I couldn’t wallow too long in my own accomplishment – it was monthly DCDOC dinner night! Now THAT’S what I call recovery. 🙂

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Love these ladies!

The next morning I was up early to knock out a long-ish run before heading up to Philly on the Amtrak for father’s day BBQ festivities. Then it was time to head back to the Disco, and soon enough it was Monday again…

This week, I must admit, has been rough so far. The weekend was seriously taxing, and my massage on Monday really let some things loose. Monday and Tuesday I felt like I was stumbling through a sleepy, achy, cloudy fog. But after Wednesday morning’s interval bike I started to feel more back to normal, at least for a bit. Truth be told, the first two intervals were pretty miserable, but by the end of the workout my legs felt strong and my head felt again. This morning’s swim and this afternoon’s run were a similar story…it took me 50-60% of the way through the workout to feel like I was even in it.

So we’ll see how tomorrow goes, as now it’s just a couple more days until I race my first ever Aquabike at the inaugural Rev3 Williamsburg this Sunday! I’m actually excited to bike until I (almost) puke! Just following my coach’s instructions, seriously. 🙂

This week —

Monday: Rest and MASSAGE
Tuesday: AM – 1 hr run; PM – 2000 yard swim
Wednesday: AM – Bike intervals; PM – rest
Thursday: AM – 1800 yard swim; PM – 1 hr run (home from work – multi-tasking win?)
Friday: AM – bike with pre-race intervals; PM – rest
Saturday: pre-race swim (?) and bike workouts
Sunday: AM – Rev3 Williamsburg Half Aquabike followed by 15-30 minute run

Also on the agenda for the weekend – the illustrious T and C are in town! We’ll be geeking out at a Neil Gaiman reading and book signing tomorrow night and spending some QT before Hubz and I head out to Williamsburg on Saturday afternoon. SO JAZZED!

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Race Simulation Weekend #1 – Complete!

I got a tiny bit of a late start but still made it out the door before 8. I tackled the first 30 miles of my ride on my own, checking out the Sligo Creek Trail for the first time. It was really nice and there was very little traffic, which is always a big plus. I did get lost a couple times but realized early on and was able to get myself situated.

Also, I only got cat called twice in Wheaton, so I think I may have been doing something wrong?

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Eventually I found my way down into Rock Creek to meet up with D and R2 (not to be confused with R2D2) who also decided to join us. We did the standard 50 mile Potomac loop…which is starting to become pretty familiar territory for me. The rain held off until about 10 (40 for me) miles in, but then it kept up pretty much until we got back to the city. I got us lost a teeny tiny bit, but it only added about 3 miles, which actually ended up to be perfect by the time I hit the overall mileage. I must say we were pretty blessed with cool temps and the rain did a lot to keep us even cooler. It’s going to be a different story if/when it ever gets to be summer.

I stayed as faithful as possible to my instructions to stay in Zone 2, especially to keep out of the higher zones on the hills. My average overall heart rate was actually high Zone 1, but that includes the stopping, looking at the map, etc…so I think I did OK on that front.

I followed my nutrition plan pretty well. I ended up downing 5-6 bottles of Infinit (over the course of an almost 6.5 hour ride), plus two stinger waffles, a half a banana, a clif turbo shot, and a packet of cheese/peanut butter crackers I bought at the quick stop (I was really in the mood for something salty!). I took the clif shot with about 10 miles left in the ride, because my legs were feeling a bit heavy. It did the trick because I felt pretty good all the way to pulling into the driveway. All in all I felt pretty darn good for the extent of the ride! I clocked in at exactly 80.01 miles. How’s THAT for route planning?  My average moving pace was 14.5 mph. Slower than I’d like it to be but at least that included slowing down and moving through traffic. Average overall pace was slower, including stops…it is no secret that the bike is where I need to work the most in the coming weeks! Even so, I somehow only ended up hearing one recent dating story from, and a short one at that. What gives?

I dropped my bike at home, tossed back half a serving of Infinit Napalm, grabbed a water bottle, and headed out the door. I turned back about 5 minutes in to grab a clif turbo shot after realizing I had left the house without any gels and I intended to really practice that sort of thing to see how my body would react. Legs were feeling heavy but otherwise I was good to go, until about 3 miles in when I had some stomach ish (*cue dramatic music*). I thought I might be in big trouble, but I powered through, and with just a couple minutes of walking the problems dissipated and I was fine for the rest of the run. With 9 minutes running, 1 minute walking, I still averaged right on at a 10:00/mile. Happy with that. Again, it’ll likely be a different story when it gets hot…

As I was finishing the run I actually thought to myself “I feel like I could really keep going and going….” Glad I didn’t though, because look what was waiting for me when I wandered back inside…

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I called my coach to give her a quick phone report on my successful race simulation. Meanwhile, she was waiting to watch her husband/my other coach pass in the process of CRUSHING Ironman Texas! He finished in 9:37, 2nd AG, and qualified for Kona! SO AWESOME!!!

Also of note – Pro Rachel Joyce (yeah Rachel power!) finished IMTX in 8:49 – 8th overall and ahead of many of the pro men! It’s majorly exciting watching so many amazing women come closer and closer to catching up with the men in this sport!

Back at the ranch it’s recovery time…don’t even pretend you aren’t jealous of my mad style.

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Btw, I’m still waiting for the cicadas to arrive. These cool temps are no doubt delaying their emergence, but I think it may be time to start a cicada watch counter here on the ol’ blog, no? Today’s count: still 0….

Anyone else knocking out big workouts this weekend?

Anyone racing or following race results closely?

Race Simulation Weekend #1: Game Plan!

This weekend is my first big race simulation extravaganza!

Tonight, I swam 3500 – 6 x 500 after a 500 warmup. I was pretty worried that it was going to be super duper boring. I’ve been trying to use these long swims as a bit of meditation time…counting my strokes and getting into a zen zone. Tonight was longest so far and with long sets to boot…luckily I felt a *bit* more zen than “omg this is why people buy those silly pool mp3 players gah!” I am actually really happy with how it turned out. I managed to keep a good and consistent pace all the way through the workout.

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And tomorrow is the BIG day. I’ll head out bright and early for a total of 80 miles on the bike, to be followed by an hour run. I’m going to do the first 30 miles on my own, then meet up with Miss D in Rock Creek to do the 50 mile Potomac loop together. I’ll be doing my best to keep it in Zone 2 for the whole ride, which means I will probably feel like I’m barely moving up some of those hills on River Road towards the end…because I will be barely moving up them. There is some chance of showers but we’ll ride through it unless it’s an absolute deluge, or thunder and lightning. 80 miles will be my longest ride yet, so I’m glad I’ll have a week’s worth of D’s stories about her online dating hijinx to keep me entertained.

Once we finish the loop I’ll ride across town to home, ditch the bike for a visor and water belt, and run for an hour. More precisely, run 9 minutes, then walk 1 minute.  Times 6. Yeehaw. Looking forward to seeing how I feel/hold up on the run. What? Looking forward to the end of a 7 hour workout? Yeah I am…what is wrong with me!?

Of course, the big goal for tomorrow is to make it all the way through the work out without feeling like poop. The key? Nutrition and hydration! I’ll be throwing back one bottle of Infinit per hour (I mean it!) on the bike, supplemented with a ProBar or two, a banana, and a PB&J. Yuuuuuuuummmm. Then I’ll do a gel and water on the run. Then home to a big ol’ bottle of chocolate milk, my couch, and multiple glorious Buffy eps on streaming. 

AtIYLDjCEAI8dzzHey, Buffy marathons are only appropriate after a day of badassery. And also every day.

All the while through my race simulation, I’ll be tracking one of my coaches (Mr.) kicking butt and taking names at IMTX! This (plus like a million hours due to our relative speediness differences) will be my constant mental reminder of what’s really in store for me in 11 weeks…

Any race simulation workout tips?

Anyone else still watch Buffy wayyyy too often?

Weekly Plan: May 13-19 (11 weeks to IMLP)

So last week was kind of a bust, weather-wise and therefore bike-wise. I ended up doing all three rides on the trainer due to rain or the serious threat of it. BLECH. No good. I even pounded out my long run (3.5 hours) on the trainer on Saturday morning because the forecast called for scary thunderstorms. Which of course never materialized, but I sure as heck didn’t want to end up stranded in Potomac with lightning and thunder all around. Annoying. *Grumble infinity*

I did, however, have a fantastic long run on Sunday morning. We were up in PA to celebrate my ma-in-law’s birthday so I got to try out the path in Peace Valley Park. I forgot to grab my Garmin so I ran tech-free for the first time in quite a while. Kind of nice to have a mental break from obsessing over those numbers for once. It was such a beautiful morning – sunny and perfect temperature – and I ran two peaceful 10K loops around the lake for just over 12 miles.

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Weekly Total – 13 hours 52 minutes
Swim – 2 hours 50 minutes, 7400 yards
Bike – 6 hours, ~80 miles
Run – 4 hours, ~23.5 miles
Yoga – 1 hour

This week, and every week from now on, is all about the BIKE BIKE BIKE! Coaches have instructed me that IT’S GO TIME! and updated my master plan with prescribed bike distances for every weekend from here on out. It’ll be double bikes every week with the exception of races (Eagleman and the Aquabike at Rev3 Williamsburg), and race simulation workouts. Woo hoo!

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And on THAT note….this weekend I’ll be knocking out my first of the two big race simulation workouts because I’ll be 10 weeks out from race day! This means a loooooong bike followed by an hour long run right off the bike. It’s gonna be all about nutrition and hydration, friends. I’m even going to draft up a nutrition plan for coach approval! I’m excited to have an excuse to try some new ProBar flavors.

For the rest of the week, I really only have one workout each day (with the exception of Thursday which is telework day so I’m doubling up). Here’s how it looks…

Monday: swim with aids
Tuesday: threshold interval bike + short off the bike run
Wednesday: 50 minute run w/strides
Thursday: swim/pull interval swim + bike w/short intervals
Friday: long race simulation swim
Saturday: big race simulation workout! 80 mile bike + 1 hour run. Ride, run, chug chocolate milk, (do not under any circumstances) repeat.
Sunday: REST

I’ll also be throwing in a couple of short strength workouts for hips/IT band.

Meanwhile, look what Hubz picked up for me at the fancy Wegman’s yesterday morning…

IMAG0455Now y’all know I’m a sucker for fancy chocolate. And see that description – “popping candy exploding in dark chocolate”? This biz has POP ROCKS IN IT. Amazing. Chocolate has evolved and it is delicious.

Were you sidelined by the weather this weekend?

Tried any fancy new chocolates lately?

Race Recap: Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon – Part 2

When we last left off, my partner in crime D and I had called it quits at the very late hour of 10 PM the night before the race. Next thing we knew it was 7 AM and the alarm was doing it’s thing. Yes you heard me right. 7 AM. That is practically noon in race morning time. The Oly didn’t kick off until 9 AM which meant SERIOUS SLEEP TIME! Amazing.

Awake, dressed, checked out, and on our way to another Charlottesville standby, Bodo’s Bagels, by 7:30 for our pre-race fuel. Despite the giant pizza feast, I was pretty hungry and knew I needed something serious to make it through the morning with only drinks and gels. I went for an “Everything Wheat” bagel with an egg and tomato slice. RIGHT CHOICE. So yummy!

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Look, I finally remembered to take a photo of my food!

Before we knew it we rolled up to the parking lot and wheeled our bikes into transition. Due to a somewhat late arrival, there weren’t many spots left on the racks so a friendly race volunteer had to clear out some space from some pushy big dudes with fancy bikes. Luckily I had just enough time to get all set up before transition closed. Quick trip to the posh restrooms (with real plumbing!). Then to the body marker who, when I lamented my age-up age, helpfully reminded me to “follow my heart” and life will be good. You got it, lady.

Next it was time to wetsuit up. Oh…it had been so long. Had almost forgotten about that totally gross claustrophobic feeling. At least it kept me warm while standing around on the beach, totally unable to hear the guy giving the pre-race announcements. Something about only two buoys, blah blah blah. After the first wave went off we ran into R2 and the three of us had a bit of a pre-race pow wow. D and I stashed our flip flops, sunscreen, and body glide in a hiding place since we’d be right back there to retrieve them later in the day. And before we knew it, it was time to swim!

SWIM:

The glamorous Lake Monticello beach.

The glamorous Lake Monticello beach.

Beach start. My first ever beach start, in fact. Kinda weird not getting to tread around in the water a bit. I let the fast folks scramble out in front. Even though our wave was all women under 39, it was still a pretty small group, so I wasn’t that far from the front when we started. The water was cold but not unbearable, and since only my arms were exposed it didn’t really bother me. I hadn’t done an open water swim since the Poconos 70.3 last September, so it did take me a bit of time to adjust to the wetsuit feeling, and zero visibility in the dark lake water, but after about 100 yards I was pretty much in a rhythm. I headed straight out toward the first buoy, which I could see very well. Feeling strong and fast. I passed a woman who was obviously strongly committed to back stroking the entire course. You go, girl.

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Then I rounded the first buoy and looked up for the next big turnaround buoy…and I could barely see it. UGH. It was probably 800-900 yards away (we were on a triangle swim course) and there was only one teeny tiny sighting buoy between me and the next turn around. I pointed myself toward it and swam. At first I sighted only about every 6-8 strokes, which was a mistake. I kept drifting way off to the left. I dialed it in to sighting about every 3-4 strokes after that. But it was near impossible to determine how far off course I was. I started passing/trying not to run into some green caps from the men’s wave that went off before us. I was getting annoyed with my inability to figure out where I should be heading. At least I still felt like I was swimming strong and fast.

Finally, I made it to the second turnaround and started chugging along. I thought this should be the home stretch. I checked my watch a bit of the way through and it said around 24 minutes, so I thought no problem, I can still manage a 30 minute swim. Too bad I couldn’t see the finish. Like, at all. There was one tiny sighting buoy off in the distance but it was the exact same color as the men’s green caps from the prior wave that were bobbing up and down all around me, so I was constantly confused about what to look at. ARGH. Finally I was able to see the dock where we would finish, but it felt like I was just crawling along at a snail’s pace trying to get there! When I finally made it I swam up as much as I could until the sand was literally right under me. I crawled out and hit my Garmin as soon as I crossed the timing mat. I saw it said something around 34 minutes and I screamed “WTF” – possibly in my head, possibly out loud. Whatever. Swim was done, time to put it behind me and get on with the rest of the race!

Swim time – 34:10 (2:22/100m).

T1: Once I started pulling the wetsuit off I realized that the air outside was actually pretty darn chilly. And my hands and feet were pretty much numb. FUN! I ripped the wetsuit off without too much awkward-one-footed-squat-contortion-dancing and threw it on the ground. I was glad I had nabbed a towel so I could de-soak myself a bit to help with the warmth. Despite the numb hands, I only fumbled a little with my socks, shoes, HRM, gloves, etc. I decided to through my jacket on over my kit because I was literally shivering. Not the most aero-dynamic thing in the world (I should probably get myself a cool BRM long sleeved jersey for occasions like this!) but I was much more worried about my body temp than uber-speed, especially since I’m not that speedy on the bike to start with. The always fun run to the mount line in funny pedal shoes, and then bike time!

T1 time – 3:49.

BIKE: Now for the part of the race that I was most looking forward to! The bike is probably my weakest discipline, but I’ve been enjoying my time in the saddle IMMENSELY more since finally getting a proper bike fit, and I knew the course was going to be absolutely beautiful. So I was super excited.

Much of the bike is a blur to me, honestly, as it often is. I remember taking out that steep climb we had seen on our pre-race ride the afternoon before. After that, I was just having a great time in no small part because the course was, indeed, GORGEOUS. Small rolling hills all along, surrounded by blossoming forest and a mix of adorable country houses and some crazy big, new rich people summer home looking houses.

A couple points stand out to me, both of which are unfortunately bad ones. One drawback of this course is that it was pretty much open to traffic. Intersections were protected, but otherwise the roads were open. At one point I was stuck behind this one guy for a while in the most annoying of ways. He was super tall and on a super nice bike, so by all first impressions should have been absolutely schooling me. I think he was having some sort of issue because he was drinking an awful lot, and tooling along at slightly slower than the pace I wanted to go. But, there wasn’t a good opportunity to pass him between intermittent traffic and intermittent short steep climbs. Argh. Eventually he got his stuff together and took off like a boss. At one other point in the last 5 miles I got stuck behind a long line of cars, behind another long line of bikes. This definitely slowed me up a bit.

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But overall, I had a great time on the bike. Ultimately I sailed into transition to some great crowd support from the neighborhood folks, and even got caught off guard with a “Yay Rachel!” for me from R2’s husband who was on the sidelines as well. Always good to be surprised with some good race support.

And now for the learning-from-our-mistakes installment of this post: I looked at my Garmin a bit into the bike and realized that, in race mode, my heart rate zone and pace were not showing up on the front screen. This was mildly annoying. For some reason it didn’t dawn on me to hit the down button…as I learned during the run, if I would have just scrolled two pages down then I would have seen what I normally see when I’m out on a training ride. I think this would have been a huge help. Looking back at the data afterwards, my average heart rate was solidly in zone 2…probably should have been at least a zone higher for an Oly, I think. So, lesson learned.

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I definitely think I could have pushed it harder and probably had a decently faster bike overall. I’m not used to a racing-type feeling on the bike. I kept worrying about wearing out my legs on the hills, because I wanted to be able to kick it hard on the run. But in retrospect, especially after looking at my data, I could have pushed it harder and still probably have had a great run? So, lesson learned x 2! This is why we have B races, right?!

Bike time – 1:28:48 (15.9 mph).

T2: I always feel like I waste way too much time in T2, so I resolved to be speedy. I didn’t do too bad. Almost forgot to take my gloves off (which, no big), threw my race belt on, threw back a bit of gel, and took off. On my way out of transition, I saw R2 rolling in on her bike, looking strong. T2 time – 2:05.

RUN: Every time I get to the run, I think “this is the easy part, just keep running.” This time I was feeling so strong I was able to think “keep running Right out of transition, my feet felt a little numb and like my socks might not be fitting quite right on my feet. The feeling passed quickly though, and I got over my initial “ACK don’t forget you can run fast, too” shock I started cruising. The course was by no means flat, but most of the hills were short and not too steep. At about mile 1.5, we ran a long flat bridge section next to the lake. I felt like I could FLY down that flat stretch, it was so lovely.

I felt well hydrated and had a good amount of energy, so I bypassed the water/heed stations. At the last one, I took a bit of water, because why not. It wasn’t hot at all. I second guessed myself a few times on whether I should make a porta-potty stop. My stomach felt pretty good but I have been having intermittent stomach problems on the run I was a bit nervous about it. Ultimately I ran through to the end with no issues. (A sign that cheese-less pizza should become a new race ritual? Mayhaps).

By this time I had figured out how to show the screen I wanted to show on my Garmin, so I was able to keep an eye on my heart rate and my pace. Heart rate stayed in zones 3-4, and my pace was somewhere between 8:30-9:00 throughout. I walked up a couple steep inclines on the back half of the out and back, but otherwise cruised feeling good the whole time. The course stayed within the Lake Monticello gated community, and there was great crowd support from folks just hanging out in their front yards, cheering. I was feeling so happy that I started saying not only “Thanks!” (which I always try to do to supporters and especially race course volunteers), but also “Good morning!” At one point, a guy said “don’t be polite – save your breath silly!” Loved it.

images (2)After the loop around I passed D coming towards me, and she was looking strong and speedy as well!

And the most exciting thing about the run! At two different points during the race, I noticed that a woman running in front of me had an age on their calf showing they were in my age group. Each was running about the same pace as me, but I knew I had more in me at both times. I picked them both off by powering up hills and maintaining my lead with a strong downhill and flat cruise. I was a little worried the second woman would come back and pass me again (this was in the last half mile) but I maintained my lead.

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Pretty proud that I gained myself two age groups spots! I don’t think I’ve ever been so “strategic” before, but it felt awesome. Must be that lovely Virginia springtime air!

Run time – 53:51 (8:41/mile).

TOTAL TIME – 3:02:43. A PR by about 5 minutes, yo! In the first race of the season! I won’t pretend I wasn’t a little disappointed to not have broken the 3 hour mark, especially when I was so close and feel like I probably had more in me on the bike especially. But after a week of mellow ‘tude, it’s hard to be too disappointed about the little hiccups I had when I ended up with a 5 minute PR. So. Boom.

I circled back to cheer in R2, and then D just a few minutes later. Everyone was happy and had PR’d with a great race experience!

Me, new friend Megan, and R2 showing off our new Monticelloman bling.

Me, new friend Megan, and R2 showing off our new Monticelloman bling.

We chatted a bit and then D and decided to roll out so we could make it back to the Disco at a reasonable hour. First stop, though, was Chipotle. DUHZ.

Thanks to Charlottesville Multisports for putting on a great race! The one major thing I think the race could stand to work on is the lack of sighting buoys on the swim. That was a major problem and it sounds like a lot of folks had slower swims than they would have liked. Otherwise, fun times all around. I would definitely do this one again – it was such a low stress way to start the tri season, on a beautiful and just challenging enough course. Tri season has officially kicked off, folks! Woo hoo!

Three Things Thursday

1.  Swim test.  Tonight I did my first swim test of my training.  Two sets of 400 as fast as possible.  Exhausting.  But I actually ended up with a slightly better pace than I expected, so it was a win.  I’ll be re-testing about once a month to see whether my hours in the pool are doing any good.

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2.  Weather woes.  It looks like my crew will be scrapping the plans to ride the Bike to Beach Polar Bear Challenge on Saturday.  The forecast is for rain all day.  I can handle riding in highs in the mid-40s if it’s dry, but the thought of doing so while soaked to the bone is not enticing.  Plus, I’m not sure yet if I’ll have my bike back before Saturday anyway (see below), and I think it advisable to get used to the new config on the trainer for a couple rides before heading out in downtown DC traffic…especially *rainy* downtown DC traffic.  So I’ll probably knock out my 2 hour run on Saturday (maybe before the rain hits?) and then trudge through a 2 hour trainer ride on Sunday morning.  All good calorie-burning preparation for Oscar watching (i.e. dress critiquing) with the lil J on Sunday night.  Large amounts of wine required, natch.

Yes, my kittays will be attending in black tie attire.

Yes, my kittays will be attending in black tie attire.

3.  Still bike-less.  The folks at CycleLife called tonight to let me know that my new handlebars have arrived, but we’re still waiting on the saddle.  I’ll be able to pick up my bike Saturday and use a loaner saddle to ride this weekend, but I won’t be up and riding the fully new improved Rio for a few more days.  I’ve been spending some quality time on the spin bikes at the gym, but I’m anxious to get back in the groove and get accustomed to my new set up!

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A proper fit.

On Wednesday night I spent 3 hours with the good folks down at CycleLife USA in Georgetown.  And not just for the smoothies and good company (although I did enjoy both).  This little pre-Valentine’s Day date was with the most romantic thing a girl can imagine…

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a professional bike fit!

It is no secret that being properly fit to your bike is a number one priority for any triathlete.  I love my bike, but I must confess I bought her on the cheap without much awareness or concern of how she fit.  At the time I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with the triathlon thing, so I figured as long as I could pedal hard and get somewhere on her, I’d be fine.

Here we are several years later and I’m hooked on triathlon.  But the longer I stay in the sport and the longer the distances I cover, the more aches and pains keep creeping in.  Long rides cause me serious neck, shoulder, and back pain.  Sometimes I wake up the the morning after a ride unable to turn my head to the right without sharp shooting pain up the right side of my spine.  The last year or so I’ve also had a number of sharp knee pains, especially in my left knee, and my knees always feel tender the day after a ride.  Even after 6+ years of running, I never had knee problems until I added biking into the mix.

I figured that all that ish could only be caused by one thing: riding a properly sized or fit bike.  I’m still not ready to commit enough to drop 4 figures on a new fancy bike, nor was I convinced that was necessary.  But after lots of expert advice, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a fairly big chunk of change on a professional fit.

I heard fantastic things about the fitters at CycleLife, so that’s where I headed.  When I first arrived, fitters Gonzalo and Amanda measured my feet, legs, back, and the angles of them all in various positions.  They put me through all sorts of flexibility and movement tests to determine exactly my range of motion and my body’s natural alignment.

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Next, they put me on my old bike, in all the old positions, hooked me up to all sorts of super old school sci fi style electrodes so I could pretend to be a badass cylon, and then videotaped me riding on the trainer to analyze my form and positioning.

Let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, there is a certain moment of truth when you first see an image of yourself squeezed into your bike shorts, hunched over on a trainer.  Blech.

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But it got the job done.  Based on the video’s revelations, Gonzalo and Amanda made a number of adjustments to my saddle and handlebar positioning.  I tried again, we video’d again.  We made more changes.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Finally, we got to a place that I felt comfortable and powerful, and it was time to record that position for prosperity.

The very cool thing about CycleLife is that they use Retul technology to measure your specs down to the millimeter.  This is super accurate and avoids human error problems.  Plus, since everything is recorded electronically, it is saved in CycleLife’s computer so you don’t have to go through the whole rigmarole all over again if you buy a new bike or if something happens to your bike such that you need a readjustment.  They even emailed me my retul report so I have my own record of all of my measurements.

What I learned from this experience is that my saddle was way too low.  Like WAYYY too low.  This was very likely the cause of my knee pain.  We moved it way up and switched out for a saddle that better fit my bum.

I also learned that my handlebars were excessively tipping me forward, causing me to tense way too much in my already precarious neck and shoulders.  Now with slightly narrower, differently angled handlebars, I will hopefully be in a much better riding position.  We also installed clip-on aerobars on the new handlebars, and made several adjustments until we got them positioned in the right place to balance comfort and aerodynamics.  I’m super excited to start experimenting with riding aero!

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All of these changes should also help me with power and efficiency on the bike.  My low saddle was really impinging on my ability to generate power and especially to climb hills…a skill that will be absolutely paramount for IMLP.  And the constant upper back and neck pain was causing me ALL sorts of problems.

I don’t have my bike back yet – we had to order cheaper aluminum versions of the saddle and handlebars since they weren’t in stock at the shop (I felt no need to spend the extra hundreds of $$ on carbon everything).  But come Tuesday, all should be in and installed, and I’ll be ready to hit the road (or at least the trainer) on a new and improved Rio!