Looking Back on a Year of Tri Training

The other day, well actually yesterday to be more precise, I was lamenting the fact that I wanted to write a post but felt incredibly unmotivated to do so, even though I have quite a bit I would like to share with the world. My friends response, “You could just start writing it and not publish it yet, right?”

I did take his advice to heart, and decided to start writing…Twenty four hours later. And, in order for me to sit down and watch a football game (I cannot ignore the fact that Boston College is playing Notre Dame…Even if the TV is on mute because I cannot really stand the commentators–is it obvious I’m not a huge American Football fan?), I needed to do something. Hence why I’m writing now. (FYI, Boston College is not doing so well. And I don’t like the change in their uniforms since I last watched them play, which was over a year ago…I know, I’m a bad alumnus. Honestly, their football went downhill after Doug Flutey).

So, it’s been almost a year since I started training for my first “big triathlon”–or really, just a triathlon. And after recent runs/rides/swims, I cannot tell you the difference I feel from when I started. I’m not saying I was in bad shape before starting my training–I had just never followed a formal training plan, nor had a coach before guiding what I should be doing, and when I should be doing it. And to those of you who are just starting out training for something–whether it be a running race or biking race or triathlon or duathlon–when you first start out, how you feel you are doing may be discouraging because you can’t really see the progress you are making in the midst of training. But after you finish that race, or in my case, attempt to finish, and look back, your strength and growth as an athlete increases tremendously.

My favorite place to swim at dawn

Last October was the first time I had entered a pool in years. Swimming 100 yards felt like infinity. I choked on water, swam into the swimmer next to me. My form was horrible–I didn’t kick, my body sank as I swam, my arms crossed below my body with each stroke…I could go on and on about what I was doing wrong. Oh! And, I didn’t put my head under the water (which you need to do when swimming, just FYI if you don’t swim). When it was time to swim in a lake with fish–might I add, a cold lake–in a wetsuit–I was terrified. I won’t be redundant because I’ve written posts about my first experiences with OWS.

When I went to the pool last week, I felt like a completely different swimmer, and, truth be told, I am. Strokes come with ease–all of the “high elbow/head under water/kicking….” etc my coach told me–is there when I swim. 100 yards now is nothing, especially after spending the summer swimming in a lake , which as you know, I enjoy better than swimming in a pool. I no longer swim into other people, or swim into the wall, or feel like I’m drowning. Crazy! Although, I cannot say how I feel in a wetsuit, since the last time I was in one was Mooseman–which, I will dominate next year. Just you wait. I don’t give up that easily.

Off of Turkey Hill Road

As for biking, I cannot begin to tell you the change I’ve seen in my stamina and strength on a bike (road bike that is). And it’s an awesome feeling when you can see how much you have improved. The “time trial” I had before I started my training program last year I can do in half the amount of time  as it took me last year, if not more. And, it seems like nothing. All the dreaded hill work and hill repeats my coach had me do made a huge difference. I remember when I first rode up my “hilly route,”  I thought I was going to have a heart attack and die, or that my legs were going to turn into mush. Since then, those “hilly” routes have become standard rides  (i.e. all the “Hills” in my area, including Turkey Hill, Millan Hill, Academy Hill…My question of why there are so many hills in this area will be saved for another post), and yes, I can feel the burn, but they are no longer dreaded challenges that make my heart rate increase to above 200. Okay, my HR never went that high, but I felt like it did at the time. And, I’ve come to realize that slimming down/eating healthier does make a difference in your performance. But to feel the progress that has occurred in a year rocks (woohoo! Riding in 11 degree weather dressed like a crazy person last winter paid off!) Furthermore, after spending so much time on a bike, it’s funny when you actually drive past roads you’ve ridden on and think, “Dude, that’s the road I ride on!” Okay, so my navigational skills have not really improved over the past year and I still get lost easily, but I do know my way around country routes in Dutchess/ Columbia/ and Ulster Counties better than I would ever know if only driving. And, even though I always somewhat knew this, I’ve realized I love biking (I know, I know, you already know this after the number of bicycles I’ve purchased in the past year). Not only this, but I want to pursue bike racing come spring. Don’t worry though, I won’t be one of those anal, mean road racers. Maybe.

Along with the positive aspects of my training also comes many things I learnt–and continue to learn. I would not neccesarily call them mistakes, but rather things I did/did not do which definitely affected race performance–most of which I’ve addressed in prior posts. No one (person or athelete) is perfect. Some might think of that as a blessing, some might think of it as a flaw. I’ve chosen to think of it as a positive–and this not only applies to training but about life in general. Everyone can improve upon something; they can learn, and grow from experiences. How boring would life be if you knew everything, if you were perfect at every single thing you did? Yes, maybe life would be easier. But the growth you have throughout life is what makes it exciting. And, you never know what will happen tomorrow, which is one thing my job has taught me–never take anything for granted. Because it could be gone in an instant.

Well, Boston College still isn’t doing very well, which I blame on their uniforms. How can you beat a team like Notre Dame which has awesome gold-colored helmets? And, I’ll end this post by telling you that if you dedicate time, and work hard, and continue to train towards something even if you feel you aren’t progressing, as I mentioned above, in the end, you’ll succeed.

OH and, if you are in the Hudson Valley and need baked goods for a special occasion, contact Thea at Thea Sphere Sweets— not only is she amazingly sweet, but will bake custom cakes, cookies, cupcakes…You name it. To say her baking is simply food is an understatement. Her baking is an art.

Preparing for CX Race Number Two

I must admit that these past two days of 65 degree weather in November has definitely given me a more positive outlook on life after struggling with “what should I be doing with my life?” for the past couple weeks. I spent the past two days outside as long as I could–soaking up the sun which seems to lack in my nocturnal life–the dwindling sunlight does not help, either. Not that the lack of sunlight ever stopped me from running outside, but to spend time outside off the trainer in the fresh air (which I definitely do not get enough off–as my doctor said, I had a critical vitamin D deficiency. Well, duh, I work night shifts, run in the dark, and do most everything in the dark.)

Becker Hill, off of Turkey Hill Road

But these couple of days off have been incredible my rides have been awesome, and being in the fresh air definitely helped whatever bug I caught. Not only that, I realized that time spend on my bike whether it be my Giant CX bike, mountain bike, or beloved road bike, always puts me in a good mood. I might start the ride in not-the-best spirits (I know, me, in a bad mood? I think work is doing that to me) but then after climbing which I tend to do a  lot of, and long rides up through Columbia and Dutchess counties on county roads where you rarely pass cars, I can’t help but feel a grin across my face. Whether it be that, or the fact I am not freezing, or am getting my vitamin D…I simply don’t know. I do know, however, that I love biking. And that is something which (I hope) won’t change. There is no better feeling than finishing up a 55-60mile ride in 65 degree weather in the sun! I know those days won’t be here for very long, but I’ve been taking advantage of them as much as possible.

Who ever guesses where this is will get a free prize from me or, a free hug

On River Road, looking at the Catskills

So, my last cx race was cancelled a couple of weeks ago because of the odd snow storm that we got (which was slightly annoying, because I was very excited to attempt my cross skills again.) But, since I took a holiday this Sunday, I’ll be able to take part in the 21st West Hill Shop Cyclocross Race in Putney, VT. It will be more difficult than the last one I did in Saratoga Springs– this course has a “run up” –I’ve never done a run up or practiced a run up before in my life. But, hey, that’s what makes the sport fun!

courtesy of West Hill Shop Race Page

I’m not sure if I should be worried, terrified, excited, or all three about this race– I keep needing to remind myself: this is FUN. And you’ll never know how to do it until you actually do it! (that’s my motto at least). Below is a video from the race last year, and, I must admit, min 5:34 of the video slightly worries me…

After the race, which I hope to have all limbs attached by the end of it (bruises and scratches are okay as I always seem to have some sort of bruise or scratch on my legs anyhow),  I’ll be heading to New Hampshire to do some hiking! Ahh, to spend a weekend doing activities with I love is the best… (Get ready, J. N. for a fun-filled day with yours truly, if I am still alive….)

So get ready, Vermont (and I suppose New Hampshire). Molly G. and her not-the-best-cyclocross-skills-in-the-Northeast, will be coming to visit you shortly for some mud, run ups, obstacles, and all around fun, rockin’ her Overlook Jersey.

Thanks to Billy D. and everyone at the shop for making my cyclocross dreams come true.

And to leave you with a song that was stuck in my head on a recent mountain bike ride (you get another free hug if you can tell me which movie this is from):

When was the last crazy post written?

November 2011
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