Milestones - my "first" 30 mile ride

Disclaimer: I wrote this post as a retrospective on my first 30 mile ride....only to realize after the fact that I actually rode 30 miles nonstop in August of 2016.  I even blogged about it.  Whoops!

Saturday’s 30-mile ride left me feeling conflicted.  It was a team ride, and my second time going to a Team Z ride this season.  We met in Harwood, Maryland, with people riding from between 17 and and 80 miles.

The good stuff:

30 clipped in miles! 

Tipping over and getting bloody last summer, but it was okay because Stacey took awesome care of me.

Tipping over and getting bloody last summer, but it was okay because Stacey took awesome care of me.

I’ve never ridden a nonstop 30 miles while clipped in before.  The closest I’ve gotten was last summer when I rode with Stacey’s group ride, then she and I went out on the W&OD for a few more miles.  That was also the time I forgot to clip out, fell over, stood up, and almost passed out.  Interestingly, that incident was the start of my adventure with doctors, finally landing on the POTS diagnosis.  This ride on Saturday was much hillier than I was expecting.  I’ve never been a strong climber, and the decline in my strength and increase in my weight this past year has only made them harder.


I nailed my sodium

POTS means I have to take in a large amount of sodium so that my blood volume is high enough for me to remain conscious.  I tested out some Skratch Hyper Hydration before loading up the car.  It has 1700mg of sodium in a single serving, and it’s basically like drinking palatable saline.  I took on another 500mg of sodium during my 2.5 hour ride, and arrived back without any dizzy spells, and I wasn’t crusted over with salt like I usually am.

I hydrated on the go

This one is huge!  I’m anxious on the bike, often getting numb hands and neck pain because I have such a death grip on the handlebars.  Coach Ed suggested I switch over to a hydration pack rather than trying to reach for bottles.  Even grabbing for the straw made me nervous sometimes, but I managed it, and even got more confident as the ride went on.  I’ll definitely be wearing my pack at Rev3 Williamsburg next month.  Such a game changer until my balance improves.

The rough stuff:

I am agonizingly slow

I kept falling so far behind my group that I couldn’t see anyone, and my planned Z2 ride wound up being more of an extended Z4 effort.  It was kind of heartbreaking.  I’d finally catch up to my group at a stop sign, and I’d only have a moment to catch my breath before they were ready to set off again.  I’m sure if I’d spoken up, they would have been more than willing to wait longer to let me rest, but I was too embarrassed.  How ridiculous is that.  My Z4 was 12 mph, by the way.  I know speed shouldn’t matter, and this should all be for fun, and now this is a place to grow from…. but man.  It really hurts to have a hilly race pace of 12 mph.  I didn’t realize that was possible.

30 miles was too much

I had originally planned to do 25 miles, but no one else on the team seemed to be doing that distance, and I didn’t want to be alone.  Instead I did the 30 and wound up being mostly alone anyway.  Cue the pity party.  To be clear, I was never dropped.  The girls always waited and were nothing but encouraging when I did catch up.  I just went to a negative headspace couldn’t get myself out of it.

Not enough calories

While I think I took in plenty of nutrition during the ride itself and recovered properly, I didn’t eat breakfast.  That hasn’t been a problem in the past, but I guess 30 miles at that effort burns a lot more than 15 miles at an easy pace, huh?  The aftermath of getting behind on calories and the effort caught up with me the next day.  I slept almost the entire day, missing my planned long run.  As J pointed out, instead of a long workout, I basically did an unplanned and under fueled bike race. 

Handling mishaps

I got sloppy during the back half of the ride.  This was evidenced by increasingly rough stops, culminating in a clip-out-left-lean-right-catch-self-with-a-stem-to-the-abdomen.  Ouch.  I also had some trouble getting up to speed after stops in the last five 10 miles, resulting in one instance where I zig zagged across the road and got rather close to an oncoming car.  Whoops.  Fortunately, I returned to the ride start with a bit of wounded pride, but nothing worse.


So, there we go.  Am I happy?  Yes.  I got out there, got it done, and next time will be better.  Onward!

All smiles, because what else is there to do on a day you get to play outside?

All smiles, because what else is there to do on a day you get to play outside?

A Walk in the Woods

Recently I renewed my previous obsession with reading Appalachian Trail thru hiker memoirs.  Inspired, I decided it was time to step way outside of my comfort zone and do a bit of trail running.  Yesterday, after work, I logged just shy of 2.5 miles on the trails.  The terrain was a surprise, my shoes were completely wrong, and I had a great time.

The Potomac River.  These are just the mini falls.  Great Falls is further past where I went

The Potomac River.  These are just the mini falls.  Great Falls is further past where I went

There are several short trails at Riverbend Park, and I decided to try out the Heritage Trail for my first go.  According to the map, it followed the Potomac pretty closely, so I figured it would be fairly flat.  While that turned out to be true, I was totally taken by surprise by the surface I was running on.  I’m a suburban girl, through and through.  My usual bike trail is a paved rail conversion.  One time I thought I saw a snake, but once I got closer it turned out to be a bit of black garden hose.  Imagine my shock when the small rocks and packed dirt I was running on suddenly turned into a narrow passage of tree roots and pointed rocks that came up to my knees.  I slowed to a walk, used my hands at times to get over the largest rocks, and kept my eyes peeled for the next green blaze marking the trail.

This gap is just wide enough for my foot, and then the trail heads sharply down

This gap is just wide enough for my foot, and then the trail heads sharply down

Speaking of those pointed rocks...ouch!  I love my Vivobarefoot Stealth shoes.  They’re soft as slippers and have incredible ground feel, but that also means you can feel everything.  And not in a cool, “wow, I can feel every tree root and adjust my stride accordingly on the fly” way.  More of an “yeouch, that was a super sharp rock and I think my ankle is going to collapse at any moment” kind of way.  In the first few minutes of my run, I considered heading right back to the car, thinking I really didn’t want to deal with being jabbed in the foot every few seconds.  Then the surface suddenly changed into packed dirt, and it was smooth sailing for a bit, and I was starting to have fun.

Such Fun!!

Such Fun!!

I never thought I was going to be a trail fan. Bugs are gross, I’m scared of snakes, and I just didn’t see what the big deal was.  2.5 miles on a flat and easy trail, and I’m ready for more.  I liked running somewhere new.  The trees were so nice, and there was no exhaust or traffic noise.  Best of all, I just ran.  No constant watch checking, too busy with watching my footing to get caught up in the noise of my head, and the scenery was gorgeous.  Just me and nature.  I never would have thought it.  Get me some trail shoes, show me the way to the parks, and let’s get out there and breathe some real fresh air!

Race Expectations: Reston Triathlon

Tomorrow's the big day.  First Olympic distance!  Race nerves are in full swing already; this is the first time I’ve gotten them this early.  My brain is going wild - one second I'm second guessing my training, the next I'm convinced that I’m injured, and the next everything is perfectly fine.

As has been the case all season, setting goals is tough.  The first time doing a new distance means I have no idea what to expect.  I have a few ideas of how I want my day to go, so I’m using them as my guide.

  • Swim Smooth

    • I don’t want to push, but just enjoy the swim and get nice and warmed up for the rest of the race

  • Ride Smart

    • I need to ride my own race, and not get overly excited by the speedsters on the course.

  • Run Strong

    • Ease into the first few miles, then really bring it home hard.  No point in leaving anything out on the course!

  • Smile!

    • Don’t compare my performance to others, and just get out and PLAY.  Have FUN!

  • Goal Times – I have no idea how reasonable these times are, but they’re in my head, so they’re getting written down.  

    • Outstanding –  < 3:25:00

    • Exceeds Expectations – 3:30:00

    • Acceptable – 3:45:00

    • Poor -  4:00:00

    • Dreadful – > 4:15:00 (anything longer than this and they close the course)

    • Troll – DNF

Everything is all laid out and ready.

Everything is all laid out and ready.

I’m buzzing with nervous energy right now.  This last year has been all about building my fitness, and I’m stoked to let it rip and see what my hard work can produce.  Almost go time!

Anyone else is racing this weekend?


Some Bike Milestones

You wouldn’t know if for what little training has been going on in my life the last couple weeks, but this month I’ve had some good cycling milestones.  Giving some thought to these milestones is just what I need right now.  After admitting to myself that I was feeling exceptionally blah, I thought that would be the kick start I needed to get back into the swing of things.  It wasn’t, and I actually spent four days last week doing absolutely nothing, save a bit of senseless crying.  Now I’m trying to head into the next two weeks before Reston with a renewed sense of vigor.  You know what goes really well with vigor?  Self-congratulatory reminiscing about bike stuff!  In the last month I had a bike birthday, the longest ride ever, and my first puncture.

Last August I bought a used Linus Dutchi 8 from a friend.  It was meant to be my safe and friendly introduction back into riding.  Swoopy and upright, with an internal hub and fitted for all my grocery getting needs, I named her Peggy, and she came through like a champ.  I remember being scared going downhill the first time, riding the brakes the entire way down.  I remember riding to the top of “the hill” and feeling like I’d conquered Everest.  Best of all, I remember how great it was when I really started enjoying my time on the bike.  I’m an anxious and nervous person, and being on a bike made me feel wobbly, out of control, and like I had a target on my back.  Lots of times I still feel that way on my road bike.  But one day, on Peggy, I realized I felt good.  No big deal, just me and my bike, out doing bike things.  While I haven’t put nearly as many miles in as I thought I would, I still look forward to spending time with my swoopy steed.  Happy Birthday, Peggy!

Dutch bikes are wonderful, but they aren’t going to get you far on the bike leg of a triathlon, so most of my time this year has been on my road bike.  Given my anxiety and wobbliness, it should come as no surprise that during the week I get most of my rides in on the trainer.  On the weekends, in the early morning when the sun is just coming up and the traffic is light, I hit the roads.  Earlier this month, I got in my longest ride ever: 30 miles!  In addition to this being a milestone ride, it also helped me get the monkey off my back with regard to covering the race distance, since I added in a 3 mile run to make it a brick workout.  I started out in a bad place for that ride, with some saddle pain less than an hour in, and aching shoulders for the last eight miles.  By the time I hit the red caboose in Herndon, I was feeling better, and I was in a more mentally positive place on the way home.  As I cruised into the apartment complex, I realized I had gone 29.8 miles, so naturally I did a quick loop around the complex to bring home in 30.

I've been working all year toward this picture!

I've been working all year toward this picture!

I had no idea when I finished up my milestone ride that I had picked up another– my first flat tire.  It had to have been a slow leak, as all systems were go as I parked that day.  My bike leaned against the dining table for the next two days, and it wasn’t until Tuesday night that I realized the front wheel was completely flat.  A quick inspection, and I discovered a teeny little sharp piece of rock wedged into the tire.  Thank goodness I got to practice changing the puncture at home instead of on the side of the road.  After a bit of back and forth online with people who know way more than me, it was determined that I needed a new tire, since the rock had sliced all the way through.  With my race just a few weeks away, did I really want to have the added anxiety of riding on a patched tire?  No, no I did not.

This is my confident face. &nbsp;No, really.

This is my confident face.  No, really.

That’s when the mechanical shenanigans really got going.  With the replacement in hand, I settled down to get the tube changed and put the new tire on.  Friday night done right!  I am in complete awe of the people on youtube who can zip through a tire change in a couple minutes.  It took me quite a bit of time to muscle the tire off the rim.  And getting the tire back on after the tube is replaced?  Maybe practice makes perfect, but if that’s the case, I’m really good at swearing now.  So there I was, finally ready to pump up the tire.  I was getting some weird hard and soft spots, and then the tire popped off the rim.  Turned out that the tube had some kind of defect, with spots that ballooned up and others that wouldn’t inflate.  No worries, I had another spare tube…

Except I didn’t.  Well, I did, but it didn’t last.  J decided he wanted to give the tube changing a go.  He likes to mess with stuff like that, and I was crazy busy playing Sudoku on my phone.  Anyway, long story short, pinch flat and blowout.  Whoops!  A few hiccups and missteps, but before long I was the proud owner of 5 properly sized inner tubes.  Installation went well, the new tire was put on, and finally (finally!) I was good to go.

Which bring us to today.  August is almost over, and I feel like I’m walking around in a fog.  Sometimes each day can be a bit of a struggle.  You take things one day at a time, and suddenly its 10 weeks later and you don’t really know where the time went.  I’m going through a rough patch right now, so it’s nice to be able to put together some thoughts about things that are going right.  Not that a puncture is ever right, but I’m excited to celebrate every single milestone available to me.  One day I’m going to look back at this and laugh, because 30 miles will be a quick ride, and changing a flat will be easy!

Sunburn, Sand & Smiles: My 1st Open Water Swim

I’ve talked before about how hard it is to find open water swimming in my area.  Seems like you either have to drive quite a ways, pay a decent chunk of change, or both.  Just to get a feel for open water?  Really?  I knew I didn’t want my first time to be race day at Reston in September, so I signed up for HarborFest.  Even still, I really wanted the opportunity to swim in calm open water by myself before I had to do it with loads of others around me.  I talked with my parents about it a bit, and we hatched a plan.

As a side note, we paid for both our parking and our beach fees at the entrance gate. I believe it was $4 to park and $3 per person for the beach. We could have paid our beach fees at the snack shack on the beach. However, no one ever asked to see our payment bracelets, and no one else on the beach seemed to be wearing them. I’m thinking you could totally get away without actually paying the beach fee. I want to be really clear that I’m not actually advocating that, as State Parks need the revenue generated by these fees to run.

On Thursday Mom & I both took the day off work.  (Dad the new retiree didn’t need to make such plans!)  We headed down to Lake Anna State Park, and for a nominal set of parking and beach fees, we had ourselves some lifeguarded water, a strip of sand, and a pretty fun day.  Lake Anna is great for families, and there were plenty of kiddos with all kinds of floaties and toys in the water.  I was the only one sporting a tri kit and swim cap, that’s for sure!  The lifeguarded area includes two buoy lines.  The first indicates where no floats are allowed past, and the second indicates where the guarded section ends.  The area between the two lines was virtually empty, so after verifying the rules with the guards, I knew my plan was going to be to swim along the second buoy line.  The water there started about chest deep, but dropped off to over my head rather quickly.  We unpacked the car, set up our umbrella and chairs, and I left my parents behind to face the water.  As my dad later commented, it was a classic day at the beach, because the kids always spend more time in the water than the parents.  Nice to know that holds true 30+ years after my first beach trip.

On the subject of beaches, I have played in open water before, just not tried to really swim anywhere.  I have been in the Santa Rosa Sound and Gulf of Mexico in Florida, along with the Atlantic Ocean at various points along the East Coast.  I had also been reading a lot about open water swimming, and understood that lakes in particular are often dark and hard to see in. Standing on the sand, the water looked light and clear.  Nothing prepared me for being underwater at Lake Anna.  Once you get in, the water is sort of light brown.  You can see your arm in front of you, and then some swirling beneath you, but that’s about it.  Quite the change from my usual black line on the bottom of the pool!

So much bigger than I imagined it would be. &nbsp;Open water sure

So much bigger than I imagined it would be.  Open water sure

The swimming itself was pretty fun!  The first few minutes were all kinds of awful, of course.  The hem of my tri top started to float up, and as I swam it sort of swished around me, like I was a washing machine agitator.  I don’t think I could size down in this top without extreme and uncomfortable compression, so I decided to just ignore it.  I believe the designers at Coeur were assuming I would either be wearing a wetsuit or swimskin.  Not this season!  Besides my wardrobe, I was initially freaking myself out with my own imagination.  Every swirling bit of shadow was the tentacle of some creature that was going to drag me down to the bottom!  Pro tip: don’t reread Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire before open water swimming.  Grindylows will occasionally eat humans! Fortunately, those crazy thoughts subsided after my first pass on the buoy line.  It took me about three minutes to swim the whole line.

I spent a lot of time just going back and forth along the buoy line, getting used to being somewhere besides my usual swimming safe zone.  At times jet skis or boats would go past further out in the lake, and the wakes they created would come through and bounce me around a bit.  I’m sure a real current is much more of a challenge to deal with!  The bobbing made me feel pretty nauseated, despite the fact that I had taken Dramamine and was wearing ear plugs.  Even just trying to swim faster, with a stronger body rotation, made the nausea come on stronger.  Of course, I am the girl who got motion sick learning flip turns, so none of this is a surprise.  I think the jet skis and boats were also responsible for another phenomenon I discovered: a faint petrol taste that I would occasionally get.  Blech!

After about 30 minutes, I swam in and spent some time with my family on the beach.  Can I say again how lucky I am to have such a supportive family?  It really can’t be said enough.  After lunch and some relaxing, I headed out for another swim.  This time I was joined by my dad, and we bobbed around for a bit, enjoying the water.  We also played around with goggles.  Despite having experienced leaking with my R1s, I brought them anyway, just to see how they fared.  Oh, man!  I am SO disappointed that they don’t fit my face.  My other goggles are my Vanquishers, and it was like night and day comparing them to the clarity of the R1s.  Sighting with the Vanquishers was an exercise in futility.  I had to pick my head up pretty far to get a glance, and everything seemed slightly blurry.  It was like looking through smudged glasses.  The R1s, on the other hand, were amazing!  My dad made a comment about RainX, because the water just came right off the lenses like you would not believe.  If you’re on the fence about trying out ROKA goggles, give them a go.  If they fit your face, you will be a very happy camper.

Such a great day. &nbsp;I can't wait to do it again!

Such a great day.  I can't wait to do it again!

My second thirty-minute swim went by quickly, and I was feeling more confident in the water.  That being said, I think it is really important to mention that at no point was I worrying about my stroke.  I may not be a fast swimmer, but I am confident.  Like everyone, my stroke could use some work, but I have no concerns about actually making forward progress or running out of endurance.  This, I believe, is vital for having a positive first open water experience.  There is so much new stuff going on when you’re in open water for the first time.  Irrational anxiety and fear, visibility, sighting, equipment, and environment are all things your brain is occupied with.  Actual swimming shouldn’t be something you need to think about.  Rather, your stroke should be on full muscular auto pilot!

I am so grateful that I had a good first open water swimming experience.  The only blemish on the day was the rather spectacular sunburn I picked up on my back.  Despite multiple liberal applications of a supposedly waterproof spf 50, my shoulder blades and back of my arms are quite red.  Clearly I need a better sunscreen.  Even still, that was just another lesson to learn before race day.  Speaking of race day, I’m really looking forward to HarborFest.  I know I can swim, and now I know I can swim in open water.  Yes, HarborFest is going to have a current, not to mention crowds of other swimmers.  Good things happen when you leave your comfort zone. I say, bring it on!