Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My New Ride

My regular readers are well aware that cycling has always been my weak leg of the triathlon. When I started competing, my running and swimming were so strong that even when I got my butt kicked on the bike, I was usually within striking distance from the leaders on the run. I thrived on catching people on the run who had dusted me on the bike and seeing the looks on runners' faces at the turnaround when they realized they wouldn't be in front of me for long.

Nowadays, those feelings are a distant memory. My loss of running speed with age is compounded by the fact that enthusiasm alone will not give me the ability to pull a great marathon out of thin air at the Ironman distance. In a regular marathon, runners start fresh and, depending on training and fitness, try to stave off the dreaded "wall" -- i.e., the point at which the body physically runs out of stored energy. In an Ironman, the marathon begins well PAST this depleted state. For me, it's after about seven hours of swimming and biking. The only chance at a good marathon will ultimately depend on the shape I'm in after 112 hard miles on the bike. In Lake Placid, the hard miles will also include hills. Thus, not only have I been concentrating on my bike fitness this year, but I've also been playing with my bike position and trying to get everything I can out of it.

I bought my new bike, the Cervelo P3, with several purposes in mind. First of all, I wanted to rekindle my enthusiasm for biking -- I mean, what's better than a new toy? Second, I wanted a fast, light frame, and the P3 is one of the world's fastest, proven through wind-tunnel testing. Third, I wanted a geometry that can put me in a faster aero position to start with.

I have NOT deluded myself into thinking that my aero position is nearly as important as bike fitness, but I DO know that every little bit of speed will be amplified the longer the race is. After talking to the experts at Bike Authority in Broadview Heights, Ohio, I am convinced that position and frame could amount to a 10- to 15-minute faster bike leg in an Ironman.

When I chose the Cervelo P3, I had already made the commitment to work harder on the bike. I needed help to determine the best position to ride in to make that work count. This service is something Bike Authority excels at. Upon picking up the bike, I worked with bike-fit expert Mike Vanucci to tweak the seat and handlebar positions to get the most out of my body and my bike together. The bike position with the least drag is with your back parallel to the ground, but, because of varying degrees of flexibility and comfort, not everyone's body can handle that position (especially when it comes to the pelvis and seat contact). Hooked up to a Computrainer, we determined my most comfortable position while still generating a good power output. Strength-wise, I still have many things to work on, but now I had a place to start. Personally, I decided on a more aggressive position, knowing I can change it if my comfort level decreases with increased mileage.

I was off. The first real test of my new position was a 60-mile ride last weekend in horrendous weather on rolling hills in my home state of Connecticut. I rode from my mom's apartment in Middletown to my old stomping grounds at Hammonasset State Park beach in Madison and back. In retrospect, the comfort of my aero position was never an issue, and I felt very little discomfort from it when I got off the bike. I was in much MORE pain from riding in cold rain for over three hours. My feet were blocks of ice and my mental state was a disaster. But I CAN say this: there's nothing better than a ride through hell and back to solidify the bond between a girl and her bike.

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