Saturday, February 23, 2008

Group "Fun"?

“Don’t make fun of me: I’m training for an Ironman!”

For the first 1:11 of my bike ride today, I rode with “The Group.” Each Saturday, The Group, which consists of 30-40 cyclists (give or take), leaves the Milton trailhead of the Blackwater Trail (behind Truly Spokin’) at 8:30 am sharp (7:00 am Summer time – escape the Florida Heat!).

When I first moved to Florida in September 2006, I had no idea where to bike. Most of my rides were confined to the trainer, or to the 7-mile loop at U of West Florida. It amazes me that I didn’t loose my mind from so much monotony…

After meeting Ludi in February 2007, I was invited to meet up with various local bike groups. It was biking on a stretch of Indian Ford Road, from the Blackwater State Forest turn off, until the road runs into Munson Highway that I rediscovered my love for biking. I had spent all winter (in Florida!) indoors on the trainer, convinced there was nowhere to ride, and nothing available to meet my biking needs. This wonderful 12-mile stretch convinced me otherwise, and I decided at that exact moment that I would bike outside at every opportunity.

My bike, I had decided, would become my new best friend (aside from Nathaniel and Tabbitha).

Steadily, with a good map, a lot of patience, and a good sense of humor, I began exploring the backcountry of Milton and parts of the Blackwater State Forest. The roads stretched onward, their promise never ending. It was all I could do to contain my excitement: I was giddy just about every time I discovered a new path. Peanut Farms, sandy white riverbeds, long leaf pine trees, and the reddish-clay dirt – all part of my Norwest Florida biking experience.

I suppose in one way, that it was through all my biking adventures - by getting lost, I found myself. And now, I feel pretty comfortable with the various roads and routs (although, that doesn’t mean that I won’t on occasion find myself hopelessly lost in Alabama…). When I bike through the Santa Rosa County countryside, I find my inner strength, my peace within.

Today dawned foggy, the sun struggling to break through until 11 am or so.

After breakfast #1 (oatmeal and coffee!) and breakfast #2 (vanilla ensure, peanut butter banana, dried cherries, and coffee!), I drove myself and my ton of gear to the trailhead. After picking up some necessary chamois cream and a few packs of Margarita Cliff Blocks (I will climb mountains for those things!), I was on my way.

The Group left promptly at 8:30, and within 2:00 minutes of the ride, I realized I had forgotten my salt/electrolyte tablets. Oh shit! Ludi told me to HURRY! – so I raced back to my car, tore through my gear for the electrolyte bottle, and then proceeded to destroy my neat piles of running/recovery gear in search of a plastic baggie.

Now I should tell you – I use little plastic baggies for everything. Swim workouts, storing my cell phone and ID cards, writing down Jen’s workouts, SALT tablets – they all have their own separate plastic baggie. Usually I pack 4 or 5 baggies, convinced that I’ll use them all. I never do – but I always like to be prepared.

Today, however, I couldn’t find a single flippin’ baggie. Great. Bloody Hell!

So after a few minutes of frantic searching, I decided to use a sock instead (it was clean). I turned it inside out (just in case), and proceeded to dump as many salt tablets into said sock that I though necessary for a 5-hour/90 mile ride. After re-locking the car, and stashing my salt-filled-sock somewhere within my bike jersey, I was off – chasing after The Group.

Luckily, it only took me 4.5 miles, as they were biking 12 mph compared to my 19.

And even if I hadn’t caught them, I knew they were planning on stopping at the end of the trailhead, 25 minutes or so in to the ride.

Here’s where things became interesting.

In the past, Ludi and I have usually gone off on our own. While we both truly enjoy the camaraderie of The Group, we feel they just stop way too much for our liking (or for our training). Stopping 2X per hour – sometimes less, sometimes more – isn’t something that is good for us AT THIS POINT! Sure, there are times in my season where I’ll draft off the back, crack jokes with the rest, surge up a hill, stop and wait, and go along with The Group.

But today was a little different.

I was forced to do my own thing, to stay within my own zones.

The Group decides to stop for 15 minutes? Too bad – you don’t stop in an Ironman.

The Group decides to surge up a hill and then pull back on the flats? Too bad – you stay within your heart rate, even if you’re biking at 10 mph.

The Group decides to draft off you and then complain that you’re not focusing enough on the road ahead (okay – so I missed one pot hole)? Too bad – I was trying to remove a salt tablet from my sock – and by the way, I just passed your sorry asses after you sprinted up a “hill” (hello – Florida!) and then died on the flats.

And that, my friends, is how my ride went.

Thankfully, like I said before, it was only for 1:11 of my 4:40:45 ride.

During the remainder of my solo-ride, in between grabbing salt tabs from socks, replacing bottles from my jersey pockets with empty bottles from my bikes, taking in my gels, snacking on the occasional Margarita Cliff Blocks, and avoiding steel-grate bridges (there are plenty!) I came up with a list about why – at this point in my training – I feel a bit of contention from The Group. For part of my ride (from 1:11 until 1:51) I got to ride with Ludi, and we discussed what happened during the first part.

So… here we go:

-Don’t make fun of me for carrying 10 gel packets on my bike or person during a ride: I am training for an Ironman.

-Don’t laugh at the 5 water bottles filled with Gatorade and water – as all together they add a good 15+ pounds to my bike, and hydration is essential. The extra weight I carry will make me stronger: I am training for an Ironman.

-Trying to “surge up a hill” and then not following through on the flat sections will get you nowhere, as I am determined to ride steady and strong, keeping my designated zones: I am training for an Ironman.

-When I say, “excuse me – trying to get through, I want to keep going,” while your butt is resting after 25 minutes, don’t roll your eyes. If I could stop every 25 minutes, I would love to. Trust me! But I can’t do this in a race: I am training for an Ironman.

-Don’t blame me for being a bad “pelaton leader”, as it was never my intention to lead the pelaton in the first place. Dude – I wasn’t even drafting off of you! You guys sucked my wheel as I passed you by. The only way I got to the front, was because I was steady during every climb, I pushed my bigger gears on the flats while staying in my proper zones, and I listened to my body and breathing. I have to: I am training for an Ironman.

-Don’t make fun of my 105-rpm cadence while I warm up. I am riding for 5 hours and I plan on running off my bike, and while you might be able to get away with 75 rpm for 1:30, my body can’t handle that. I am training for an Ironman.

-Don’t work your butt off to pass me, only to slow down miserably. It is obvious that you don’t like me being ahead. Heads up: this isn’t a race! YOU are making it out to be one, not I – my friend. I am just riding steady. Newsflash: I can’t “race” 5 hours, not yet. And neither, apparently can you – as you blew up spectacularly after a: 45-second effort. It was wonderful blowing you by: I am training for an Ironman.

-Just because I have my salt tablets stuffed into a sock, does not make me a bad person. I am creative. I am a problem solver. And I get the job done. At least I’m trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. So maybe my odd combination of salt wasn’t the most effective today, but the sock was pretty great. I am training for an Ironman.

For the most part, bikers in The Group are great, and I have such a healthy respect for them and for our friendships. There are a few, however, that make me feel at odds, that I have to “race” every practice.

Well, I don’t. And I don’t plan on it. When I race, its on my terms – not during The Group ride, thank you very much!

Most of the people are great – and I have a great time with them. When I’m not training for something as serious as my first Ironman (and believe me, I’m nervous about it as is!), I’m all gung-ho. I don’t mind the stops, I think that surging up the hills are fun, and I am very careful about paying attention to the road ahead. I love being around other people – the friendships, their support, are all invaluable. I learn so much from many of these incredible athletes, as they all have amazing stories to tell.

But today was different.

I simply couldn’t afford to stop at every juncture, wasn’t interested in sprinting up the hills and then pulling back on the flats: I had a long way to go, and needed to focus on my ride. I didn’t want to waste my legs on a bit of posturing…

It was great training with Ludi, riding with her afterwards and venting off some of my frustration. Usually I’m not bothered, but today was different. Maybe it was all the tongue-in-cheek comments about my 5 water bottles (2 on the back of the bike, 1 in the cage on the down tube, and 2 in my back jersey pockets – LOVE biking jerseys!), or how I felt during one stretch of road. But, its over and done – you can’t undo spilled milk, can’t go back and change what has already happened.

Overall, my ride was great – and I cherished (nearly!) every moment of it all. And I will look forward to biking in The Group – as there are lots of great folks there whose company I truly enjoy.

But not next weekend – I have my Camp HTFU Ladies to look forward to. And I bet that I’ll be hoping that we stop every 25 minutes. Something leads me to believe that we won’t…


Anonymous said...

sounds like me. i can't stand riding with big groups - they're too unfocused, there's too much stopping, and when there's a large group, there's usually going to be at least a few undesirables...
i almost always ride either on my own, or with one other person. very occasionally a small group of five or less. i've also been known to do a certain noon hammer ride in san luis obispo, but that is a fast, focused, pace-line thing with hill sprints and time-trialing.

but also, i don't think i have nearly the patience or tolerance that you have with the group. good for you though, the fun and fellowship are nice. i just can't deal with the other stuff.

BreeWee said...

I am not going on the camp HTFU but I do know one thing, those girls are NOT stopping every 25 min! PLEASE remember a camera for that adventure!
Okay, good stuff, I like this post, I can tell you are totally getting tuff! Way to show em' who's boss, I mean- Who's doing Ironman!

Beth said...

Ahh...the classic road cyclist vs triathlete battle!! They think we're weird, we think they're weird. They sprint up a hill or around a corner and everyone chases and we're all about steady, steady and steady. They don't like to junk up the bike and we're all about carrying EVERYTHING with us. I feel your pain Marit!! But it's good that you did what you needed to do for YOUR training!! Glad you had a great ride!

ness said...

Way to stay with it, Marit. Riding with roadies can feel frightfully reminiscent of dynamics on a middle school playground sometimes!! I have had some unpleasant group rides, myself. Glad you made the best of the ride anyway.

Pedergraham said...

Marit--Good for you on the sock resourcefulness! Also, good for you for sticking to your training plan. I always found that the aches and pains that I got while racing I'm were the kind in your neck and upper back that you get for being in your saddle and aero during the whole time--and both times I found myself wishing that I'd taken fewer breaks during my training rides.

Also, I am curous--the breakfast you ate yesterday--are you practicing your race day nutrition? I have a hard time eating in the morning and am picking up some ideas from you--double mini-breakfast and liquid calories (Ensure)...
Hope you have a nice Sunday!

Mel said...

Creativity is A beautiful thing...even tho it is a worked and got the job done :) I always try to follow with "who cares what other people think" You are training for a IRONMAN dam it...that is serious business....stay in your own cocoon :)

Chad Holderbaum said...

I choose to not ride in a group for those same reasons. Everyone has their different workouts to do and everyone has different paces they like to ride. Glad to see you stuck to your training!

Alicia Parr said...

Here's the thing. Later, after the IM, you get to play a little and ride by their rules to show you can be part of the group. They will discover you're a bad-ass on wheels and hear about how well you do in races. Even more so if they have roadie-attended time trial races where you come and rip some legs off with your most excellent time-trialing abilities. You will develop street cred with the roadies because of these things. Often, those that run their mouths the most aren't really all that good anyway and are using snide comments as compensation. They are to be pitiede m, so be magnanimous, not angry.

Have fun at camp next weekend!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm with the non-group riders. I can't handle all the stopping, the drafting (girls can't pull with my bike group!) or the men who decide one day to just "race" for two hours who happen to be same ones telling people not to go so fast the next day. Beth is so right... road cyclist vs. triathlete battle for sure!!

Way to stick to your guns, do your own thing, and following your plan! You are the one that has to ride those 112 miles in Ironman and then run a marathon...not them! Way to go Marit!

Kellye Mills said...

I think you did JUST the right thing!! I have a gear box I keep in the back of my car and one of my necessities... plastic baggies!! You're so right, they are PERFECT for everything!

Don't worry about the bike group. I have some roadie friends that try to pick on me about my riding, and the truth is they JUST know us girls can kick their butts!! :)

Keep up the good work IRONMAN!!

Mira Lelovic said...

You nailed that one. Those groups exist in running too and they drive me CRAZY! You handled it really well.
I just bought 3 packs of Margarita flavored Bloks on Friday (thanks to you), but haven't tried them yet. I'm saving them for when I really need the salt, which will probably be soon here in Arkansas! Great post!