Thursday, September 29, 2011

My writing

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the heavy-handedness of my writing.

TNT: We're In This Together

It is possible that this post is filled with every teamwork cliche in the book (with the exception of "giving it 110%". I give 100% exactly, 110 is right out.) And, like anyone who writes a story chock-full of cliches but low on substance, I still hope you bear with me to the end.

Team in Training is about more than "just" helping people with cancer. It's also about being a part of a team that, for better or for worse, spends every Saturday morning (sometimes spilling into Saturday afternoon) for 3-4 months together, gritting it out on the road or on the trails. And, while it can be easy to focus on one's own goals (complete a sub-6 century!), it's important to remember the 13 to 50 other members of the team, each with their own goals and motivation.

Which brings me to Deirdre. You can read her story here. What's important about it is not just the fact that she is honoring her father, a lymphoma survivor, but that she also had her own trials and struggles in life, in training, and, ultimately, in the event.

This summer, the cycling team--for which I proudly mentored--did two events: America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride, around Lake Tahoe, and The Fletcher Flyer Century, outside of Asheville, NC. I rode with the small but indomitable Fletcher team the same day the rest of our riders gutted out a cold, rainy ride out west. I rode with the cyclists that I typically rode with during training, for the most part. I couldn't tell you a thing about anyone's ride besides mine and, to an extent, the others I was with. During the event, and I'm speaking only for myself here, I was in a total bubble, relatively unaware of what others were experiencing (Fletcher was a personal hell for me). The day before, we'd heard that some of the Tahoe team's bikes had been damaged or roughed up to varying extents during transport, but it would be several hours after our finish before reports on their ride would start trickling in.

And what stories there were! No sun until the lunch. Rain, drizzly rain, overcast skies and temperatures in the 40s were the order of the day. Besides anecdotes (Debbie wrecked her thumb! Helen gashed her forehead! Deirdre fell! Val almost went over a ravine!), we didn't know what really had gone down out there. I was focused on my own personal misery after the Fletcher ride, so I was tuned out to the rest of the world. I had completely forgotten the nature of the team that we had forged through the snow and rain in February, the windy days of March and April, and the scorchingly hot, early summer of May.  I forgot that everyone else had their own ride and they weren't all necessarily as bad (or as good) as mine.

Today, I learned someone else's story. I learned about Deirdre's ride. I knew she had fallen, but I didn't realize the emotional journey of her ride. I didn't realize how badly she'd been beaten up. I had seen, first-hand, her determination and game-winning attitude during training rides and I am unsurprised about how she faced her trials on event day undaunted, with that same determination and can-do spirit. This lady is not a quitter, she will not be held back. Deirdre is what Team in Training is about. Thank, you, Deirdre, for reminding me to break out of my bubble and think about my brothers and sisters on the team.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Urban Cyclist Learns Rule #5 (sort of)

The Velominati keep the rules. I am learning Rule #5 the hard way. Not exactly, lemme 'splain.

I am currently at school, in the middle of extreme productivity on the academics front. It is about twenty-to-six, and it is going to start getting dark in a little while. The dilemma: do I keep working so as not to interrupt the productive juices, or do I ride home now, while it's still light, recognizing that I likely won't do any work again until tomorrow when I get back to school at the earliest. Friends who know me well will immediately understand the problem: motivation and work ethic.

Allow me to spell it out: I don't work at home, unless I absolutely have to. Home is full of fluffy distractions, television, and food. Additionally, there's no guarantee that I will be flush with motivation tomorrow upon arriving back at school to pick up where I left off (in fact, my motivation at this present moment makes any tomorrow less likely: contact your bookie).

But, were I to finish this task, it will be after sundown. I will have to ride home in the dark (really, duskish twilight). I don't like it. I have lights, but not great ones. I have ridden later than this and, while it's not my favorite thing, it's not entirely unsafe and it is doable. I just don't prefer it.

Thus, this Urban Cyclist has come face-to-face with the urban cycling truth: it is sometimes inconvenient. Anyone who commutes by bicycle has come across this at some point, and it's not always productivity that gets in the way. Sometimes it's bad weather, sometimes it's being held up by others or eleventh-hour demands, sometimes it's traffic (but, honestly, what cyclist doesn't know how to avoid that?)

Your Urban Cyclist now has to weigh productivity and being that much closer to her degree (and present laziness, truth be told) with the comfort of riding the bike before dusk. Harden up, chick.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Two Weekends' Worth

Saturday, 17 September

Last Saturday, G and I took off to the Great White North -- Cartersville, GA. We joined a number of former TEAMmates (along with the IronTeam and Tucson Team) at the Beautiful Backroads Century. G knew that TNT and Six Gap alum J would be there, so they happily rode off together. I rode primarily with D (who, I swear, I've ridden this with before a number of times in training), and we eventually were able to keep up with L and C, as well. I say "we", but really it was me. I was dead the whole day. D was riding the full century, while the rest of us were doing the metric option (really, 68 miles). We got to the SAG stops as they were being closed, due to my pokiness and our starting late (but really, not THAT late, I thought).

My legs finally showed up at mile 60. That is 60 miles of good company and conversation mixed with guilt and frustration.

Maximum speed: 32.8 mph
Average speed: 14.4 mph
Distance: 67.13 mi
Time: 4.41.38

Clearly, NOT the PR I'd been hoping for. My one consolation is that it was faster than last year. I haven't heard from D since then -- I hope he didn't really end up in Florida, afterall.


Kirkwood Sunday Ride - Sunday, 25 September

Yesterday was the Six Gap Century Ride up in Dahlonega, GA. We didn't go. We had toyed with it earlier this season, and I had considered it even more recently.  But, we didn't go. We did the KSR out to Stone Mountain with a small group of riders. When we got to the ride start and I saw four men, I immediately recognized that I would be riding alone, a small "B" group, if you will. (The beauty of riding alone is that, really, I could be whatever letter I feel like. The "M" group? Why not?! The "C" group? Sure thing!)

My legs felt like lead all weekend (I had done a swim/run brick Friday morning and ridden to/from school for the football game on Saturday), and were no better Sunday morning. We took off, and I resigned myself to riding my own, and not anyone else's, ride. I had the group in my sight for a while, but I kept telling myself not to push or struggle. I know the route, there are other people out along the roads, so there was really no need to try to keep up, besides pride. I think I was able to see them for as long as I did because of fortuitous timing of traffic lights and they were waiting for me to get in sight before taking off again. About 2 miles in (not far at all, really), I considered putting the hammer down, catching them, and begging off (I'd tweaked my back getting out of bed that morning, too, and turning my head made it hurt). But, I never could quite get that impetus or speed going to put in that sort of effort.

Around mile 4, at one of the turns, I saw that C had hung back to wait for me (which was very kind of him). I told him to go on, that I wasn't going to be close to a comfortable pace for him. He kept me company for a bit, anyway, until we got to College Ave, where G was waiting. He sent C on ahead and rode the rest of the way with me to the mountain, at my pathetic little pace.

Or was it?  At the mountain, I had been averaging 14.9 mph, which isn't great, but is still decent for how I felt.

The way back, my back felt better but the legs were still heavy. G stayed with me the whole time. This was outwardly bearable for him, because he rode a metric the day before in PTC with the Tucson team while I was at the game. The rest of the group had already disbanded by the time we got back.


Maximum speed: 32.4 mph
Average speed: 14.4 mph
Distance: 29.73 mi
Time: 2.02.41

To think that, just a few years ago, I would have to talk myself up to do a thirty-mile ride. I just wish I were *faster*. Maybe I need a bye week, but I like riding to school.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brookhaven ride -Thursday, 15 September

On the commute to school today my legs felt leaden from the very get-go. I had a hard time maintaining a pace or getting up to speed. I was grateful for an alternate route that got me around some of the hillier portions, but still had a struggle getting there. I was surprised, then, that my average wasn't too different from usual.

Tonight at Brookhaven, I expected to still feel jellied. Instead, I felt decidedly better, and rode with N and D for most of it. I thought it was a pretty spirited ride, though my average didn't remotely reflect that good feeling.


Maximum speed: 28.3 mph
Average speed: 14.7 mph
Distance: 15.12 mi
Time: 1.01.16

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nation's Tri to Benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - Sunday, 11 September

Whew! What a mouthful! This past Sunday I participated (I can't really call it "competing") in my second tri: an Olympic distance on the Mall in Washington, D.C. It. Was. Amazing. Due to extensive rainfall from the storms the previous week (parts of the beltline were still flooded and closed), the Potomac was too high and fast (and, I presume, sewage-filled) to safely allow people to swim in it. And, having seen the river in person, it was *really* fast. Thus, the swim was canceled and that, children, is how Nation's Tri became Nation's Duathlon, so to speak (the bike and run distances remained at 40k and 10k, respectively).

I had little problem staging my bike on Saturday, after which I was able to spend a glorious day with E, S, T, and new pal B. By glorious, I'm pretty sure we watched Airplane! and fell asleep. Sunday came, and I woke at 4:30a, ready to be picked up by S' coworker R, who was also in the race. We got there, staged our areas, and commenced waiting. My wave started between 7:55a and 8:30a, but once they started letting people into the TA, it went by pretty quickly. While waiting, I noticed two friends from Mendon in my corral, so we caught up. And then, we were off.

Official (my) Splits:

T1: 2.04

Maximum speed: unknown
Average speed: 19.6 (20.3) mph
Distance: 24.8 (25.23) mi
Time: 1.16.00 (1.14.28)

Average pace: 10.42 min/mi
Distance: 10k
Time: 1.06.08

T2: 1.41

Total time: 2.26.00

The transition area was HUGE and, not surprisingly, a total swampland because of so many feet and so much water. I'm OK with the slower transition times because of these facts -- I didn't bungle anything and did the best I could.

On the bike I was flying, and refused to look at the average speed for fear that it would get inside my head and that I would try to slow down to be ready for the ride. Instead, I hammered it out, transitioned, and forced myself to do 3-1 intervals on the run for the first mile or so. The purpose of the intervals was for me to keep my legs from cramping at the outset and to keep my side from getting a stitch. This strategy worked, and, after walk/running with C for a bit, I found my pace and ran for all but 1 minute of the second half. I felt positively great.

It was amazing to see so many people out there, and to have a (apparently enviably) large group of supporters. I had a great time, and would totally do it again, even if it means getting a mouthful of Potomac (blech).

Finished the morning off with a deeee-licious chocolate shake and a lengthy nap. All told, a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kirkwood Sunday Ride - Sunday, 4 September

I don't have much to say about this ride, except that I was flying. I rode with J & A, and for the most part we kept the A group in sight. That is a feat. We lost them just outside of Stone Mountain because of a quick left-right turn (we didn't see them turn right), so we lost a few minutes straightening ourselves out. Even so, we were booking it. I don't have exact stats, unfortunately, because in straightening ourselves out, my phone rebooted. I only just realized now that, because of the improper shut down, I could have resumed the tracking (whoops).

Stats (all but distance based on first 9.57 mi, at reboot):
Maximum speed: 29.97 mph
Average speed: 16.2 mph
Distance: 35 mi
Time: ?

I'm pleased. I felt really strong on that ride (and on the commutes to/from school today), and it showed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Brookhaven (a week ago!) - Thursday, 25 August

Google has taken over the world. I say this because I'm not sure you're aware of it. How do I know this is the case? I can log in with my google ID and I can shop, upload this blog, go to G+, talk with my friends, and manage my email and calendar (not to mention search scholarly articles and browse books, etc) with that one login.

Benevolent... for now.

Anyway, last week I rode Brookhaven with the usual suspects. That, and the occasional commute to school, has been the entirety of my training for next weekend's Olympic-distance Nation's Tri in DC. I'll get to that later (what? I didn't even review the PTC sprint from two weeks ago? Who am I?) This urban cyclist has had a pretty good go of it in Brookhaven the last few weeks. Spurred on by an all-time PR at the PTC tri in the bike leg (19.6mph over 14 miles), I realized I have been lollygagging on these other rides. I push, but not hard. Without AK there, I have no one around my ability to compete with.... the front is too fast (though I do like to keep up with them, or try to, for as long as I can), and, with the Tahoe season over, fewer TNT riders are making it a regular thing.

Anyway, I had a good ride.

Maximum speed: 29.9 mph
Average speed: 15.7 mph
Distance: 20.16 mph
Time: 1.16.37

This was the 5th 100-mile week since Fletcher, which isn't bad. The current week will NOT see me hit 100 miles, though next week there is a slight chance (it would have to happen before Thursday). I love riding my bike, and I kind of hate having the car back, in that I use it as a crutch (I recognize this in myself) for getting around. I come up with all sorts of excuses (I'm going to run/swim at school, etc) and then don't even follow through on those. I really liked commuting so frequently (read: daily) this summer when I didn't have the car, and I'm going to make it a goal to get back to that point.