Friday, July 1, 2011

"Mind Over Matter" wins a 20 mile success!

Okay, I'm getting the hang of the gears now.  Sunday I went to Waterville Valley with the Tri Newbie Group, as many of the athletes I'm training with are doing the upcoming Black Fly Triathlon there.  Fellow competitors jumped in the water to train for the race, which was a chilly swim, but they managed to do VERY well!  Wetsuits were pretty needed, it was COLD.  We then hopped on the bikes to ride the "Run" portion of the course, and then rode the actual Bike Course itself.  All told, I did a full 20 miles.  It seemed like that course was going to be fairly easy... the ride on Route 49 on the way in to Waterville seemed pretty even.  Well, the thing about that course is the slow, gradual incline.  The first stretch out on the course was great... slightly downhill, winding along the beautiful Mad River.  It really was a beautiful ride.  The ride back, as I knew it would be, was more challenging.  The course isn't 'steep' per se, but just gradual and unrelenting.  There isn't as much of an opportinuty to crest a hill, and catch your breath on the way back down the other side.  It's just pressing and pressing forward.  By about mile 16, I kept waiting for that last hill, where it's going to get easier.  I knew I wasn't even close to being back at the parking lot yet.  So, I started going through the mental pushing.  It's uphill, I'm pressing forward, it's a slower pace since I'm in an easier gear, and I know that I'm going to be at this for a while.  I resolve to just focus on the road in front of my wheels.  Just worry about what I can see.  "Just worry about NOW", I thought to myself.  "Keep your feet on the pedals, and get there.  Doesn't matter how long it takes, just get there."  Push, push, huff, huff.  What a mental game.   "Just stay up."  Quitting didn't cross my mind, it wasn't that.  It was just the perserverance that I was in pursuit of.  It was hard, and it would have been easy to give up or feel bad for myself for not feeling experienced enough to find this climb easily.  I didn't want to go there in my mind, I just wanted to finish and feel that success.  By the time I reached the lot, I was exhausted.  I honestly wasn't sure whether to pass out or get sick.  Some of the other athletes had taken off for the Run portion.  I was doing all I could to stay on my feet.  Sigh.  Good thing I have another 58 days to train for the Timberman, I'm going to need it!

Even though it was the toughest ride yet, saying that I had just biked 20 miles felt very satisfying.  I planned another ride on the Timberman course with a few fellow athletes later in the week.  Nazzy, morning host of 105.5 JYY and Jim Adams, General Manager of the Lakes Region for Nassau Broadcasting are both co-workers and fellow Sprint competitors.  Nazzy's trainer would join us for the ride, and we planned to Bike the Timberman course in an afternoon after Nazzy gets off the air.  We've never trained all together yet; I wonder what this will be like?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Group Rides

Wow, what a ride!  Every week, a group of bicyclists gathers at Ellacoya State Park to do a ‘group ride’ all together.  This week’s ride was about 75 riders, which splits up into three groups; first-timers, beginners and intermediate (funny, I noted, no “experts”).  This was my second week on the ride and the weather was great again; sunny, mid-70s and we start and finish at the lake (how amazing is that).  A group ride is great because the other riders often know the ride route, offer support and advice and just general encouragement, which cannot be underestimated.  My Felt Z100 bike is incredible, it rides comfortably, smoothly and it’s very light-weight.  The only problem I have at this point is operator error… I’m still getting used to the gears!  We start out riding by the lake, pretty even ride, so I shift through to get a feel for things, which I feel like I understand fairly well.  CJ and then Myles from MC Cycle and Sport, organizers and mentors for the ride, ride up beside me giving me pointers on how to use them (I used to ride a mountain bike, and that was 12 years ago).  Having them nearby – and their encouragement – is so reassuring.  For my first ride, we took a route through Gilford, up Watson Road.  I try to shift to an easier gear going up a hill and – drop – low gear.  Mash, mash, mash on the pedals as I try to correct it.  Ugh.  Standstill.  Myles comes up beside me, stops and helps me get the gear right to finish up the hill.  I have to run back down a bit, turn around and start again to get the momentum going again.  Wow, this gear this works well when it’s dialed in right!  Up, up, to the crest of the hill… Myles told me to meet him at the theater, which is at the bottom of the hill.  The ride down – especially after that struggle and feeling stupid going up the other side – was amazing.  I just let it ride, wide open, like wind in my sails.  At one point, I look down… 40 mph.  Wow, and I thought I’d be anxious about that.  It was fantastic, made me feel more alive.

Here's an early spring photo, which is now all luscious green leaves. 
I'll try to get over there to take a picture of what it looks like now.
For this week’s ride, I was really looking forward to two things.  Firstly, we were going to do the Timberman bike route.  See, having the home field advantage, I can actually train ON the course, so that will help to really prepare me for the race.  Secondly, this week Lori Oakley from the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club and the Lakes Region Triathlon Club would be joining us!  Lori is so encouraging, and a great support person to have in your corner, and while others in the Tri-Newbie Training Program had already had the opportunity to ride with her, this was my first.  We started off the ride easily enough, along the waterfront, which I can only show you how breathtaking it is.

I feel strong, pretty confident.  I’ve been spinning classes since about April, so my legs are stronger; I just have to learn make the best of these gears.  I call it “More turn for your burn”.  I’m really focused on learning that.  I did pretty well until I got to a big long hill.  Even with easier gears, it’s still work.  Another rider pulls off, and I stop to help (I could use the break too, to tell you the truth).  I keep up momentum until I crest the hill and ride the slope down to the meeting point where the rest of the riders are waiting for everyone to catch up to turn and ride the route back.  I managed to reach down and get my water bottle, take a drink and set it back too – without crashing, which is important.  A few minutes at the meeting point, and we’re off again, except that I’m still winded, and that hill I just glided down is now the one that I have to climb back up.  Mash, mash, mash the pedals, here we go again, I know I’m in the wrong gear.  But now I’m afraid to get stuck like I did the week before on Watson Road, so I’m cautious and struggling.  I stop at one point, catch my breath, and start up again, still struggling.

Then, a familiar voice comes up behind me… Lori Oakley!   She had gotten a flat, but caught up to me, and now she’s looking at my gears while riding behind me.
“Shift down! [I click the gears]  Again. [I click.]  A few more, still have some room [click, click, click]”
Ahhh!  Now we’re in business!  My feet aren’t mashing the pedals anymore, and I can actually make some progress.
“Is that better?”, she asks, pulling along side me. 
“Yeah, thank you so much!”
Lori comments how I was killing that hill, even in the wrong gear, and tells Myles the same thing when we catch up with him.  Good, I think to myself, when I get these gears under control, I should be doing really well!

I love having great coaches.  Not only was she able to help me out of a bind (I’ll get used to the gears, it’ll just take practicing and getting the ‘feel’ for it), she was so encouraging.  She helped me focus, breath calmly, exhale completely (to avoid CO2 buildup which is what seizes up muscles).  THIS is what group rides are about.  I had stopped to help a fellow rider earlier, and it came full circle when I needed help myself.

The rides are fantastic, 15 miles in a group that suits your abilities.  It’s open to the public, all are welcome.  We meet Mondays at 5:30pm at Ellacoya, and it usually finishes up about 7:00pm.  The rule for weather is that if the road is dry, we ride.  I really hope you would consider coming.  While parts can be challenging, it can be really exhilarating.  Hope to see you on the road!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Learning to be "True to the Tri"

Last week I caught a major respiratory infection, which set me back for a days, but it’s been a productive and educational week still.  Thursday night I had a session with Jaime Poire, a member of the Lakes Region Triathlon Club and Triathlon veteran of 11 years.  He walked us through race day to visualize the mental and physical preparation that an athlete has to do to focus and have a great race.  Training doesn’t end at learning how to swim, bike and run better; the nature of the Triathlon is not three separate events.  The transition between the different events is critical to your performance.  In addition to answering more questions that he probably imagined we would have, he told us some of the tips and tricks that he’s developed over the years, like how to quickly mount and dismount the bike at transition.  I hadn’t thought about the rules of Triathlons, but Jaime shared with us the rules of passing and drafting on the bikes.  Of course I hoped I’d be passing people on the course, but didn’t know the safe and proper ways to do so while abiding by the rules.  The race, while it is a competition, is best raced against yourself, as a personal challenge.  For that reason, we race with integrity for the rules, or “True To The Tri” [T4].  He was a wealth of knowledge, and mostly all things we would never have known without him!  (Thanks Jaime!)

Friday night, I dared to go back to swim practice, still fighting the respiratory infection.  I couldn’t breathe very well anyway.  But at least I would try.  (The Sunday before I had a great day in the pool.)  I actually had a great practice, and didn’t really have any trouble until the 11th lap.  It was great to feel that because the next day was going to be a big one with the Mock Mini Race!

Saturday morning, bright and early, the Lakes Region Triathlon Club hosted and staged a Mock Mini-Triathlon.  We would do this short course as a method of learning the challenges of facing the transitions after the actual exertion of each facet of the race.  We would feel it get harder, realize how important the Triathlete’s focus is in transition.  Starting out, just as Race Day, at registration, we got out bodies marked on our arms and legs with marker.  I took some time to warm up at each event and check over my gear; the bike is in great shape, I loosen up my muscles with a couple laps around the nearby race track, and swam a bit to get the cold lake on my skin.  We regroup to walk the course, observing and studying where the “In” and “Out” points are, and any obstacles that may be in the way.  Once we’re in the water at the starting point, we get the signal and start off.  I try not to rush and focus on breathing well to make it.  It wasn’t easy, especially with the respiratory issues I’m already fighting.  The team is cheering on shore and Jean in the kayak is keeping me going as I start struggling more, but make it to shore to run through the course to the transition where I have my bike.  As I reach down for my shoes, I about fall over dizzy, but keep going… throw on socks, shoes, helmet and I run off, hop on the bike and bike through two laps of the course, still catching my breath from the swim, having to focus on this now.  Good dismount, run it back to transition, rack the bike and sprint off to the finish line.  What a rush!  We learned a lot about the event, the preparation, and the focus that it takes to be great at the sport.  It was a great feeling, and the encouragement the entire way of the Lakes Region Triathlon Club volunteers was amazing!  Thanks so much!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A new bike, and how I learned about bike shorts

Thanks to MC Cycle and Sport of Laconia, I am now outfitted with a beautiful new ride! Myles and his team at the Shop are AMAZING. Absolute PROS, and I cannot speak highly enough of them! is their website... see them for whatever gear you need! Here's a pic of my fab new Felt Z100!!

So, now that I have the bike and had it fitted, I was ready to take it home.  But, then we realized that the bike rack I have (which was recently given to me) is missing a strap.  There was no way I'd put this bike on anything shaky, so I decided to go get changed, get a ride back to MC Cycle and ride it back to my office!  It was a good day for its inaugural ride, after all!  So, I changed into my workout gear and went back to get my sweet new ride (SO happy).  Now, here comes the point where I should have taken some good advice.  See, I haven't worn shorts in literally four years (at least) due to the fact that I'm not happy with my weight.  So, I wasn't in any rush to get bike shorts on if I wasn't doing a lot of riding, which I wasn't going to be this day.  So I didn't know the reasons people wear bike shorts.  Getting used to the bike was fairly easy once I got on the road.  I loved the ride, although the trip back to my office is up a good hill, so I was pretty tired and happy when I finished the 2-mile ride.  After work, I had "Brick Training", where we practice the transition point between the swim, the biking, and the run, where you have to get into shoes (from swimming), get gear on, hop on the bike and go your distance, hop off, run your bike to your transition point, change your shoes, take off helmet, etc and start your run.  It takes practice, as I learned, and everyone has their own system.  SO, the first trip around, I'm doing great, loving the ride of the new bike... see the dismount coming up... hop off the bike, and - BAM.  My cotton shorts caught the handle bars, and I go down, feeling like slow motion, until my face finally grinds the pavement.  Bike shorts.  Oh, I see now, I thought to myself, as I peeled myself off the pavement, laughing.  The trainer comes over, concerned, asking if I'm okay.  Yeah, of course, just a little scraped up, and not my most graceful moment ever, still laughing as I finished running the bike to transition point.  This is my learning curve... hahaha.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The support of heroes...

I'm returning to the blog this week with a bang... I have some VERY exciting news!  After hearing a bit about my story, and the journey that I'm embarking on, Myles Chase of MC Cycle and Sport - the Official Bike Shop of the Timberman Ironman Race - will be outfitting me with gear for my race! 

Not only is Myles an amazing athlete, an industry professional, and a great guy - last year, Myles ran a Triple Marathon... 78.6 miles around Lake Winnipesaukee to raise money for the WLNH Children's Auction last December!  That's three consecutive marathons in 24 hours!  (Here's the pic from his arrival at the Auction at the finish.)  I am over the moon to have his support, and "thank yous" alone cannot express my gratitude to Myles and his team.  They are THE BEST at what they do.  He even chuckles and laughs with me when I ask him what the different gear is for ("what's a race belt?" , "What's the difference between bike shorts and tri shorts?").  I gave him my rookie disclaimer, that I have no experience in this, and I feel so assured that I'm in good hands.  He'll probably tell me things I wouldn't even know to ask!  He fitted me for a bike recently, and we're waiting for it to arrive... perhaps tomorrow will be the day?

If that were not fortunate enough, I have the support of another person that I'd like to mention, as well.  As a hero to the WLNH Children's Auction in many years past, Mike "Mad Dog" Gallagher has undertaken some lofty - even crazy - ventures!  In 2007, “Mad Dog” and fellow athlete John "Blue Dog" Jurczynski, rode more than 113 hours on stationary cycles to become world record holders, raising money for the WLNH Children’s Auction. Inspired by them, over 600 other riders joined in 18 teams to help raise money, while the two “Dogs” pedaled the equivalent of 1,400 miles, roughly from their location in Laconia New Hampshire to Disney in Florida. The monumentous endeavor raised awareness like never before, and presented the WLNH Children’s Auction with an amazing $34,000 contribution, thanks to their efforts. In 2008, “Mad Dog” and the team at LASC raised the roof with a new venture for the WLNH Children’s Auction, called “Fitness Mania”. [Participants could choose which activity your team would like to do: cycling, walking/running, elliptical machines, rowers or lap swimming.]  Mike “Mad Dog” Gallagher, camped out on the roof of the health club for 72 hours, weathering a BIG New England Ice Storm, equipped with a tent, pulley, rope and bucket. (Really, here's a pic!)  As a fitness instructor, outdoor enthusiast and trained ice climber, “Mad Dog” insisted, “they need our help”. I remember bringing him a hot lunch several times, and raising it up it the bucket and pulley, while his smile never dimmed.

Now, I often see Mike when I go to the gym nearly every day, and he's always encouraging.  I feel his support every time he nods hello, even if he's talking with someone else, and I feel that he's even grown to be a friend.  I learned this week that Mike "Mad Dog" Gallagher has it on his calendar to volunteer to help in MY effort at the Timberman Race this year.  How fortunate am I, to have such amazing company?  Here are two ATHLETES, with huge hearts, raising ME up and cheering ME on.  How lucky am I?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Knowing your limits

I think that it was back in 2000 when my hiking hobby came to an abrupt and immediate end.  My brother and I, along with a small group of friends were avid hikers.  We would go several times a week, and try new trails and mountains as often as we could.  Sometimes, we would take the mountain bikes on the trails, but regardless, we all soaked up the views when we arrived at the summits.  Mount Liberty, at 4,460’ in Franconia Notch was the beauty that did me in.  The Liberty Spring Trail is a total of 8 miles up and back again on rocky terrain.  When I say rocky, I mean that it felt like stairs for most of the way to me.  (Check out this pic to see what I mean.)  Even as an experienced hiker, this one took its toll.  My knee started hurting on the way up the craggy granite, but I kept going.  It kept hurting, and I kept going.  Finally, I was in tears, only halfway up the mountain.  My brother tries to convince me to turn around and bag the trip.  Nope, I was too stubborn.  I was too determined to quit.  Tears ran down my face the entire way up the mountain as I grimaced in pain, so I was glad to reach the summit marker and relax for awhile.  I barely remember going down the mountain, which is probably better since I’m sure it was excruciating.  As it turns out, that I had torn my meniscus half way up the mountain.  I split it right down the middle.  And I finished the hike.

I share that story because I want to point our how stubbornly stupid I can be, which is a great reason to find a fantastic coach (which I thankfully found at Laconia Athletic and Swim Club)!  If I had turned around when my brother said to, I’m sure I would have healed far better, but I was foolish and didn’t admit to my physical limitations.  All my determination could not undo the damage that I had done by being young, "invincible" and foolish.  So, you’ll see in my training logs (follow me on Twitter or Facebook for those) that I’ve started training at the track with walking, and only running in brief bursts.  It does feel funny to begin a journey as a Triathlete with “only” a walk.  Thank god for a good coach to slow me down and pace my training.  As I’ve said before, it’s always one step in front of the other. [Since I started training back in March, I’ve been focusing on strengthening that knee, and (knock on wood) have had no issues, only feeling stronger and more stable.  I’m sure as the excess weight continues to melt away, that additional relief will help.]

In my next post, I should have some exciting news about an additional sponsor and some new gear!  Check back for details! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Perception is a funny thing.

I was talking with some friends over the weekend about the varied views I have of the Triathlon.  The sprint course that I’m training for is a 0.3 mile swim, 15 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run.  Each of the elements seems “do-able”, especially after a good feeling workout at the gym.  Other days, I wonder what on earth I’ve gotten myself into!  Quitting isn’t something that has ever crossed my mind, but it does keep my mind very much aware of the healthy respect that I have to give this challenge.

I’ve been working out with some guidance for about 6 weeks now, feeling stronger, better, each time.  Somewhere in my optimistic mind, I thought I’d just hope on the track or bike, and off I’d go!  Well, reality isn’t quite so sweet.  This is going to be WORK.  I met the “Tri Newbie” Training group from the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club at the Opechee running track last Thursday.  We have a really great group of people, very welcoming and encouraging.  Our trainer, JP was great when I spoke with her.  Of course, I tell her that I have never attempted anything like this before, and I’m glad when she doesn’t cringe at the fact that I have NO IDEA how to really perform.  Just a strong will, iron determination and sheer ignorance of the gravity of the task at hand.  (Lucky for me, this pain will come as a surprise, ha ha.)  JP embraces me with the group, and set me off around the track.  Walking sounds easy, running should be fine, so off I go, and find myself quite challenged and remembering being a kid, when I didn’t even think of running as work at all!  A teammate flies past me on the track and offers back, “that’s exactly where I was three months ago… you’ll get there!”  Reassured, I hold my head up and press on.  It’s a process, just keep going.

The first time in the pool was the very next night.  Great!  I love to swim!  The 0.3 mile swim equals about 12 laps of the pool.  Totally do-able… 12 isn’t a big number at all.  Until I got in the water, that is.  We had a free practice, the instructor wasn’t there yet, so I practiced, and got in 6 very winded laps before another instructor arrived.  He offered to help, though he hadn't really trained a beginner course before.  Okay, fantastic.  I’m glad to have some direction, give him my rookie disclaimer, that I have no idea how to swim competitively.  He has me swim from the side to the middle a few times to observe me, gives me some pointers, and has me runs laps a few times.  I was a mess when I started, but felt better about my form, and improved by the end of practice.  I had run 14 laps, more than the race itself, thoroughly worked, but felt great.  I felt trained, even if only a little bit.  I’m starting to see where my weaknesses are to be able to practice more and work on them.  (Breathing patterns are a big challenge for me, I’m finding.)

JP had said that we should try to make it the track for practice again on our own over the weekend, so I did.  This time, I took someone with me to take photos so that I might have something to use for the blog.  I did my laps, went to LASC and did a full round of weights.  It was a pretty good workout, a beautiful sunny day.  Pictures would be a great idea!  That’s where I come full circle on the perception thing.  (I hated the photos, by the way.)  While I have lost 26 pounds since March 20th, some days I feel great, and others I can feel the inflammation my body fights with.  (I can swing 15 pounds in a single day, I have found, just from inflammation issues from the Lyme Disease.)  So, sometimes I see the scale down 2 or 3 pounds and I’m ecstatic.  Other days, 2 or 3 pounds only seems minor, like throwing a deck chair off the Titanic!!  I’m glad that I can laugh about it, because I have a long way to go.  I just keep going…

“I believe you make your day. You make your life. So much of it is all perception, and this is the form that I built for myself. I have to accept it and work within those compounds, and it's up to me.”  ~ Brad Pitt