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tri training: remembering i’m a beginner

photo (100)

I spotted these words of wisdom from my Runner’s World calendar on the way out the door for a bike ride.  A bike ride I was most likely dreading because to be honest…these bike rides really stress me out.  The shorter rides (30 miles and less) stress me out because I spend a fair amount of time riding in traffic, and I’m terrified of getting hit by a car.  Not because I don’t obey traffic laws, but because everyone here is in a hurry and people don’t necessarily pay attention to moving objects that are not cars.  For longer rides, I worry about my endurance and if I go far enough (40 miles or more), the hills on 9W really crush my soul.  No matter how much I chant, “You are strong, you can do this” while peddling up a hill, by the end I’m usually saying, “You are the worst and will never ever be good at this.”  That doesn’t exactly make you want to get out there and do it again.

Needless to say, I saw the above quote on my way out the door, and it really got me thinking.  The hardest part about triathlon training is that I’m a flat out beginner.  I’ve been swimming and biking since before I can remember, and clearly I’ve got the running part down.  However, I’ve never done the first two sports with any sort of race in mind and certainly haven’t done the distances I need to for the half Ironman.  The problem I’ve been having is that I’ve become quite well versed in running and training for a marathon.  I’m not perfect at it and certainly still have a lot to learn, but I’m far from a beginner.  I could probably go out and run the marathon distance any day of the week.  Twenty miles runs no longer scare me.  I know some will have me dragging my feet by the end, and others will end with a 7:00 mile.  Even though this knowledge and experience took years of running to gather, I somehow think I should be at that level with swimming and biking.  Clearly, that’s not how it works.

As I thought about it more, I need to remind myself that I wasn’t always good at running, nor did I always know what to expect.  Did I have any idea how to do a long run?  No.  Did I do fine in my first marathon?  Yes.  Did I figure it out eventually?  Yes.  Therefore, I’m trying to shift my thoughts in biking from “Why don’t you know everything?” to “This is knew, and you will learn.  Not everything will be great the first time, or every time.”

As the quote says, these long rides are big ordeals.  I get nervous.  I try to figure out when to eat.  I psych myself up for the hills.  I tell myself I won’t be hit by a car.  I wonder if the distance will win or if I’ll have gas left in the tank.  I celebrate each ride, although times the end has me thankful that the triathlon will be over in a few weeks, while others have me dreaming of how I could continue to improve.  The ups and downs – just like running.

Baker gave me a few tips (and a bento box!) recently, and I was excited to put them to use in my next long ride.  These tips included:

  • Eat small amounts throughout the bike – chew that food to mush.
  • Remember to drink.
  • Drop gears on the uphills so you don’t trash your legs, go hard on the downhills.
  • Push down on the pedals, but remember to pull up too – clip in pedals, of course.


These were mainly answers to some questions I had, such as “How do you eat on the bike??”, “How do you not let the hills crush your soul?”, and “What position should my feet be in on the pedals?”  Good information to know.

With these answers in mind and my need for a long, confidence boosting ride, I headed out on Friday morning.  I packed along with me:  A bottle of Gatorade (calories + electrolytes since I don’t really like to eat on the move), a bottle of water, a package of PowerBar energy chews, and a Clif Bar broken up into six pieces.  I also doused myself in sunscreen for skin protection, and the fact that I am collecting some awesome tan lines.

I wasn’t sure how far I was going to go – 50 miles?  56 to hit race distance?  More?  I got up to the GW Bridge without much stress (which is rare – usually I’m hating everything by the time I get there) and felt good as I made my way onto 9W.  I’d hit 10 miles before I even knew what happened, and I got the idea to ride for 60 miles.  Why not?  I had the time, Baker recommend just spending time on the bike…so here it is.  I ignored my pace while concentrating on keeping a solid effort, using the drop bars and changing gears with the rolling hills.  Another cyclist sat on my trail for a solid ten miles, which was annoying.  (There has to be some etiquette here, right?)  I took in some Clif Bar every now and then, and oddly enough chewing seemed to require a lot of energy.

Soon enough, I hit the state line (NJ/NY), which is about 19 miles out and is immediately followed by some downhills.  I usually spend the entire time thinking about how I’m going to have to ride back up the hills, but I tried to focus on not braking the entire way down (since I’m convinced I’ll hit a bump and fly over my handlebars).  I made it to Piermont where my tailgating buddy stopped off, then went through Nyack to Upper Nyack.  Uncharted territory.  I followed the signs for bikes on 9W, stopping once to figure out where in the world I was.  Since I only had a few miles to go (and the route was going up some hills that didn’t seem to end…and I’m a wimp), I rode my own path for a short time before heading back.  Back through Nyack (it’s so pretty along the water there…), back through Piermont.

The hills.  THE HILLS.  The hills.  The first one is short, but steep.  Getting up it sets my tone for the rest of the hills, so I told myself it didn’t matter how slow I went, just as long as I didn’t stop.  Nailed it.  The next one is long, but not as steep.  Drop the gears, keep pedaling.  Push pull push pull push pull push pull.  You can do it you can do it you can do it.  STATE LINE.  19 miles til home and one more giant hill.  Long, not too steep, but my tired are tired.  Gogogogogogogogogo.  Push pull push pull.  Push with the left only.  Push with the right only.  Push pull push pull push pull pedal pedal pedal.  Whew.  I’ve actually never been so proud of myself on a ride after making it up those hills and not once thinking about stopping.  It seems like a little thing, but it felt like a huge accomplishment.

I continued to ride along the rolling hills and realized how strong I felt – I’d continued to eat/drink throughout the ride, and I really felt so comfortable and not tired.  On some long rides, the fatigue really sets in and riding gets really hard.  The longest I’d ridden before this ride was 56 miles, and not only was it getting really tough near the end, but I was tired for days after.  This ride?  I felt so great and was surprised when the GW came up so quickly.  My Garmin (Forerunner 305) also only lasts for about 30-40 miles these days (oops…), and I feel a lot of pressure off when once I don’t have it tracking me.  I made it back across the GW and through the annoyance of traffic, back to my apartment.  And I felt great.

60 miles.  How did that happen?

I did a quick transition in my apartment – new shorts, visor, different shoes – and headed out for a brick run.  My legs felt like bricks (…) and like I was moving at a snail’s pace, even though my watch told me I was holding 8-8:10 pace.  I tried not to pay attention to pace and instead focused on effort.  The four miles seemed long, but manageable.

I know a long ride isn’t a “staple” like in the quote, and that I very much just had a great day.  But it’s one of the best rides I’ve had so far, which I attribute to adequately fueling/hydrating on the bike and a more relaxed, accepting mindset.  I’ve never ridden 60 miles before, and I was confident the entire time.  Or at least accepting of new experiences that may come my way.  I only stopped once for a couple minutes to figure out where I was at (and for traffic, of course) – probably my most continuous ride yet.  I’m not an expert cyclist, and clearly the triathlon will still be new to me, even on race.  My hope is that race day won’t be such an ordeal – I’ll be able to embrace it with the eyes of a beginner knowing that I can accomplish it, even if it’s not the prettiest or best executed race.

As for triathlon becoming a staple…well, that’s yet to be determined.


08 2014

review: pure protein bars

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you might realize that one of the issues I have while racing is the nutrition aspect.  I’ve tried gel after gel and spit out gel after gel.  When it comes to refueling after a workout, I basically…don’t.  I’ll rehydrate just fine, but often times I’m not all that inclined to eat the fuel that I need to properly refuel after a workout.  This half Ironman training has certainly thrown me for a loop, as I’m totally out of my element and listening to my body is hard when I don’t exactly know what it is saying.  Plus, what exactly is a long bike ride?  A long swim?  What do I need to eat before?  During?  After?

So many questions.

Luckily, Runner’s World reached out to me in July and asked if I would be interested in testing and reviewing Pure Protein bars.  Here’s their concept:

Power Your Purpose

Pure Protein® makes it easy to fuel your inner athlete with the perfect combination of high protein and great taste! Pure Protein® bars are an excellent choice for pre and post workouts or any time of day for a protein boost. Our high quality protein bars were made to:

·         Help Maintain Overall Health
·         Support Lean Muscle and Strength
·         Help Fuel Your Body

Our goal is to provide you with convenient and delicious protein products, giving you the strength to achieve your goals!

I’m not an expert in nutrition, but I do know that protein is important after long workouts to help repair your muscles.  One of the issues that I have after long workouts is that I’m not necessarily interested in eating right away.  I thought a protein bar might be a good way to solve this issue, as they tend to pack a lot of protein/calories into a small portion, so I could get myself to eat it even if I’m not all that hungry.


I was sent a month’s worth of bars in the flavors of Chocolate Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate Coconut, and Chocolate Peanut Butter.  My favorite flavor was by the Chocolate Salted Coconut, as my slightly dehydrated self probably enjoyed the slightly salty flavor without being overbearing.  Second favorite flavor was the Chocolate Peanut Butter because who doesn’t like chocolate and peanut butter?  I didn’t really care for the Dark Chocolate Coconut, probably because I don’t like dark chocolate or coconut…problem solved.  Outside of the outright flavor, the one thing I have to remind myself of in regards to protein bars is that they are not candy bars so I shouldn’t expect them to taste like one.  Protein bars/drinks tend to taste chalky to me, but these bars do a good job of hiding the chalky flavor.  They were a bit dense to eat, but as I said above, they pack a lot of protein and calories into a small amount of food, which I like.  (Eric tasted them as well, and he said that they were delicious.  Please note that the was fueling for a train ride, so they must pass the taste test if not used for recovery purposes!)

The winner.

As I mentioned above, I’m not a dietitian (although I do have a degree in dietetics!), so please don’t take this as outright advice.  I’ve heard that taking in 15-25 grams of protein after a hard (long) workout helps to repair the muscles, and these bars come in at about 19 grams.  Excellent.

One issue that some people have with protein bars is the rest of the nutrition profile, mainly having to do with their calories.  Some bars are really high in calories, which we don’t necessarily need.  I usually have to adjust calorie recommendations when reading about this, as most recommendations are based on a 150 pound man…which I am not.  However, a 200 calorie bar combined with some sort of rehydration sounds just about right to me, especially if the other choice is not really eating.

image Protein, ahoy!

Because I think it is important to mention, this is the ingredient list for the Chocolate Salted Caramel bar:

I don’t necessarily get worked up about a gigantic ingredient list (maybe I should?) because most of the nutrition created for endurance events has lengthy ingredient lists.  Processed?  Most definitely.  I don’t personally get upset about it, but just information for the masses to do what they wish.  My general outlook on things like this is “everything in moderation,” and I eat a generally healthy diet so I think I’m doing fine.  Someone who is more educated on this could chime in and that would be great, but I enjoyed utilizing the bars to get in some protein and calories after long workouts.

Now for the big question – how did it make me feel??  My long rides leave me feeling pretty tired, which is to be expected.  I’ve been eating the bars after my longer bike rides, and although I feel tired, my legs don’t feel trashed.  (Do long rides trash my legs?  Still not sure on that one!)  I did do a mid-distance ride on Thursday followed by a long ride on Friday, immediately followed by a Pure Protein bar.  My legs were a bit tired and cranky for my long run on Saturday, but they quickly loosened up once I hit the road.  Protein for the win?

Overall, if you’re looking for a something to help with your refueling needs, I recommend checking out the Pure Protein bar – the chocolate salted caramel was delicious, and the dense calories/protein definitely help if you have trouble getting down calories after a workout.  I’m still working on my nutrition/fueling issues, and I like how these bars can help.

What do you refuel with after a long workout or race?  Do you use protein bars/supplements?


I received a month’s worth of Pure Protein bars and compensation for this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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08 2014