(Edited by Brad Minus) The Decision My 3 years of running experience started with multiple injuries including a couple of ankle fractures. However, I still managed to complete a marathon, a 50K and...
How to Start Cycling
One of the scariest things for a beginning triathlete, besides getting in the open water, is cycling. The first image that wandered into my head upon deciding to start seriously bicycling was of a that scary peloton. Those tight formations of bikes moving at ridiculous speeds, during the Tour de France, so close together that one wrong move could cause serious damage to my body or someone else. Scary right? Luckily, triathlon doesn’t allow for huge groups like that, as a matter of fact it isn’t even allowed. Whew!
Buying my first Bike
I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started in triathlon, and I also didn’t really know if I was going to like it. I spent a lot of time in bike stores drooling over the expensive bikes, while studying cheaper entry level bikes. Every bike store had a different angle they played. One would say, purchase the more expensive bike, gain more speed so when I improved I didn’t have to buy another bike. Another would tell me to buy the entry level but load it up with expensive components so I could ride faster, and when I wanted another bike, the components alone would warrant a good price, and of course that store would buy it back from me and give me a discount an another bike. Decisions, decisions what to do, what to do?
I researched different road and tri bikes online and in magazines, and while I was pretty sure I would enjoy triathlon, I decided on an entry level Canondale CAAD 9 road bike. I also included in my purchase, a pair of pedals, cleats, shoes and a helmet. The helmet was very important especially since I hadn’t actually rode a bike in over 10 years. Would I really not forget how to ride a bike? The answer to that my friends is YES. It is not a skill that is forgotten. It maybe a little unsteady the first couple of times, but not forgotten. Luckily I will have my trusty helmet, just in case.
I also read something that resonated with me. The most important thing that is needed after the purchase of a bike, is the fitting. At first I thought, “what? Don’t I just have to find the most comfortable height of the seat and then get going?” I had no idea that there are so many different adjustments on a bike, to a point that bike “fitters” actually have to be certified in order to properly fit you. They have to take courses, pass tests and be mentored. “Really?”, you ask? Yes…really.
The fitting took about an hour where they put my bike on a trainer, and with my shoes and bike shorts I pedaled, then the fitter took measurements and made adjustments to my seat post raising it and lowering it to a perfect dimension. Then he took angle measurements from the ground to my hip, knee and shoulder and from the pedal and a bunch of other places. He moved my saddle not only up and down by forward and back. He then took my handle bars and put different size spacers on the tube underneath my handlebars to find the perfect height and then was able to move them back and forth to find the right angle, height and most comfortable spot for me. I had no clue there was this much to it.
As I left the store after my fitting, Jo-el, the general manager and friend from my track club, gave me some good advice. I had never rode in cleats and pedals before, where my feet were clipped into the pedals where they wouldn’t just simply lift up. I had to turn my heel so the cleat would unclip from the pedals so I could put my foot down. Jo-el said to take my bike in the house and put it between a doorway, and practice clipping and un-clipping from the pedals. Also, I needed to find the most comfortable side to unclip first and then stick to that side no matter what. I followed that advice in detail. I clipped, unclipped, clipped and unclipped till I was sure I had mastered it. Then I took a little ride around the block and practiced even more till I was confident I mastered at least that part.
I had a feeling of euphoria that first little trip in my neighborhood. I felt fast, free traveling under my own power on this brand new, tuned Cannondale bike. I was really excited for my first ride the next day in the hills of San Antonio.
The First Ride
I drove to San Antonio…Florida that is, with my brand new bike in the back, my new bike shorts on, bottles ready to put in their cages on the bike, coffee in my cup holder and classic rock playing on the radio. I remember having mixed feelings about this initial ride. I had never ridden in a group before, I had never ridden with these cleats and clips before, but I knew I was in good shape but was I fit enough? After that I just thought to myself, “if you cannot go as far then just turn around and head back. no big deal.”.
I met a friend at these ball fields and was mesmerized by the amount of bikers getting ready to take their morning ride. The sea of colors from the different bikes and jerseys was extremely overwhelming. That anxious feeling came back for a second until my friend mentioned we were riding with triathletes not pure cyclists. They would understand I was on my first ride and would help me out. After preparing for my first journey, we found our formation and began the trek.
I was surprised that I was staying in the middle of the pack and with minimal effort. The wind was in my face, I was pedaling under my own power and keeping up! It was an incredibly euphoric feeling. Unfortunately, when we hit the first long hill, euphoria turned to anxiety and then… embarrassment.
My pedaling slowed, and it became extremely hard to mash down on the pedals. With very minimal spinning of my legs I tried to switch to higher gear, but I actually ended up in a lower gear which made it even harder. When I did finally gear up, it was too late. I couldn’t move the pedals fast enough to switch gears, and my chain fell off , so I was at a dead stop. Of course I was so concerned about the gears I didn’t unclip out of my pedals, and I went down on my side. The only thing that really hurt was my ego as I stood my bike up and examined the chain. The group was passing me all asking if I was ok, and taking for granted that I was telling them I was fine and to keep going. By the time I had my chain back on the group was completely out of site. I pedaled like a bat out of hell hoping to catch up, but I missed a turn and ended up 10 miles out of my way, and lost.
To make a long story short ( I know, too late) one of the faster members of the group realized I was gone, backtracked, and finally found me asking directions at a convenience store. He led me back to the group and I finished the ride without any other issues, but I learned a lot of lessons that day.
Hints to get started in cycling straight from the Goof:
1. Buy an entry level road bike. This is usually an aluminum alloy frame. You don’t want a Wal-mart special, but you don’t need to start with the top of the line bike either.
2. Purchase a set of entry level pedals, cleats and shoes. The pedals usually come with the cleats and the bike shop will install them for you.
3. Purchase safety equipment. Biking shorts, and a helmet to start. I would also have a set of sunglasses as well. Not just to keep the sun out of your eyes, but it helps with the wind too. Make sure you also have at least one water bottle with a cage installed on your bike.
4. Get the bike fit for you. Have a certified bike fitter make those adjustments specifically for you.
5. Practice getting in and out of your cleats . Put your bike in a doorway, hold onto the frame and get in and get out of your cleats. Find the most comfortable side of the bike and then practice getting out of the cleats and putting your foot on the ground.
6. Take a short ride around your neighborhood and continue to practice getting in and out of your cleats. When seeing a stop or even a potential stop ahead practice just moving your heel just to the point where you unclip before stopping so you have a quick option that you can pull out of your clip to stop or return your heel to clip back in to keep going. Remember to always clip out and stand with the same foot first every time.
7. Understand your gears. While in that first ride, switch the gears on your right hand and find what lever takes you to a higher or easier gear, and which one brings you to a lower or harder gear.
8. Take your first long ride with friends and have some fun.
One last thing, you are going to fall. That is just the reality of it. You will get stuck in your cleats at some point and you will fall over, but it will be minimal. The trick is to accept it, get up brush yourself off, laugh at yourself, get back on your bike and have fun. It’s worth it I promise.
This post was originally published for IR4C for their new media site, IR4C.TV on July 2, 2013.
The 1st week: Are my goals realistic?
I have come to the realization that even I, as the epitome of the positive mental attitude, still hear those negative voices in my head. For all the conversations I have with clients, friends and other athletes about going out and just having fun, I still have grand notions of finishing races with a PR(personal record) and while working out this week those goals seem daunting.
I had three Lactic Threshold tests I had to complete this week; one each for swimming, biking and running. While just doing these tests I felt like I was really out of shape, and truth be told, I did take an off season for the last couple of months, at least by triathlete standards. I did complete at least 5 hour long workouts a week with a half-marathon and a 10k thrown in there, and, oh yeah Ragnar, but I wasn’t in “training” mode per say. This week I started back “in training” and my goals seem so far off and this is only my third day.
Monday, I completed my Bike and Run LT tests which consisted both of a 10 minute warm up, followed by 40 minutes of the event at a pace that burned my legs and put me into a feeling of oxygen deprivation but not so much that I couldn’t complete the full 40 minute main set which was then followed by a 10 minute cool down. My running LT is 173 and my biking LT is 165. I looked into my future workouts they are noted with requirements that include the LT. For instance: Bike 12×1 minute climbs at LT+10, meaning I should be climbing and my heart rate should be 175. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? I know my body will acclimate, hopefully I won’t make a mess before it does.
Tuesday, I completed my first bike workout and strength workout. The bike was 8-12×1 minute climbs in the saddle at a RPM of 50-60. Now my normal riding RPM is 85-95, so you can imagine the resistance that had to be on the bike. I ended up doing it on the spin bikes at LA Fitness, because, well, there are no hills in my general vicinity which is Tampa, Florida. Nothing but flatland here. I have to travel 45 miles north to San Antonio to get any resemblance of some hills, and during the week, that just is not happening. Why? I have a responsibility to this activity called “work”. I wish I could sit here, blog and comment all day, but unfortunately I cannot. I blog in between meetings, lunch and then edit when I can. This workout while being fun, was what I would call, THE QUAD KILLER. It was brutal.
Unfortunately, I was late getting to the gym so I was not able to get my strength workout in, so I showered, drove to work and then returned that evening. Luckily, I always have an extra set of workout clothes in the car. (I think I got that from Ben Mena. He is notorious for spontaneously telling his girlfriend to just drop him off 10-15 miles from home and after changing into a spare set of shorts and shoes he runs home.)
I haven’t worked out with weights in a while, and I know from my studies of the anatomical makeup of muscles and the neurological systems of the body that there is a “breaking in” period no matter how much experience you have lifting. In order to activate the pleasure center of my brain instead of the pain center, I had to drop the weight down and do the exercises concentrating on good form. It was a circuit of 5 supersets and it was not easy, no sir, not easy at all. Deadlifts, pull-ups, squat to overhead thrusts, medicine ball wood choppers, side planks, cable twists and more. I felt beat to death afterwards. Of course, I understand my body enough that I had to stretch very well afterwards or my back would be yelling at me later.
I also learned why I really enjoy working out in the morning. It was extremely busy at the new South Tampa LAF last night. I barely got a parking space, and I ended up having to do most of the movements in a tiny little space, while other members were just waiting to pounce. It was at that point I read myself the riot act and vowed that no matter how much I had to do during the week, I would just wake up early to finish all of my workouts in the mornings.
That vow started this morning as I was up at 4:30 and ready to leave at 5 even though my first workout was track at UT which didn’t start until 6. That workout was brutal as well; 800-400×3-1mile-400×3, at least this week I didn’t falter until the last 400 and only by a couple of seconds. As soon as I finished and cooled down I headed to LAF to do my swim T-test. Basically this is 1000 meters swam as if I was in a race and then the average time of a 100 meters is considered my T-Pace for workouts. Future workouts for example included “4×100 at T-pace – 10 seconds”. I have been working really hard on my body position in the water, but I am still really slow. (Notice I am not mentioning what my T-Pace actually is.) With a pull buoy or fins, I can go forever at 1:50 min per 100m, but without I am…well…a little slower.
After going through all of this, I guess I feel like I should. There is a long journey ahead. I might as well enjoy it.