Tri Talk Tuesday: Ticket to Ride

Welcome to my first post in Tri Talk Tuesday a link-up with Courtney at The Trigirl Chronicles, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and my client and friend Miranda at The Cupcake Triathlete They started this link-up as a place for triathlete bloggers to get together and chat about all things tri. As the “voice of authority” aka a coach, I thought I would share my two cents. I missed out on the first one “The Swim” but am here for #2, predictably, The Bike (actually T1 might make for a good column on its own, but perhaps soon enough)   So without further ado:

The BIKE

Don’t try this on race day (courtesy of Road Bike Review)

You didn’t miss your alarm, you made it to the start line in time, you survived the chaos of the swim and managed to rip off your wetsuit and remembered everything in T1. Its time to get in the saddle and engage in the most technically complex, arguably dangerous and most likely, lengthy leg of your race. The bike. While swimming creates the majority of up front fears in the minds of most triathletes, once in the water and underway, the most difficult swimming skill remaining is sighting. The rest is simply forward propulsion and proper form.

Its the bike that will generally provide the most challenges and requires the most attention during the race. Its also where nearly all penalties are earned and just a few seconds in another racers draft can cost you many minutes of your race. Before racing (or really even training) on public roads two skills must be mastered well before starting out with any intensity or distance. The first is the most obvious: knowing how to actually ride a bike.

SKILLS

Not the correct form

I don’t mean just the ability to remain upright while moving forward and turning the pedals on a smooth road with no disruptions. I mean being comfortable enough to navigate through a wide variety of road conditions, traffic, weather and countless other variables. This is where “roadies” have a leg up on triathletes and also when they tend not to trust us. Single sport cyclists developed their skills through hours of riding alone and also in groups on many different terrains. The majority of them rarely time trial (what we do our bike leg) opting instead for crits or group distance races where constant attention must be paid and they rarely ride head down and all out. Triathletes on the other hand might have started out as swimmers or runners and only knew how to ride a bike recreationally. If there is any experience at all with clip in pedals it probably came from indoor cycling classes. Therefore, its imperative that the athlete becomes comfortable with outdoor riding and training before entering their first race. These skills include:

Learning the rules of the road/USAT drafting rules

Proper braking

Cornering, tight maneuvers

Mount and Dismount, clipping in and out

Appropriate clothing choices

Being comfortable with a variety of road surfaces and conditions like:

-Wet Pavement

-Sand, gravel, silt

-Potholes

-Pedestrians and cars while training

-Other cyclists while training and racing

-Rain, Sun glare, Wind gusts

MAINTENANCE 

Once these skills have been developed and you are able to make adjustments for any condition you find yourself in, you are ready for the second important group of skills: bike maintenance. This dosen’t mean you have to become a certified mechanic but you should have a working familiarity with the basic systems including the drivetrain, steering and of course wheels and tires. ‘ Triathletes are known to be self-reliant and independent both with transport and often nutrition and hydration as well. Going out for a solo ride requires you to be able to repair any basic issues your bike might have lest you be reliant on the kindness of strangers.

The most important and often needed repair is a flat tire. Not only do you always need to carry the parts necessary, you need to know how to use them. There are often basic classes that your LBS (Local Bike Store) will give or have a more experienced friend show you. Even YouTube has plenty of tutorials. But there is a big difference between watching how its done and actually doing it. If you have a time trial bike or something on the newer side, removing the rear wheel and more importantly putting it back on can vary greatly from bike to bike. Improper reattachment can leave the tire rubbing against the frame stealing away precious energy with each stroke. (I’ve heard first hand 70.3 accounts of this) Take some time and practice both in the comfort of your home and (at least once) on a training ride on the side of the road. Its a vastly different experience.

The other common and minor issue you may come across is dropping a chain. Improper or rough shifting can cause this and its an easily solved problem provided you know how to put it back on. Ideally you should be comfortable with any of these issues so you dont have to rely on the repair wagon to come along during a race (it could be hours)

PACING

Now that you are set with the basics, you are now free to concentrate on the most important aspect of the bike leg, pacing. Besides overall strength and skill, this is the element really separates the front of the packers from the rest of the field. You can totally destroy a run with an incorrect effort on the bike. Things can fall apart very quickly. In addition to experience, this is where good training comes in. In the leadup to the race you should be monitoring efforts in one form or another during your rides. At the minimum RPE (rating of perceived exertion on a 1-10 scale) but ideally HR Zones and the gold standard of cycling effort measuring: Power. Directly out of the water and T1, your HR will be very high due to the fact your heart is not only pumping quickly from the vigorous swim, but you are no longer in a horizontal position. Your heart has to work against gravity now, a physiological transition that must be made. This is generally felt as a higher BPM. Additionally your brain will be in race mode coming out of the chaos of T1 and the energy of all the people around you flying-mounting their bikes and sprinting off. In the first few minutes it will feel awesome and you will want to move. You must resist the urge to go all out and ride like the wind. As soon as you can settle into your predetermined race effort (notice I didn’t say pace) and try to focus on the task at hand.

As early as you can, start taking in fuel and liquid. You will be dehydrated from the swim (especially if its saltwater) and the more calories you can take on the bike as opposed to the run, the better. Your GI track is largely shut down during running as the blood flow gets shunted away from your organs and into your muscles for oxygen and skin for cooling. Shoving in food is a great way to have to stop a lot during a run. Biking is the best time to load up. In training, make a plan for calories and hydration and stick with it.

Other than that, ride within your training and stay to the right at all times with the exception of a few instances:

You are passing

You are coming up on a left turn

You are avoiding debris or potholes on the right

Believe me, unless you are in the top 5% of cyclists, you will be passed by riders throughout the race and, just like in driving, nothing aggravates athletes more than people going slow in the left lane. What is “slow?” YOU (and me) at any speed unless you see a pace car in front of you with cameras. Then you can do whatever you like because you are awesome.

He’s still riding on the right!

The last section of the bike leg is another technical area, the dismount into T2. Again, stay to your right and remember to unclip at least one foot as you start to slow down. Be sure to dismount at the line and no further. Leave your helmet on until the bike is wracked. Make this a habit because it’s the same in every race. Take a breath and execute your transition. If you are a strong enough cyclist, you can make up lots of time on the bike or you can simply keep pace to ensure your legs are ok for a blazing run.

Which ever you choose, make it efficient and safe. Don’t forget to look up every once in a while and enjoy the passing scenery!

NYC 1/2 Marathon Recap – PR’s when you least expect them

nychalf6

I had no intentions of running this race. A handful of weeks ago, after entering the lottery for the NYC 1/2, I was notified (along with alot of my friends) that I didn’t make it in. I had a busy dance card this winter with a January 1/2 marathon, a February marathon and 5k along with races coming up this spring so I wasn’t worry about it. But clearly NYRR got permission to expand the race field and we all got our credit cards charged and notified of our entries.

So I found myself readying my race gear last night as always and after a rain-checked bday dinner with a friend at Ditch Plains, I hit the sack later than I wanted. The forecast all week called for 40′s but when I woke up today, it was considerable cooler so I adjusted the race gear accordingly. I knew ALOT of people running today and was excited to see how they would do. One of which, my friend Brian, used a 6 week training plan I wrote for him to prepare for his first 1/2.

As usual, I attempted to get to the race start at the last minute possible which means when I locked up my bike and walked over to the baggage drop, the UPS trucks were already closed up and there were just a couple guys collecting the late-comers bags. I just made it.

The race with 20k people took a page from the NYC Marathon and had 3 separate waves all releasing at different times. I was in the first and on the way towards the corrals we passed through a NYPD security checkpoint, a first for me. Sadly understandable after Boston, but besides a minor bottleneck, not a problem.

Once past, it was easy going towards the corrals.

Racers getting ready

Racers getting ready

nychalf3

Racers lined up in corrals

It was cold

Capture

So everyone was ready to get moving and soon enough we were off dashing up CAT hill with fresh legs. I was moving nicely, getting warmed up right up until the 2nd mile when I felt something very familiar, something unwelcome, lets call it an…urge. I had availed myself of facilities during only one previous race ever and that was a 13 hour Ironman, so I gave it a pass. I was loath to lose any time during a high profile half like this but by the time we sped down the first hill at 110th and cut out of the park for a turnaround at mile 3, there was no ignoring biology.

I had no choice but to relent and could have gotten in and out quickly (I have practice unfortunately) if it were not for a small line (a line?! this early in a race?) My eyes were alternately glued to my watch and the porta-potty doors as I counted the seconds and did mental calculations on how much time I would have to drop off successive miles. Finally my turn came and after a grueling 1min 42 seconds, I was racing out of there and directly up Harlem Hill with a jacked HR and anger pushing me along.

pace

I was cooking, throwing caution to the wind and holding well under 8′s with HRs in the 170s. Not a great place only 4 miles in but there was no stopping me, I was convinced a PR wasn’t out of the question. Through the park and down 7th ave were well trod paths for me so I knew when to push and when to hold back. I was feeling better and happy to be cruising.

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Times Sq ahead!

Times Sq ahead!

We had the street to ourselves

We had the street to ourselves

But nothing good can last forever and as we turned west onto 42nd street and dead on into a brutal headwind I once again began to feel questionable. Once we hit 11th ave I knew I’d have to make yet another stop and saw some lonely porta-potties with no line. This time only 30 seconds later.

Nascar eat your heart out

Nascar eat your heart out

That did the trick and with a monster tailwind and a per-mile average a couple seconds down from a PR I shot down the WSH with renewed vigor. I felt 100% and super strong.

WSH approaching WTC (pic by YEE)

WSH approaching WTC (pic by YEE)

My HR was holding steady at reasonable levels in the high 170s at this point in the race and I was running 7:30s and under. I knew I still had the PR, now it was a matter of how much.

Some fast miles towards the end

Some fast miles towards the end

Before I knew it, we were heading through the Battery Tunnel and only a 1/2 mile away. I pushed with whatever I had left and came home with a clock time of  1:42:59 (nearly 2 min PR from my BK 1/2 time) But with the 2min 20sec delay removed, my moving time was 1:40:40 good for 7:40s per/mile

 

I was super happy

I was super happy

nychalf10

WINDY FINISH!

WINDY FINISH!

Brian was right behind me with a SICK first 1/2 marathon time of 1:45. We made our way through the financial district canyons, buffeted by huge freezing gusts of wind until we got to the subway and home to clean up before brunch.

All in all, it was a great race despite my detours and I’m in a great place for Placid training this early in the season.

Another shout out goes to my client and good friend Miranda of The Cupcake Triathlete who also ran her first 1/2 marathon today and easily the longest she has ever run. This coach is SUPER PROUD!

Adding a medal to the collection

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Before

 

21's  lucky number right?

21′s lucky number right?

So, here we are, the night before my first (and probably only) stand-alone marathon of 2014. I’ve documented some of my leadup here on this blog and thought I should get down any last thoughts before its too late. As I mentioned earlier, I’m wasn’t nervous at all in this week leading up. I think I was just putting off the realization that it was happening. At times, I can be good at that. But today it hit and I’m finding myself quieting down a bunch like I usually do in the day before a race.

Kristin is especially used to this. I am often staring or zoned out at random times throughout the day. I can’t exactly pinpoint what I am doing during these times. Sometimes is actually focused mental rehearsal of the morning, or different points through the race. But sometimes its nothing at all. Really nothing. Perhaps this is my brain beginning to shut out outside distractions that will be unnecessary in the next 24 hours. Long endurance races: marathons, 70.3′s or ironmans are so long in duration that they can (and should) be broken into different mental parts. Each section should be analyzed and anticipated as much as possible. Elite athletes are generally very good at this kind of mental prep and forward thinking. Experience makes you better at this as well. You know what terrible feels like at 8 miles and you know how different terrible is at 21 miles. And you better have your mantras, positive thoughts, pumped up music at the ready for easy recall and access.

The more you can anticipate, plan and account, the more prepared you will be when you hit the challenges the next day (and hit you will, rest assured)

My body is capable of 26 miles, at any time, that is not a question. Mentally, thats a totally different story. In the last weeks before a race, the physical work has either been done, or not. But mentally, there is no time constraint. You have until the gun goes off and beyond. Any race can be turned around if you can emotionally change your bearings. Sometimes its like making a U-turn in a speedboat. Sometimes its changing course in an oil tanker. But the more prepared you are, the better you will fare and the sooner you can begin to turn that tanker, before its too late.

So its written down, here is what I’m hoping for tomorrow. 9min/mile Avg pace and, barring that, a sub-4hr marathon. Fingers crossed and see you on the other side.

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