bike

Headwind is NO joke.

I’m still alive!  There’s so much that I haven’t written about, but this week, 5150 is on my mind.  What is 5150, you ask?  Well, it’s an Olympic triathlon (1.5km swim, 40k bike, and 10k run) that I am signed up for and it’s coming up in 2 days!   Oh, shit. It’s in 2 DAYS.

I’ve competed in various sprint triathlons, but this will be my first Olympic.  The race is going to be in Galveston, which is notorious for its wind.  I had read about the difficulty of dealing with headwind in my early days of cycling and thought, how bad can wind be?  For a runner, wind can be a bit of a nuance but nothing that I’ve ever worried about.  Turns out, wind is a HUGE deal when it comes to cycling.  I experienced it this past weekend when I did a long training ride in Galveston, covering the straight path along the sea wall (with nothing to block the wind) in Galveston.

The forecast called for 14-15mph winds to the west, which meant tailwind out and headwind back.  My plan was to go at a comfortable pace heading out, knowing that I would need to save energy for the second half when we would face headwind.  I felt pretty good heading out and was riding with an average around 18mph.  The course was relatively flat and the tailwind was pushing us along.  Thoughts at this point were, “Whee, this is fun!” and, “Cycling is cool!”

IMG_20130914_140644I also recently discovered that I could peddle while taking my right hand off the handlebars, and thus, was finally able to eat on the bike!  The day before the ride, I had a new Profile Design water bottle holder installed to my road bike handlebars and now could easily drink water from my AeroDrink bottle with its extended straw (thanks to Johnny Z at Powerhouse Racing in Pearland!).  Very exciting!

We’d ridden a little under 1.5 hours when we decided to turn around.  I immediately noticed how tough it was now to peddle and had to drop a few gears.  I knew my speed would slow down after the turn around but I had not anticipated exactly how much.  I didn’t know my exact speed (forgot my Garmin) but I could FEEL how slow it was.  My cadence was lower than it needed to be and I was on the third lowest gear.  Ugh.  I started to question how anybody could enjoy cycling and how stupid Ironman races were. Seriously. WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?!  Crazy people, that’s who!  Not knowing my current speed, I feared the worst and thought maybe signing up for Oilman Triathlon (FYI– I signed up for a half-Ironman distance race in November!) had been too ambitious and I was setting myself up for a DNF.  I was also running low on water and getting hungry.  Hmph.  We had planned on stopping at a gas station, but the gas station was still far far away (10 miles from our starting point) and I had dropped some of my food by accident.  *sigh*

I felt bad because I was clearly falling behind and Kevin had to pull into condo parking lots a couple of times and ride around to wait for me to catch up.  Sorry, Kevin!  My legs felt like bricks and I was frustrated with how slow I was going.  Trying to catch a break by cruising was NOT an option.  The second I stopped pedaling, my speed would drastically drop and then it was more work to try and bring it back up.  While the view from San Luis Bridge was lovely, riding the bridge was awful. The crosswinds were roaring and I could feel the wind trying to push me over.  I was nervous about taking a hand off the handlebars since I had to constantly adjust to fight the changing winds.

Eventually, we caught a break at the gas station, and while I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there, it wasn’t until we turned away from the sea wall that I discovered my legs actually still worked!  I furiously pedaled towards Moody Gardens, ready to be done with the ride!

It was only afterwards that I was able to appreciate the ride– we ended up averaging around 15mph and had completed 52.5 miles in under 3.5 hours.  This was a big PR for me and made me feel a lot more confident about both my upcoming Olympic race as well as Oilman!  Perhaps we should have gone another 3.5 miles to hit the half-Ironman distance?  Kevin’s response was, “NO!” but that’s okay, we will next time.  🙂

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

I did it.  I rode my bike with the clipless pedals!  Well, I rode around a parking lot anyway.  True to the name, the Look Keo Easy pedals aren’t too difficult to get in and out of with a little practice.  Of course, this says nothing about smoothly stopping on the bike, haha.

Not gunna lie.  It was absolutely terrifying and it started off pretty awful.  I didn’t want to test it out until I was in a traffic-free area, so I walked a bit in my socks until I got to a decent sized space.  After standing around for awhile, I finally mustered up the courage to try it out.  Right foot clipped in.  Here we go! Push off.  Clip in left foot.  Okay, this isn’t bad, I’m still on the bike.  Now for unclipping.  Unclip right, lean right…LEAN RIGHT….shit, I’m going down.  I land on the ground to my left, my butt cushioning the fall.  Ouch.  That’s definitely going to bruise.  If it was unclear to anyone around me at the park that it was my first time using the clipless pedals, it should be clear now.  Not sure what I did wrong, but I pride aside, I pick myself up and try again.  Second time, I fall again, scratching the back of my right calf against the gears.  Ugh.  I’m already frustrated at this point because I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.  How hard is it to lean right!?  My heart is pounding out of my chest in anticipation of trying again.  Mouth dry, I take a few large gulps of water. Third attempt, my confidence is low and I go down before I even clip in my left foot.  *sigh*  I land on my right knee, breaking skin where my ugly scar is from my last fall.

Feeling defeated, I splash some water on my knee at the water fountain and sit down at the benches.  I have no idea what I’m doing wrong and I attempt to watch other people unclip.  It’s a hard to learn this way though since it’s hard to really see what’s going on from afar and I’m concerned my staring might come off as creepy.  Kristin does 2 more loops before she stops and comes over to me, immediately spotting the blood on my knee.  She instructs me to walk back to the lot with her and try again.  I reluctantly follow and after stalling for a bit, attempt it again. This time, a group of guys have gathered at a nearby picnic table.  Perfect! I was hoping for an audience.  As I’m unclipping and leaning, I start to fall left again, but this time, manage to unclip my left foot in time and catch myself.  Kristin then tells me that I’m falling because I’m putting all my weight on the left side because I’m unclipping when my right foot is at the top. She tells me to try again but to unclip when my right foot is at the bottom.  Hm.  This makes perfect sense to me and I wonder how this didn’t occur to me earlier.  Still incredibly nervous, I agree to try again.  Alas, it works!  My landing was a little rough with a few hops, but I didn’t fall!  I did it a few more times with Kristin’s supervision and then continued to practice on my own while she went to finish her ride.

We finished off the set with a 15-minute run (+1 extra minute because we’re overachievers), as scheduled.  I may not have gotten the 30-minute bike ride originally planned, but at least I did the run, haha.  I’m still not terribly confident with the clipless pedals so I’ll definitely practice again and in the meanwhile, I’ll do my rides on the trainer until I’m comfortable on the road.  Hopefully it won’t take too long!!

(FYI, I’m on 5.)

Easy pedals? I hope so.

You’ve heard the saying, “it’s just like riding a bike,” implying that if you’ve ever done something, you’re not going to forget how to do it again.  This phrase does not apply to me.  Hoping on the road bike was NOTHING like riding my little bike when I was 12 where my feet could touch the ground and I could back peddle to stop the bike.  That became very clear on my first test ride at Bicycle World when I realized I wasn’t sure how to stop the bike and jumped off with both feet in the air.

From the start, my relationship with my road bike was turbulent.  In the first couple of months, Connie flung me to the ground on, not one, but two occasions, resulting in stitches, 3 ER visits (it’s not as bad as it sounds), ugly scars (those are bad), and ridiculous medical bills. This lead me to conclude that my bike must be female because this seems like female behavior (kidding, but kinda true…).  And because I’m a fan of alliteration, I decided her name should be Connie– Connie, the Scott Contessa Speedster.   Most people would not stand for this sort of abuse, but I was stubborn and refused to let this deter me from my triathlon goals!  I proceeded cautiously and my rides have been relatively smooth since.

Look Keo Easy pedals

After nearly a year of owning my bike and completing 3 triathlons (2 sprints and 1 super sprint), I finally mustered the courage to install clipless pedals this past weekend.  While this may not be a big deal to many people, I am incredibly anxious. I’ve practiced clipping in and out on my trainer, but I am under no illusion that it’ll be just as easy.  Everyone tells me that falling is inevitable.  It’ll most likely be when I’m at a complete stop, so it’s not going to be some terrible fall, but it WILL be embarrassing and most likely in front of a large crowd of people.  Excellent. Given my past experience and scars, the idea of falling still terrifies me, but I guess I have to attempt it to overcome it!

Ouch

Everyone falls at some point in time, and for me, it happened to be on my first bike ride.  We convened on the north side of Memorial Park and rode to the south side to the Picnic Loop.  While this may not sound like a daunting task, riding on a street was terrifying for me!  I’ve been afraid of riding a bike on a street for as long as I can remember, much less on a borrowed road bike for the first time in over a decade (not counting the one time I tested out a bike in the parking lot of Bicycle World).

I practiced turning and stopping/starting, but by the time we reached the loop, the sky was quickly getting dark and we had to rely on the park street lamps to light our way.  Upon completing the first loop, I was instructed to take a right turn.  I was unprepared for this, and as my mind raced to determine how much I needed to slow down to turn or if I should just go straight, the turn quickly approached.  Before I knew it, the bike rebelled and ejected me, throwing me to the right!  BAD BIKE.  Just kidding.  I’m not sure what exactly happened– I think I half tried to turn and half tried to stop, and just ended up falling to the right side, and with my foot still in the pedal cage, I took a nasty fall, hitting the pavement and rolling into the dirt ditch. Ouch.

My friend that had been right behind me told me later that he saw my right knee turn white (as the top layer of skin had been scraped off) before gushing blood.  Awesome.  Both of my knees were scraped up, the palm of my hands, and my right knuckles.  A few of us jogged the 3/4 mile back to the cars while two guys walked the bikes back.   I was a bit embarrassed by my fall and perhaps I felt the need to prove myself or something, so I decided to finish the rest of the workout and run the loop, instead of going home to clean up my battle wounds.  On hindsight, it probably looked a little ridiculous, me running with blood dripping down my legs.  I cleaned off my legs around the 2 mile point, but by the time we finished the loop, there was blood going down my right leg again.

Gross, right?  Ah well, these things happen and I have every intention of mastering that bike once my hands heal!  The group is training for a sprint tri in July but I’ll probably have to sit out on that one and find a later one to sign up for.  Minor setback.  Note to self: replace the cage pedals with platform pedals.

Bikes!

I’m shopping for a bike!  I would like to spend between $500-$800 on the bike alone.  I figure that should be enough for a decent entry-level bike.  I went to visit Bicycle World over the weekend and tested out a $800 51cm Giant and a $3,000 48cm Cervelo.  I learned that it can be painful if a bike is too high for me and that I need some practice getting on and off a bike.  And turning.  Lol.  Clearly, I am out of practice.

Ooooooohhh, so pretty! This would match my workout clothes. =)

Too bad this baby is $2,000 (2012 Specialized Ruby Compact)!

More financially realistically speaking, maybe the Trek Lexa (retail $729.99):

or a Specialized Tricross (retail $990.00), which I believe is more of a hybrid bike:

That all black looks nice right?? Well, I’m going to continue my search… got to make a trip to Bike Barn soon!