Sunday, July 22, 2007


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.


See Zanne Run said...

awesome ... love those lightbulb moments when you figure it out! so nice when its' something as simple as skinny tires.

and i'll say this - i can't imagine anyone would ever think of you as a slacker! you are out there - doing your thing. a lot more than any grandmothers i know! you just keep doing your thing ... on your new, speedy skinny tires! and take care of that ankle!

Flo said...

Trust me Vickie, no one thinks you are a slacker. After everything you've been through this past year yet you keep going and going and going :)

I'm glad you figured out the tires. Don't you just love it when you figure something out and it's so simple.

FYI, I was reading a running book and they said that as you age you lose speed (we knew that) but you gain endurance. That's why you don't see a lot of young people doing ultra running. Interesting.

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Yay for skinny tires! Glad that worked out for you.

Boy, I can relate to this one particular section in your post: "...struggling to keep up with other people with no triathlon experience and trying not to get discouraged"

Fe-lady said...

Keep moving forward...a little faster each time..and glad you are still having fun doing it! Yeah- new wheels!

WADDLER26.2 said...

Great on the new wheels. You're going to rock the bike now.

jeanne said...

hey thanks for the comment! i don't even know you but you surely don't SOUND like a slacker.

I too have the problem of no $$ for a bike. Maybe i'll use your solution of indoor tris! so thanks!

and good luck with that ankle!