Category: training

Quest for Knighthood


3 QuestionsWhaaat is your name?

     It is Alex, Alex with an x.

Whaaat is your quest? ahhhhhh!

     A sticker. I mean decal.  No wait, exclusive decal! 

The Quest: Knighthood of Sufferlandria

To be ordained a Knight of Sufferlandria, one must complete 10 Sufferfest cycling videos (ranging from 55 minutes to 2 hours)… in one day…in a row..indoors…on a trainer. We are a band of 6 brave souls who will make the attempt together on Saturday, February 7th.

Knight of SufferlandriaWhy will we attempt such a (crazy) feat? Although the decal is indeed ‘wicked pissah’, we are pedaling our brains out to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital. The attempt is inspired by Miles for Miracles marathon team member (and candidate for knighthood), Nancy Gomes.

If you’d like to be part of this valliant quest, consider donating to the Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team – donations of any amount are greatly appreciated!  Donate here.  Or come on by the Velo Studio to cheer, jeer and support the team – if you’ll be in the Sherborn area on the 7th.

We’re a few weeks into training and based on how tough riding on a trainer for 2 1/2 hours was last weekend, I’m certain that 10+ hours of Sufferfest videos is going to be quite an interesting challenge. Add this to the list of things that “seemed like a good idea at the time”.

into Cyclocross – 7 Steps, 1 Leap

Ok, I feel a need to backtrack – how the heck did I go from triathlon race reports to becoming the “Luckiest Woman in all of Cycloross”?

Cyclocross seemed like a great triathlon-off-season sport since cycling, though improving, is still my weakest leg. I’m pretty sure that any future speed lies in increasing my confidence (aka reducing my fear), handling skills, and power output. This is cyclocross – tenfold!

These are the steps I took to get started with cyclocross (CX). And it’s pretty fair to say that this may not be my best example well-thought planning.

Step 1. Procure a(nother) bike.
Welcome to the tent, StellaThe road and tri bikes won’t work for cyclocross and my mountain bike weighs about as much as I do. I “needed” a new bike. Happily, I’m married to a bike MacGyver. As soon as I shared my CX intentions, he began dismantling old bikes, gathering parts from his and our friends’ collections, and building my “Franken-bike”.  And then he surprised me with a new-to-me used Giant CX frame – which I love! Jason and our friend, Steve (the Bike Guy), procured the rest of the missing parts – and I had a CX bike, Stella Blue.

(As an aside, for someone who still “doesn’t love cycling,” I now own a lot of bikes.)

Step 2. Ride the bike (on the grass)?!
On a Friday afternoon, Jason added a saddle and wrapped the handlebars. (Perfect timing since I was signed up for a CX skills clinic, later that evening.)  Weeks earlier when I signed up, I imagined having ridden the bike a few times before going to the clinic. I seriously considered bailing after trying several times to gather the courage to hurl my body on to the bike. I started to crumble into a mentally defeated pile, so I put myself into “time-out” (not joking – I sent myself to my room until I could come out with a better attitude). In the quiet, I decided that I am what I am – an otherwise competent human, with no cyclocross skills or experience.  humble beginningsThis wasn’t going to change before the clinic. Showing up “as-is” felt marginally better than bailing and remaining skill-less, so off we went – me and Stella.

Mark McCormack did an fantastic job breaking down the dismount, the remount, and the barriers into manageable pieces for my brain and skill level. By the end of the night, I was happy, really happy and again hopeful that cyclocross might be fun. I had a pretty good CX Day 1!

Step 3. Despair.
On CX Day 3 I crashed again, emotionally. I rode the clinic high for about 48 great hours and then Jason and Steve designed a wicked pissah practice course in our yard. We invited friends over for an afternoon training session. I was psyched to practice my new skills. But that didn’t happen. The course was tight and beyond what I could manage with my current skills (and confidence).  Bummer.
Happily, the company and the beer were excellent -which to be fair was a big part of why I was drawn CX.

Step 4. Second Guess & Reconsider.
After my backyard disappointment, I spent CX Day 4 emailing event organizers to make sure it was appropriate for someone with my level of inability to attend the next clinic I was registered for. My friend, Kristin, and I had signed up for High Tea with Helen (Wyman) almost 2 months ago – back when I naively underestimated how quickly I’d transition to cyclocross. It was also when I imagined High Tea with Helen being a women’s clinic and actually including tea. (I was wrong on both counts.) Thankfully no one replied to my inquiry. By the afternoon, I changed gears (again) and registered for the 2nd day of the clinic , as well and convinced Jason to join me.

Step 5. Be scared and show up anyway.
Behind the planks
I’ve decided that showing up is probably the most important step to anything. I arrived at Kristin’s, on schedule on CX Day 5. I dropped off my 2 youngest kids for her mom to watch, piled Kristin’s bike into the car, and we were off.
It was a good sized class, everyone was incredibly nice, and I wasn’t the only brand newbie there. Helen and Stef Wyman were amazing! I can’t speak highly enough of how much they taught me or how much they contributed to my confidence level. Of the group, I clearly still had the most trepidation, even riding between elements, but I came so far from where I started.
( I felt quite badly when I nearly knocked into Helen as I crashed through the downhill, off-camber section, but CX Day 5 restored my hope.)

Step 6. Freak out. Show up. Repeat.
On CX Day 6, Jason and I showed up a little early for High Tea with Helen. We rode through the course together to warm up. Jason was registered to race the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross  which followed the clinic. I planned on waiting to see how I felt after the clinic. The 2nd day of Tea was just as great as the first.
CX Day 6 included “day of” registration for my first cyclocross race. (ack!)

Step 7. Reframe.
There was a certain amount of juggling of childcare and after school events in order to make the clinic.  A neighbor watched our kids right after school, but I needed to dash back to pick them up, while Jason raced, and bring them back to Lancaster (fed) in time for my race. Initially this felt like a huge inconvenience, but it wound up being another good time to calm my brain. On the way home I deduced that I was 1. scared, 2. certain to be last and quite possibly embarrassed, and 3.  trying to justify being a”no-show”.

One of the gifts of parenting is imagining what you’re actions teach your children.  More than I wanted to quit, I wanted them to believe that as long as they do their best, they have no reason to be embarrassed.

No more steps – time to leap!
Jason had finished his race by the time I returned to Lancaster. On the way, I had prepared the kids for what they were about to watch. I told them I was going to try my best and was probably going to be last, but my goal to not give up and enjoy the whole experience, as much as possible. At first they laughed when they heard I was going to be last, but they quickly switched to being the best cheerleaders, ever.
High Tea with Helen (Wyman)All that was left to do was pin on my number and head to the starting area with Stella. Our race started at 7:00pm. So my first race ever was also going to be in the dark. Pretty awesome.
I hung at the back with the other first-time racers from the clinic. Just before the start, I reminded myself that this would be my only first race ever and to make the best of it.

The rest is history. Best first race and DFL, ever!

My Heart was Racing

My heart was racingThe USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships was this past weekend. My age group wave entered the water at (or about) 8:21. Last winter, with snow frozen to my eyebrows, I wouldn’t have imagined being a DNS.

Saturday morning, I rolled on to the road, earlier than my wave took off, but later than a usual Saturday ride. I wore my full race kit.

My disappointment of not going to Wisconsin had faded. But I wasn’t quite ready to rally around the thought of “next year.  I just wanted to ride my bike and run in the streets, like I had trained to do on this day, somewhere else.

A huffy like mine
Mine was more beat up & had cool stickers w/ my name on the seat. (well, I had lost the x so it was: ALE)

As soon as I finished the warm-up, I let go. No plans, no goals, no target pace (no power meter). Traffic was light and roads were clean – I swear I had a tailwind for the entire 26 mile loop. I rode by feel.  I had palpable moments where I felt like my 9 year old self screaming down the huge hill on our street on my awesome huffy. (yes, banana seat & monkey bars)

At some point the thought crossed my mind that I was doing exactly what I needed to do in honor of the event. I thought about the hundreds and hundreds of athletes who would be there – racing their hearts out.  I felt so impressed by the thought of them, and I felt connected to the journey, even though I was 1,000 miles east of where I’d hoped to be.

My heart felt happy – filled with the spirit of triathlon and age group competition. I love this sport. Since deciding not to go to WI, I’ve sometimes felt like all the hours and training might have been wasted. But flying along in the aerobars – free of fear and enjoying the ride – I could see how far I’d come and knew it wasn’t a waste. I was having a blast – and for me, this is the point of all of my triathlon stuff.  

My leg were tired when I hopped off the bike, but I was determined to hit the first mile of the run at my dream race pace. I kept the Nationals’ athletes in my thoughts – my heart was racing with them.

Letting Go of the Perfect Workout

inTent on VacationWhat’s wrong with this picture? It’s a beautiful day. No rain, no snow, mild temperatures in the mid-70s…and I’m on a fluid trainer. While I spin away at least ten other “riders” cycle past me…on my fluid trainer.

As they pass, I think about how I “should” be on the road today. I try to rework the day’s schedule in my head. I should’ve gotten up earlier so I could’ve done both my swim and my ride. I should’ve done the ride in the early morning and then squeezed the pool into the afternoon plans, somehow. I sure Kelsey would be on the road today.  Ugh, if I was really as committed to my training…

What you can’t see in this picture are my kids, but they’re there. They’re on the other side of the screen door, mostly getting along nicely. In addition to training, I have the secondary task of refereeing. Will bonked Hannah on the head. Hannah’s not letting Will see the screen and he can’t see the video. Will’s turn is longer than Hannah’s.

The whining and peace-keeping adds an interesting dimension to intervals. For sure it isn’t perfect.  It is damn good, though.

So why do I do this to myself? I was in the pool at 6:00am and had a great workout. I’m here on my trainer, working hard and focusing on my goal to improve my cycling strength. And I’m beating myself up by comparing myself to stories that I’m making up about other people. Contrary to some competitive thinking – this isn’t motivating me to dig in and train harder. I’m just feeling badly about the good work that I’m doing, right now.

No one likes feeling this way. I don’t want to ruin the workout. It’s time to “cough up that hairball” of crappy thinking and refocus.

 1. I’m an amateur athlete. I compete against other amateur athletes. We all have lives and responsibilities outside of triathlon. I like this about my fellow tri peeps.
2. I have other options. I could add more childcare, but I really don’t want to. I choose to mash-up my training with my family life. It makes me happy.
3. It’s called a PR. Personal Record. It’s not a record for training in someone else’s life or anyone else’s body. It’s doing my best with my own life, my own training, my own ability, and my own circumstances.

Hairball gone, I focus on pushing through the burning in my legs. I enjoy the view of the salt marshes across the road and the occasional cyclist and runner passing. I smile at the complaints about the slow internet and stalled videos as they sail through the screen door.  I take extra special pleasure in my 10 year old daughter’s warning that people are going look at me funny in the driveway. I’m letting go of perfect, and it’s damn good.

As a sports performance coach, I know this stuff. As a human being, I forget, I’m human.

Cycling Heat & Science

Hot enough to fry an eggIt’s just hot. It would have been ideal if I ‘d gotten out on my bike earlier, of course. But the best ride is the one you get, sometimes. I grab my  mostly white Craft kit and head out during the hottest part of the day.

At least I’ll be moving. I”ll have a breeze. It will be like windchill. In my head I start trying to remember how wind chill is calculated. I have this vague recollection that it was recently simplified so that 1 mile per hour of wind lowers the temperature 1 degree. I keep my mind occupied for at least 20 minutes. If I’m moving at an 18 mph average, then 91 degrees less 18 would be a “real feel” of 73. Heck, that’s totally acceptable.

As much as I try, I just can’t convince myself of this 73 degree feeling.  It is hot.  After an hour, the black on my shorts has heated up. It’s hotter than the heat coming of the black asphalt – at least 110 degrees.  It’s uncomfortable. My skin hurts.

Damn, I’m hot in these shorts!

Wind chillIn case anyone was thinking of using a similar wind chill theory – it doesn’t work.
I got home and googled up a windchill calculator.

What!? How is it possible that 92 degrees with an 18mph wind calculates to 99 degrees? I don’t understand this science. Clearly science can be dangerous in the hands of an amateur athlete.


Turtle crossing!

Why did the turtle cross the road? Why, oh why?! Turtle crossing
(This isn’t a post about my speed in the sudden heat of New England, by the way.)

Around here, in June, there’s an influx of turtles on the road.  I see many turtle casualties on my workouts. It’s sad.

Today, I paused my Garmin to help two shelled travelers on their pilgrimage to the other side. The first one seemed quite happy for the lift.  The second darted in circles, faster than I knew a turtle could move. During my turtle chase I had to flag 3 cars to slow down. Each one passed, nearly missing the remaining shell – I held my breath and couldn’t  look. Happily, I was able to chase the 2nd to the other side where his friend was still hiding in his shell.

I was happy that I had been able to save these little guys. And I spent the rest of the workout wondering why these guys cross in such huge numbers at this time of year. Here’s what I found out:

  • Nesting season lasts from late May to early July, reaching maximum intensity in early June.
  • Male turtles often move among ponds during the spring in search of potential mates, but the amount of movement of male turtles generally doesn’t even begin to approach that of females. Females that hope to contribute to future generations MUST leave the relative safety of ponds and wetlands. 
  • Today, the biggest threat to turtle populations  is being struck by automobiles on roadways. 


  1. Slow down and watch for turtles in roadways!
  2. Help turtles cross roads safely. If you see a turtle crossing a road and it is safe for you to do so, help it cross in the direction it was traveling.
  3. Don’t take the turtle home or move it far from where you found it. A turtle taken to your home is a turtle lost from the local population.
  4. If a turtle is injured, call your local animal control or wildlife authorities.

Please share this and ask friends to slow down on roads with ponds and other bodies of water. 

Thanks so much!