Sunday, July 21, 2013

CompuTrainer = Awesome

About 6 weeks ago my trainer died.

*moment of silence*

If you know me, you know this was a very, very sad day.  Because I do A LOT of riding on my trainer and not just in the winter.  In fact I do pretty much all of my sessions other than my long rides on the trainer even when it's nice and sunny outside and the temps are a beautiful 80 degrees.


Well partly because there aren't a ton of great options around my house suitable for interval work (read: miles of uninterrupted roads with relatively low traffic) and also because it's too hilly where I live to get in a TRUE recovery ride (read: 75W or less).  But mostly I use the trainer so often because it's like the track for running - a place where you can get very repeatable results (read: conditions are always the same) and where you can just put your head down, close your eyes and GO!

So yes, when my trainer bit the dust a few weeks back, I was in mourning.  It was a Tacx and it basically had an electronic meltdown (read: there were sparks and I feared a house fire).  HOWEVER, once I got over my sadness (and dug out my old fluid trainer from the depths of our basement), I realized this was actually a great opportunity.  Because, you see, I've always REALLY wanted a CompuTrainer, but just could not justify getting a new trainer if I had a perfectly fine working one in my possession.


I immediately got in touch with the very awesome people of CompuTrainer and not too much after that, this showed up at my door step:

That was about 5 weeks ago.  I will say, it was love at first sight, but since then my love has only grown deeper.

Awesome things about the CompuTrainer (vs any other trainer on this planet):

1) There are SOOOO many options!  You can ride hundreds of different courses.  Or you can tell it how many watts you want to ride and that sucker will hold you to it (trust me, it cannot be swayed).  Or you can race your friends (haven't done that yet but it's only a matter of time) with the multi-rider option.  Or you can work on your pedal stroke with the spin scan.  It's really a very, very nice tool to help you improve your cycling in any number of ways.  So far I've done big gear work, high cadence work, ridden long intervals on a race course that I'm about to race on.  Really it doesn't get much better than that!

2) It was super easy to set up.  Really, even I could figure it out and I'm pretty much not smart in anything electronic or anything that requires tools.  No wait, it didn't even require any tools!  And look at this awesome cadence sensor - nothing to glue or tape to your bike, you simply place this "puck" under your pedal and it reads your cadence flawlessly!

The puck is the red thing sitting on the floor.  Pretty cool.
3) Being able to ride the course that you are about to race on is beyond awesome.  To me, this is truly one of the best features of the CompuTrainer.  On Saturday morning it was storming in Pittsburgh.  I had a long ride to do and any other day I would have been pretty darn sad that I was going to have to ride inside for over 5 hours.  However on THIS Saturday I was actually a bit giddy.  Why?  Because I was going to get to ride the Ironman Wisconsin course, a race I'm about to do in 7 weeks.  I have never done this race before and really had no idea what the bike course was like.  But guess what, now I definitely know!  (there are some stinker little hills in there, 'eh?)  What a huge benefit to be able to "see" the course before you even get to the race and be familiar with what you are about to face.  AND, there are now "real course" videos so that not only can you ride the course in terms of elevation changes but you can also SEE the real course on your computer/tv screen, as if you are really there!  I haven't gotten my hands on one of these real course videos yet, but they will be on my Christmas list for sure!

Of course there are a lot of other great benefits - if you don't already ride with power the CompuTrainer will obviously give you this feature (best tool to improve cycling in my opinion), I hear these babies last FOREVER (I think Jen Harrison has had her CompuTrainer for 10,000 years), they are actually very quiet while you are riding (making Oscar very happy when I'm riding at 5 in the morning)....  The list goes on and on.

So the moral of the story is - if you are in the market for a new trainer, I would HIGHLY recommend going with a CompuTrainer.  Heck, even if you AREN'T in the market, consider how much better a CompuTrainer would be than your current trainer (I really wish I would have got my hands on one earlier!)!!  And don't be surprised when it's snowing outside and you're actually kind of glad that you get to ride inside...  ;)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Muncie 70.3 Race Report

Awesome things about Muncie and it's 70.3:

1) Ball State University.  Nice little campus and lots of good places to eat surrounding it!  I think Oscar and I could definitely be converted Cardinal fans.  They are, after all, the "fiercest robin-sized bird."  #chirpchirp

2) The people.  I always say that the people in the south are the nicest around but the people of the midwest just might give them a run for their money! Muncie was such a nice community of awesome people, all of whom really seemed to support the race and welcome the athletes to their town.  Also, Oscar and I once again hit the homestay jackpot (you want an awesome homestay? stick with us) and really enjoyed staying with and getting to know James.  Plus, he got us started as BSU fans by getting us t-shirts.

3) The beauty of the area.  I'll admit, I'm a sucker for farmland.  Although I've done some really awesome big city races with big city finishes, the simplicity of a rural, countryside race is my absolute favorite.

I could ride on roads like this forever!
4) The race course itself.  Back to the beauty of the land - I was a fan of the course itself!  We swam in a beautiful reservoir and biked and ran through corn.  Lots of corn.  They totally shut down the roads and the volunteers were awesome.  Race day parking is about 10 steps away from transition.  The logistics of this race were a breathe of fresh air!

So yeah, I would highly recommend this race.  Muncie even brought out the nice weather for us!  The only thing I didn't totally love was that 16 mile stretch of road on the bike course that was a nice combo of chip and seal mixed with cracks in the road and a few potholes.  But hey, you can't have it all.  ;)

ANYWAY, going into this race, I was a bit nervous.  Having started with Tim and QT2 about 4 weeks ago and changing many things (like, oh, I don't methods, pacing plan, vastly different fueling plans, etc... HA!), everything felt like a bit of a wild card.  I certainly FELT good and ready and I very much trust Tim, but Muncie would be my first true test to see if I was on the right track.

Part of the new fueling plan involves pancakes.  I can definitely get on board with that!
Okay, onto the race.

Swim: 30:16

We were treated to yet another boiling hot wetsuit swim - the water temp was *just* under the legal 76 degrees at 75.6 degrees.  I felt like a hot lobster.  But it is what it is.

Tim and I have been doing some different things with my swimming so I was anxious to see how this would go.  I'm used to swimming a lot more and a lot harder in training than what I have been doing these past 3-4 weeks, but after years of doing that in training with little to no forward progress in my OWS times, it's time to try something different.  And although it might appear that yesterday wasn't any improvement (because I ALWAYS swim 30 minutes), I was hugely encouraged by the result and have a lot of confidence that with some more time and patience, Tim will get me there.  There IS hope for my swim!  

After just missing a small pack of girls (that went on to swim high 28), I spent the rest of the swim alone, trying desperately to bridge up to them.  It was not to be this race.  I came out of the water in 9th and excited to get on my bike (and REALLY excited to get my wetsuit off).  

Bike: 2:26:40

My focus on the bike was in (a) following my pacing plan and (b) following my fueling plan.  I think I did relatively well in both considering I'm usually pretty awful at following directions.  Although I averaged 20 watts higher than I did at Eagleman, I was definitely riding more conservatively than pretty much any other 70.3 I've done.  I passed 1 women on the bike to move into 8th but knew I was actually in 7th because I saw Dede soft pedaling back to transition as we were headed out.

I felt good pretty much the entire bike and enjoyed myself out there.  I got to see Oscar four times and that always lifts my spirits as well.

Run: 1:27:10

I'd first like to start by saying how happy that I am that I FINALLY broke the 1:30 curse!  I've run so, so, SOOOO many half marathons off the bike in 1:29-1:31 that I was beginning to think this was my destiny!

As I headed out on the run course, Oscar confirmed that I was in 7th and that Ashley and Nina were together about 45 seconds up the road.  I again had a pacing plan to follow and let me tell you, this took EXTREME discipline on my part because my gut instinct was to run AS HARD AS I COULD to go catch them.  I usually lack discipline but for some reason was able to find just a little and hold myself back.  And when, after 2 miles, I was "let loose" I took off and my legs felt GREAT!  I ran at or under 6:30 pace for the next 6 miles or so and was totally loving life.  My running has definitely been feeling very good as of late but I wasn't sure how that would translate to racing.  I was feeling very excited to be chugging along at a pace that I usually can't manage.

I moved myself into 6th around mile 5-6 and knew I needed to find at least one more person to pass.  Finishing in 6th in a race that pays to 5 isn't very fun!  So I set out to get "one more."  Oscar was out on the course yet again and gave me some splits - around mile 8 I was 1:30 down from the next girl up the road.  I told myself "you can do this!" and then repeated that over and over in my head.  But right about the time I first caught glimpse of 5th place, I felt my first twinge.  I didn't even realize what it was because I NEVER cramp, but after it happened a few more times, I knew.  My hamstring was not happy and it was cramping with twinges here and there.  Uh-oh!  It wasn't funny, but almost kind of was because Oscar has had such awful issues with cramping and I have never once cramped in my life.  It's almost as if I needed to know for myself how it felt so I could better empathize with him.  Except I really didn't want to know how it felt!  Nevertheless, for the next 5 miles I learned.  I took salt and hoped for the best and I never had a full on seizure type cramp but every time I really pushed the pace, the twinges let me know that was NOT a good idea.  I was still able to get myself into 5th and at one point even caught glimpse of 4th and gave chase for a bit, only to realize, that was probably not a great idea.  So 5th place it was!  HA!  A bummer, only because other than the cramping, my legs felt very, very good and strong and like I could push really hard.  Every athlete faces some sort of challenge in each race though and I definitely learned some valuable lessons on Saturday for future races to come!

Overall an effort that I was pleased with.  And I'm mostly just REALLY excited for the things to come.  Muncie was a huge step forward for me which was much appreciated after feeling like I had been stalling out for quite a while.  Very good stuff.

Of course I have so many people to thank - Tim and QT2, my awesome sponsors, our homestay James, the really cool people of Muncie, everyone who took the time to offer some encouragement or cheers - I am so, so thankful!  It truly takes a village.  But most of all, I wanted to thank Oscar for being the best sherpa ever.  He ran over 13 miles on Saturday, much of it at sub 7 minute pace to get to me on different places on the course to give splits and cheer me on.  I'm telling you - that's a tough gig!  Racing is definitely better when he is at my side.

So we are back home now and it's time to get back to work.  I'm not complaining!  ;)

Pittsburgh triathletes unite!  Jason had an awesome race!
Only Ashley and I showed up for awards so we get all the money right?  (no actually, Magali also came but was just caught up in traffic :)