Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here we go again!

This Saturday begins my official 16 week training plan for the triathlon and I'm more than a little nervous. The plan says that I should be at a base level of fitness, which it defines as 30 - 45 minutes of running, biking, or swimming each day. I'm a little behind on the swimming but the other two are pretty good. It's going to take some major schedule Tetris to fit in the increasingly longer workout sessions during the week but I will figure it out somehow.

Last weekend I ran a 5 mile race through Valley Forge. It was a beautful run but let's just say that if General Washington were counting on me to outrun the British, we'd all be going to the "loo" instead of the crapper. Boy those were some hills! To motivate myself I chose a man who was running just slightly ahead of me on the trail. He was a good bit heavier than I so I could easily pass him. I'd run ahead of him for a while and then let myself walk. When he caught up to me I'd run again. This did not turn out to be such a good strategy. First, it felt a little mean. But more importantly, that bastard never stopped running and those walking breaks of mine got shorter and shorter until he finally passed me for good and probably beat me by a good 5 minutes! I suppose I have learned a lesson here.

This weekend I am supposed to start the plan out with a "nice and easy" 30 minute run, which I will do on Sunday, except that I'm doing it in the middle of the Broad Street 10 mile run. I figure I can get a whole month of runs in on one day and then just skip that part of the plan (kidding!).

I have learned something about how the body adjusts to a fitness plan. I thought that by mixing up my running with swimming and biking that would be enough to keep from hitting a plateau. Turns out the body can even adapt to that kind of rotating schedule. I know this because a year after starting out with running I am still running at basically the same pace and fatigue at about the same time. So it is not enough to just mix up the TYPE of exercise, but within each type I have to find ways to mix it up. This plan has me doing all sorts of new drills in the water and on the road. I'm hoping that will push me to a new place. Why is it that my body is so damned adaptable to fitness but I have to take a sweater off and on a thousand times if I'm in a hotel or mall?

So Happy Spring and here's to your big "fish" - go get them!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Caution: Crisis of Faith Ahead

What the hell was I thinking?!! A triathlon? I'm no athlete, this is crazy!! I am never going to be able to finish it and I'll be laughed out of New Jersey (and that takes some doing, have you SEEN Jersey Shore?).

OK, let's back up a bit. Yesterday was my first day of commuting to work on my bicycle. To be exact, I took the train into the city, then rode to the bike trail, took the trail into the neighborhood where I work, rode the mile straight uphill to the street where my office is and then on to the office another half mile away.

The ride was beautiful. I loved it so much I bought a train pass and scheduled in the next few times I can do it again. The ride along the Schuykill river was flat, smooth and populated with runners and bikers, I felt like I had entered a foreign country.

So why the crisis? The last leg of the commute is a long, long steady hill. I thought I would have to walk it but it turned out that I was able to put the bike in "Granny Gear" and pedal my way all the way to the top. I was thrilled. I felt great when I got to work, a little sweaty but energized and proud of my accomplishment. After I got changed I sat down to look up the mileage of the ride.

IT WAS ONLY 8 MILES!!!! The triathlon is 17 and is preceeded by a swim and followed with a run! With no scone break in between! How on earth am I going to manage that? So, I started thinking back to when I started training for the 5K. I'm still no speed demon and may never actually place in a race, but I have never finished dead last and have never been laughed off a course. I start my training plan for the tri next month. These past few months have just been about getting a base level of fitness so the training doesn't do me in. And I know that, just like that couch to 5K training, I will be amazed at my progress as we get closer to the race.

Still, I anticipate a few more panic attacks before this thing is over.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking the bike on the road

In the spirit of this blog and of my comittment to doing things that frighten me, I decided it was finally time today to take my beautiful new bike out on the road. Oh, and, they probably won't let me do my miles for the triathlon sitting on a trainer.

I used to be a bike commuter in Seattle but biking in Southern New Jersey is not for the timid! First of all, there are very few designated bike lanes, none on my route to church today. If you are fortunate enough to be on a road with a shoulder (or "right-hand passing lane" as they seem to be known as here), you will find it riddled with potholes from this winter's madness. These are not your ordinary potholes either, they are more like caverns, many shaped exactly like the imprint of say, a bicycle tire. In the nicer neighborhoods the potholes have been filled but all the loose, spare gravel has been swept into the shoulder. Here is where I would like to point out that road bikes do NOT handle entirely like mountain bikes.

Still, it being Easter, and a time for new beginnings, I strapped on the helmet, shoved my church clothes into a little backpack and took to the roads. I used Google Bike Maps in the hopes of finding a way to avoid Route 70, a monstrosity of a highway that cuts right through a neighborhood, making most streets around it unusable as through streets. Of course there is no bike lane on this road and the sidewalks (Yes, I rode on them. I'll stay off your sidewalks when you make your streets safe for me to ride on!) are covered with broken glass in lots of areas. None of this stopped me.

It took some time to master getting my foot into the toe cage while I was moving, this is much easier on the trainer and I did take a spill that I couldn't avoid because my foot was caught in said toe cage. I was shaken up, wobbly knees and all, but a quick assessment told me that I was just dusty, not injured and only half way there.

On the way home I decided to ignore Google and take a route that would avoid Route 70 the whole way. It meant sharing some narrow but busy neighborhood streets with cars but I guess they were patient given the spirit of the day. I managed to get lost for a bit but the weather was great, I had no place particular to be so I just enjoyed the ride. And when I wasn't cursing at the potholes or panicking over the gravel I felt terrific. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to feel wind on your face as you ride and hear the sounds of the outdoors instead of the morning news.

Tuesday I plan to ride in to work. It's an hour bike ride (will take me more than that) plus a train ride, and includes a pretty healthy incline but I'm looking forward to it and hope to make it a regular part of my commuting at least once a week.

Happy Easter! What new thing will you try today?