Friday, May 31, 2013

Side of the road

It's another side of the road post! This time I only have a flat tire so I'm not too down in the dumps about it. Even though I only rode about 8 miles My back was killing me so I'm kind of glad for the excuse to stop.

Last week I spent some time in the parking lot just practicing getting on and off my bike so I'm feeling a little better about it. Plus today I actually stopped at every stop sign just to get more practice. (I ride out in the county where there's not really any traffic so usually it's safe to ride through stop signs.)

In other news, I've gone out for two open water swims with my tri training group now. It's nice that I'm doing a local tri as my first so I can actually swim in the same lake where the race is. (The downside of this tri is that the bike course is actually pretty challenging.)

The water hasn't been as cold as I was expecting and I love that with my wetsuit I'm not afraid of drowning. However I'm struggling with being able to swim in open water. There are these posts out in the water that I can swim to but then I struggle on the way back. I can't seem to take a full breath and I start to have a slight panic attack because my wetsuit feels too tight across my chest. From that point I can't get back in the rhythm of things and both times have had to do a weird doggie paddle-ish thing to get back to shore. Also my upper arms and shoulders feel tired after swimming just that short distance.

I know I've gotta just keep getting in the water so that's what I'm doing. I just hope that I'll be able to get the hang of things in the three weeks I have left before the tri.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fall to the left

I took my bike in Sunday afternoon to be fixed. Turns out the part that was broken is a derailleur hanger. I picked up my bike last night and the repair cost a little over $50.

Earlier tonight I met with my tri training group. The workout was supposed to be a ride-run-ride-run-ride-run so we could practice transition. I was a little nervous about clipping in and was the last to take off, but I made it without any incident and had a great 25-minute-ish ride, even on the hills. Next was a 2.5 mile loop around the lake. It's the same course that we'll be running for the tri, except during the race we do it twice. I was happy my left knee didn't bother me today, but the pain seems to be shifting over to my right achilles again.

Anyway, I got back to our transition area and prepared to take off on my bike again. And that's when disaster struck. For some reason I didn't have enough momentum to take off and so instead of moving forward my bike just stayed put and then since my right foot was clipped in I toppeled over. I may not have this clipless pedal thing down yet, but I'm getting pretty darn good at falling. No scratches this time, just a couple more bruises.

It's just so frustrating that I feel like I'm clipping in the same way but getting a different result each time.      I managed to get back up and try again and was able to stay upright that time. Woo-hoo! And then I discovered another problem. My bike wasn't behaving properly as I tried to shift gears. In non-technical terms (since that's all I know), there was too much jumping and clicking. I got off to look at the chain, even though I had no idea what I was looking for. Everything looked okay to my naive eye so I got on and tried riding again, but now there was a lot of clicking even when I wasn't shifting. I had no desire to become an expert at falling while in motion so instead I turned around and headed back to the transition area again.

Our coach informed me that my rear derailleur was bent and I should probably have it replaced. Apparently it's a fairly fragile part. Since it's located on the right side of the bike, and I have a tendency to fall to the right, apparently I'm not only one getting banged up when I fall. So that was the end of my workout for the night. I feel like I have bad bike karma or something. My last three bike workouts have all ended up getting cut short. At least I was able to get to the bike shop just before they closed and hopefully I'll be able to pick it up Friday as long as they have the part.

With the three-day weekend coming up, I think I better schedule in some quality time in the parking lot and just practicing clipping in and out, in and out, over and over again until I'm thoroughly bored... and then do it some more. Now that I know falling hurts not only me but also my bike, and as a result my pocketbook, I have even more reason to not want to take any more spills. Either that, or I guess I should learn how to fall to the left instead of the right!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Things can only go up from here, right?

I'm standing on the side of the road waiting for a ride with nothing to do so figured I'd blog. Why am I here? Because my bike broke! :-(

Luckily I didn't fall. I have no idea how I unclipped in time. I was totally thinking "here I go again, this is going to hurt". And then somehow I was straddling my bike with both feet on the ground. 

Now I'm thinking "this is just my luck". I had grand visions of a 25-mile ride followed by a short brick run and instead I'm going to miss my workout and have to take my bike in for repair. I only got a little over three miles out. 

Cycling just doesnt seem to be my sport. 

I'm dreading how much this is going to cost me too. I may not understand much about bike mechanics but having something completely snap apart has got to be bad. 

In other news, since my ride still isn't here, I fixed my flat tire yesterday. I even found the hole and patched it. The whole ordeal took me two freaking hours but I did it. So that's something I guess.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Catching up, injuries and triathlon

After six months, I've finally got the urge to blog again. It's been a roller coaster since my marathon last fall. At first I was all set to jump right back in and even had big plans to train toward a half marathon PR in January. Then a trainer at the gym noticed my KT tape one day (for my right achilles) and suggested that I shouldn't keep trying to run through an injury. Since I've been battling achilles tendinitis for a couple years now, I decided to take the rest of the year off from running to see if that would help.

During my hiatus from running, I started going to spin classes at the gym and bought a bike trainer for riding at home. I also took some basic swim classes at the local pool. Obviously, this was all in preparation for my first triathlon which will be in June.

When I started running again, my achilles wasn't magically healed, but it wasn't too bad so I started to build up my mileage again. In early March I ran a local half marathon in 1:46:35 to kick off my marathon training. In April I ran the Birch Bay Road Race 30k and was extremely happy with my 8:04 pace. That's right where I needed to be if I was going to chase a BQ.

Finish of the Run For The Honeywagon 1/2 Marathon

But after that high point, things started to go south. I stupidly ran a 5k in rain and snow without properly bundling up and then stood around in my wet clothes for almost an hour waiting to get my 3rd place award. In hindsight I should have just skipped the award since it was just a lame unisex cotton t-shirt in large. The next day I went out for a 22 mile run and got soaked again. I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise that I came down with an awful cold after that.

I was also dealing with some left knee pain that appeared sometime between the half and 30k. I went to a physical therapist who diagnosed it as ITBS. In the 5 years that I've been running, I've never had knee pain or ITBS so it's really frustrating that it's happening now. Anyway with the cold, the knee pain and other assorted aches and pains I ultimately decided to skip the marathon and just focus on the triathlon instead. It wasn't a marathon I'm dying to check off the list and I didn't want to lay out a few hundred dollars just to run it "for fun". I need that money for my foray into the triathlon world. Oh yeah, plus I just started seeing an athletic trainer/massage therapist to try and work through my injuries and get my body back to feeling good for racing.

So now, on to my triathlon adventures. I may or may not delve more into what I'm doing as far as triathlon training in a later post. But for today I want to rant talk about cycling. I thought that swimming would be my weak sport, but I'm more frustrated with cycling right now than swimming. I guess maybe I had my expectations too high, but it seems like everyone I talked to said I HAD to get clipless pedals for the triathlon and that I'd notice an immediate improvement in my cycling. But instead of getting faster, all I've been left with is a series of bumps and bruises to the point where I'm almost scared to get back on my bike.

The first two falls happened in my driveway. I was clipped in with one foot and waiting to cross the street (so I could ride with traffic). Somehow I last my balance... twice!... just standing there. The second fall skinned up my knee so I didn't even get out for a ride that day. That was three weeks ago and I didn't take a photo until last night so it's mostly healed now, although every once in awhile I feel a twinge of pain that I'm hoping is a result of the fall rather than another new injury.

I had a few good rides and then last Sunday I toppled over again getting off my bike at the end of my ride. I'm still not sure what happened, if I was tired and off balance or if it was the wet ground. I got some surface scratches but luckily it wasn't too bad.

Last night's ride just plain sucked. I was with one of the coaches from my training group and we pulled over to the side of the road because she thought my seat was a bit too high for me. After she adjusted the seat and we were about to take off again, I didn't have enough momentum and fell over onto my right elbow and palm. I had gloves on so I didn't break any skin on my palm, but it hurt like hell the rest of the night. Even though I didn't tear the fabric of my jacket, I was sure I skinned my elbow, but with the coach waiting for me I didn't stop to check since we were at the back of the pack now. I'm not sure if that ended up being a good or bad decision. Good because I kept going with the workout, but bad because if I had stopped then I would have avoided some of the troubles that were yet to come.

The fall caused some problems with my chains and shifting (I don't know all the technical mumbo jumbo to describe exactly what happened) and several miles down the road the chains locked up and my bike came to a stop and I fell over AGAIN! Luckily this time I fell on a patch of grass and plants and didn't get too banged up. But I was definitely feeling anxiety about clipping in again. If the coach hadn't been with me I think I would have just sat on the side of the road and cried. Especially because I would have had no idea what to do with the chains. But I put on my brave face and we kept going.

The chains locked up one more time but I was able to get unclipped that time so I didn't fall. The coach said it was because I was in the wrong gears and crossing chains. The thing is that I know I've accidentally done that before but instead of locking up usually I just hear a noise that tells me I need to shift out of that combination. So I guess I need to take my bike in for another tune up to make sure it's okay after all of my falls.

This is dragging on, so I'll try to wrap it up. The icing on the cake was that after we'd already cut the ride short since we were so far behind the rest of the group, I got a flat tire. GRRRRRR. It was maybe a five minute walk back to our cars but it felt like forever after such a crappy ride. And then I got back and discovered that I did indeed skin my elbow.

I knew there would be a learning curve in switching to clipless pedals, but I guess I didn't expect it would take this long or be so painful. And I don't think I'd mind the falling so much if I was at least seeing some kind of improvement but my average speed on my rides is the same as it was before switching. I try to keep reminding myself that it took me awhile to get faster at running too. But I don't feel the same level of excitement with cycling as running and I don't think I'll ever like it as much. There's just too much "stuff" to deal with and I don't have a mechanically-oriented mind. I can't get my mind wrapped around all these gears and chains and levers and things that need to be tightened and adjusted and lubed and who knows what else. I'm a frugal person, but I'd almost rather pay someone to change my flat tire than try to do it myself, but I know I need to learn how. If only there was some kind of AAA roadside assistance for bikes. Hey, that's actually kind of a good idea!

Anyway, that's about it for now. I guess I should go run, mainly to burn off the thin mints I ate earlier. Then maybe I'll go wrestle with my flat tire. Actually first I need to find some kind of "how to" guide.

Any cyclists out there? How long did it take you to get comfortable using clipless pedals? Also any tips for changing a flat tire?