WHO SAYS YOU CAN'T BUY SPEED?
When I first started in the triathlon world, the indoor sort, back when I could still run 7 min. miles and was competitive in my age group in running, the question was asked why I didn't do outdoor tris? Why? The main reason back then was no open water swimming experience and the second, but most important reason, was I had no decent bike and no funds to buy anything. I was convinced then, as I am still, that equipment made the difference in your competitiveness, regardless of how good you were otherwise. And I figured there was no way I would be able to be competitive against athletes who had the sleek, expensive bikes with my rusting 3 speed Schwinn with a baby seat. Back then, it was all about being competitive--against others. That's all that mattered. It was my identity.
When I did my first outdoor tri, I used a borrowed bike, and even though my running was still in the top of the age group category of competitiveness, I placed second to last in my age group in this tri. Rude awakening! But I had fun and was hooked.
Fast forward to 2 years later when I got my own first bike. By then, a number of injuries had set back my running to almost nil, so biking was my main alternative. I worked hard, doing time trials, racing almost every weekend, and training during the week as well, but still, I rarely placed higher than 3rd to last in my age group. Yet, it never bothered me. I figured I was a newbie and still had a lot to learn and a lot of cathing up to do.
One thing Don was always telling me was, its not the bike, its the engine that makes you a good biker. So I worked harder. (Did I mention he has changed his tune about this now that he has his new Cervelo P3? Talk about buying speed!)
Little did I know the turn of events over the next 5 years, with both running setbacks and family difficulties, that would almost do me in, up to and including last year's bike accident.
This season, starting out with a new bike and a fresh determination to get back into this sport and maybe, maybe actually be competitive with others again, I was again hit with the reality of my abilities, or lack thereof. But I figured what I lacked in ability and natural talent, I more than made up for in desire and determination. Yet, even while I worked harder and harder, I didn't feel I was seeing any gains for my efforts.
Week after week, I've been struggling with this biking thing, trying to get back to a fitness level I was at last year and beyond, struggling to keep up with other people with no triathlon experience and trying not to get discouraged. And I struggled in my races not to be last. I felt that while I was putting 110% into my training, I was only seeing a 75% return for my effort. How could it be that I could ride on a smooth, flat road and still only average 13.5 mph? Or on a hard, hilly course and still only average 14 mph? It was puzzling as well as frustrating, disheartening, and embarrasing. Everyone must think I'm a total slacker, never being able to keep up, always having to wait for me. And being last in every tri. What was I lacking? What was missing?
Last week, on a random trip to a new bike shop with Don so he could buy his $130 new water bottle cages, as I admired the bikes they carried, I noticed something in common with each bike I observed. They all had skinny tires, skinnier than mine!
A lightbulb went off then, and in my muddle of confusion I call my brain, I remembered back to when I first got my bike and I mentioned the difficulty I was having getting my front wheel on and off for transporting and riding. Don mentioned then that I needed to get smaller tires. On a trip to the bike shop shortly afterward, I mentioned this to the guy there. Oh, you don't need to replace these. This is a touring bike, so that's why it has bigger tires. (Not fat tires, just not as skinny.) Okay, whatever, I thought. He must know.
So as I'm standing there thinking of all this, I say to Don: Didn't you say I needed to get new tires for my bike? Yes. In my muddle of confusion and ignorance of everything bike, I asked: What size? 750s? No, 700 23s. And what do I have now? 700 25s. Will that help me go faster? In unison, the bike shop guy and Don both said: Yes, most definitely!
That was that, as far as I was concerned. I would do it! So yesterday, I brought my bike back to the shop, and for a mere $70 I bought me a little bit of speed.
Without going into too much detail until after I try them on a longer ride, let's just say I was seeing mph numbers in the 15-17 mph range on an easy ride with little effort.