Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fitting In and Fitting It In

My 2013 (new) Specialized Tarmac (my husband Jim referred to this
photo as "transportation upgrades" - the 2014 Outback replaced
my 1999 Rav4 totaled when I was rear-ended last year)
I bought a new bike. Not because I needed one (although this can always be argued). And not because I wanted one (although doesn't everyone?). No I just wanted to find out what it would be like to be a real road biker for a change. And - because I want to get faster and I found out the best way to do that.

So, then, why can I not get faster on my TT bike, you ask? I can. In fact, it appears that I already have. After riding with faster bikers from my triathlon team for several weekends, I went out for a solo 100-miler and found that I covered the distance (and course) faster than I ever have before.

So, then, why do I need a new bike, you ask? I don't. But I want to ride with the fast people and the fast people are road bikers who ride from my the bike shop every Wednesday evening. And they frown on riding in a group with a TT bike. 

So there it is. Reason enough to get a (road) bike.

There were a few conditions. The price had to be reasonable. Let's be serious - if I were going to drop several thousand dollars on a bike, I would be looking to replace my racing bike, the P3 (which I love, so that was not an option). And I wanted to buy it from my team sponsor, Spin Bike Shop. Although the staff at Spin have been known to find the right frame and build your bike of ANY brand, they primarily sell Specialized, BMC, and Ridley, and if I wanted to get a bike right away, I would probably have to settle on one of those.

Knowing I wanted to keep the cost down as this would be my second bike and I would probably never actually race on it, we focused on finding the right Specialized frame. We started by looking at women's-specific versions of the most popular bikes. I rode a couple aluminum frames to start, but then was blown away by a 2013 Tarmac Sport - one of their unisex carbon frames with SRAM components. I had ridden - and loved - SRAMs once in the past, on a Felt TT bike I rented while at a business conference in San Diego. Sometimes it seems almost cosmically predetermined when you find the bike you will eventually own (as it also seems with cars, houses, pets, and, yes, even spouses). At first, I wasn't too jazzed about the color (let's be real), but upon riding it, we bonded instantly and that's pretty much the end of the story. Except this: because it was last year's model, I got a killer deal on it.

My new bike and I went for a maiden voyage in Toronto this weekend - which brings me to my second point. When training for endurance events, the hardest thing to do is break training for a weekend away, but if there's one thing worth doing that for... it's music. One of my favorite UK bands - Elbow - scheduled their 2014 US Tour without a single date within a 300-mile radius of Cleveland. My only hope was a driveable weekend gig - and we got one in Toronto this past Saturday.

Getting a long ride or run was not possible without severe sleep deprivation, so I settled for a medium-distance ride (on the new bike) and a relatively short run the day after the concert. I love being able to get out in the early morning and explore when I'm in a different city, and this time, it was a rare treat to be in a country comfortable with and welcoming to cyclists. There was a wide paved path along the Lake Ontario waterfront supporting everyone: bikers, runners, rollerbladers, etc., and when I was riding in traffic, not once did an angry driver yell or beep at me - surprisingly, even in a construction zone.

The only negative thing was the weather. Warmth seems to be at a premium this year in the midwestern and northeastern parts of the U.S. But thankfully - and because we're getting used to it - I brought warmer clothes and gloves (event though I kept taking them off to snap photos). Here are some photos from my bike ride and run in Toronto.

And for those who've not heard of Elbow - well, even for those who have - here's a video I took of the song "The Birds" that might explain why we were (and are) willing to drive five (or more) hours to see them live. I'm still not mentally recovered from it: 

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