Sunday, April 06, 2008

My weakest link.

I didn't run this weekend, even though I love it. Instead I rode my bike, which I hate, with Tiger Lily and Sweet Baboo 70 miles around the Albuquerque area--down Route 66 and back again, climbing over 3500 feet on the trip - slow, grinding climbs. I was happy to note that I didn't feel like I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen. The heartrate stayed low, most of the time. The legs held up.

But gosh, I hate the bike. So why was out there, instead of running? I was out there because it is my weakest link. The bike caused me, more than anything, to go over the usually allotted time of 17 hours at Ironman Louisville. I hate it. HATE. IT. Cycling causes me pain in several areas and makes me feel bad about myself. It makes me cry and rant like a lunatic to my friends and loved one. I have never cried or felt like throwing up while running. Only when cycling. Consistently.

And like a battered wife, I keep going back. I keep forgiving the bike, because maybe this time things will be different. (I can joke about that because I was a battered wife, once, and humor is how I dispell all the bad demons. That, and running)

On long rides, I watch enviously as Sweet Baboo cruises easily in front of me, waving his arms and drinking from his water bottle with no hands on the handlebars. For him, cycling is second nature. His bike is part of him. To me, a bike is a tumor. I feel awkward and 99% of the time, I'm tense and nervous.

And then there's the pain: after about 20 miles it starts with a sharp pain in my left wrist that I only have when I'm trying to do three things: 1) opening a jar, 2) pushups without barbells, and 3) riding a bike. The sharp pain eventually spreads to little lightening sensations in my fingers. The best way to make said sharp pain go away? Lean forward, into the aerobars, assuming the aero tuck, taking the pressure off my wrists.

Ah. The aero tuck. It sounds nice, doesn't it? Like a literary character: The Adventures of Aero Tuck and his little dog.
But 40 minutes of aero tuck later, I'm missing skin in the upper front part of my crotch. So then I sit up but lean into the drops, straightening my wrists - sparing my crotch and my wrists, but there's only so long you can do this. You can't hold one damned position for 80 miles.

The pain compounds everything else: my feeling of being trapped on the bike, the feeling that it's so much easier for everyone else so WHY DO I SUCK. SO. MUCH?? and the feeling that, any moment, the front tire will blow or I'll be forced off the road into the sand or hit a pothole and then WHAM! endover onto my back and shoulder, like I have before, landing in a bed of thorns with a sprained shoulder and knocking the wind out of me.
And, because it is painful, I don't train as I should, and because I don't train as I should, I am slow, and I stay slow, which makes the pain last longer.

When I run, I'm slow. There's no pain, so the slowness doesn't get to me. I can run off the path or just stand still, or sit down. I'm tied into my shoes, yes, but they aren't likely to suddenly suffer a mechanical failure and head off the road, taking me and my body with it. And there is the inexplicable feeling of goodness I have after a good run.

And swimming. I love swimming! Pirate might puzzle at this declaration because I'm hard to get to go to the pool, but when I'm swimming, I feel clean and strong. Bilateral breathing? No problem. True, I'm not terribly fast, but I have good form, I've been told several times.

By the time I've been on a bike for 60 or 70 miles I'm hurting so much I sound like a psychotic woman with tourette syndrome on crack. I'm swearing loudly, and ranting about how much I hate it. It is my weakest link. It is my white whale, my archilles, all those crappy analogies about those things that will, eventually, bring me down.

But here I am. Committed to an Ironman, and I always follow through with my commitments. I only today found out that places will let you try out saddles (DUH, why didn't I know this before?) so hope springs eternal. Maybe next time things will be different. Maybe.
Meanwhile, thanks for letting me rant and bitch and moan.

And, it occurs to me as I'm writing and thinking about this that maybe there are other people out there who hate one of the three events as much as I hate cycling.

Who are you? What do you hate?


  1. Well, I am new to this tri thing. I love the run. I love the swim once in the water (I just learned to swim a year ago)...the bike is my fear. Currently I have a borrowed bike. Next weekend I am going to buy my first bike...I will get better, but I am so nervous and I just can't get comfortable. BELIEVE ME...I feel your pain.

  2. I had similar experiences on my bi-cycle (I pronounce it "bye-psych-al, because it's clearly not the same cycling event everyone else experiences) while training for Ironman CDA last year. Skin off the crotch in several places, visits to the GYN who told me to deal with it or stop cycling, the bike male bike store seat expert (you can get your sit bone width MEASURED for a seat) who told me the pain I was experiencing was not normal...the list goes on. I was mostly miserable on rides longer than 30 miles, except one key ride...the actual race. I switched shorts at special needs because I have razor blades for inner thighs. My big-girl-thighs rip holes in all things spandex, so I got a hole in my shorts at mile 40. Anticipating this I had extra shorts in my SN bag and was comfortable in dry, new shorts for the remainder of the ride. I ONLY wear tri shorts because they're nice to my woman parts, and I ride the stock men's seat because it's also kinder than all the specialty stuff I've bought over the years. Best of luck to you!

  3. Hmmm...I honestly did not know about your post when I posted mine...and did so because my enjoyment today is actually somewhat new.

    I wish so hard that I could figure this out for you...that I could recommend some magical cure.

    Most triathlons are 55% cycling. I think the bike part is really supposed to be fun and not torture. I have a road bike and not a tri bike so I sit in a much less aero position. I wonder if a road bike might be more comfortable.

    Just a thought.

    On sunny days, I don't hate anything. sorry.

  4. I'm sorry that you have so much pain riding the bike. I don't have any advice -- it sounds to me like you've tried everything. I hope you find success in some obscure saddle or some new shorts. Good luck!

    I dislike lifting weights. Highly dislike it, and will come up with many an excuse to not lift. It's boring and intimidating at the same time.

  5. Good rant. I too love swimming and running and am full of regret that triathlon requires quite so much time spent dealing with evil two-wheeled machines...

  6. The bike is definitely my nemesis. So much so that I eventually gave up trying to learn as a child. So, here I am in my 40's with a burning desire to tri. Of course, this means once again facing my nemesis and actually learning how to ride the beast. (sigh)

  7. The swim! I HATE the swim. I feel as if I am drowning for over an hour (yes, my last olympic swim took me 1 hour and 10 minutes. I had my own canoe AND dude on a surf board escorts)

    I am currently in classes. Hopefully this will help. I am not overly fond of the bike either (although advice I got on your posts helped me with MUCH better shorts. THANK YOU! I will be anxiously awaiting your saddle reviews), but at least I can breathe when I want to.

    Thank you for this post. It is good to know that even Iron rockstars like you have a least favorite event too.

  8. I heart the bike and despise the run. For me triathlon is a progression from good to bad. You start lying down (swimming), then you sit (bike) and then you actually have to stand up (run). Definitely my least favorite (and slowest). We all have our limiters, but it sounds like you're really going after yours. Good for you and best of luck.

  9. In reading your post I was wondering if you have ever had a professional bike fit. I have had very good luck in resolving pain issues through a pro fitting.

  10. Misty-I feel your pain.
    Verdict on Assos shorts=they are simply AWESOME!! No soreness after65 miles this weekend. Also switched back to my Terry Butterfly gellisimo seat. No pain AT ALL..try the may need to cut out food for little Baboo for a week to buy them but they are worth it!

  11. I don't have one aspect of tri that I hate, but on the flip side I don't have one that I can count on loving on any given day either! In general biking is scarier for me for all of the reasons you listed - but I started out touring and seeing beautiful, gorgeous, to-die-for parts of the country by bike. It's just hard to hate something that has brought me so much joy. (Though some days - in the wind and traffic - it's easier to hate than others.) Good luck with finding a way to love (or at least tolerate!) your limiter.

  12. I was wondering the same thing as this month's Inside Triathlon about bike fit. Riding should NOT hurt! Keep hunting for saddles and will certainly pay off, and hopefully you will come to LOVE cycling!

  13. Well, folks, thanks for all the comments and well wishes, and for toleating my pity party. At Sweet Baboo's suggestion, I've dug out an old saddle that I recall being more comfortable. It's heavier and definitely not aero, but I don't care. It's wide with a cutout and I'm going to try it on my next long ride. I'm also going to try raising my handlbars about an inch.

  14. I second the pro bike fit. And if that doesn't work, find another place and get re-fitted. Every bike shop has someone who thinks they know how to fit people on bikes, not all of them are right! :)

    If you haven't tried a saddle w/ a cutout, I highly suggest it. Also, performance bike makes padded GEL shorts, they rock. Those two things plus COPIOUS amounts of Chamois Butt'r should help.

    I'm 100% with you on the pool. I don't want to get in, but once I'm in I'm strong with good form (albiet slow. why is that? if my form is so good, shouldn't I be faster?). Running? Sure, bring it. But the bike...meh. I can ride all day, just don't make me climb hills or expect me to go fast!

    (ps - can I stalk, er, add you and Baboo as 'friends' on BT? I'm 'maxpixie' over there :)

  15. Anonymous9:34 AM

    With the bike, it's always harder for me to get motivated. I don't think I hate it...some rides are great. There's just so much involved in getting out there! Now that I'm increasing the miles, my but hurts, too. I did a long ride on Thursday and was going to do a shorter ride on Friday, but once I sat on the bike my butt was so sore. I rode around the block and just went back home!

    Swimming...also hard to get motivated to go, but once in the water I love it. I'm slow, but swimming is relaxing to me. favorite!!

  16. Even though I love my bike, I can still identify with all of your woes....especially the occasional crying fits of frustration. The only reason I don't throw myself to the ground at times is because I would have to unclip from my bike. Now when I am running (crawling), there is no hindrance there and I can throw myself to the ground as many times as I would like without the annoyance of having to un-attach myself from my bike. It is really all a matter of convenience for me.

  17. I'm usually not the whole "you gotta try what I have," type of person, but you gotta try what I have.

    It is the Adamo Racing saddle from ISM.

    They make several kinds but the racing or road versions are made for "real" cycling.

    I have the racing version. It takes a couple of rides to get used to the feel.

    Last year I went from going numb and raw after 20 miles with other saddles to being able to handle 7 hr rides with tri shorts.

    Just an idea because I know you have had other issues with saddles.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

  18. I don't know, bike and swim both get my vote for last place because my first love will always be run. I have so much to think about the whole time I bike and swim that neither are "relaxing" like running is.

    Can I say that I hate getting up at 5 am for races and long runs?

  19. I, too, am not a big fan of the bike. It kinda scares the bejeezus out of me; no matter how fast I swim or run, if I fall down, I'm not going to get *that* hurt, but the bike is a different story. Also, if I were to lose my goggles in the swim, I'd still finish, and while something could happen to my shoes on the run, I'd still probably make it. But if something (even as innocuous as a flat) goes wrong with my bike, there is a good chance it would keep me from making the cutoff.

  20. I am right there with you. I'm new to the sport. And while my run is slow, and I totally lack endurance in the swim, I love them both. And get a huge sense of accomplishment from them both.

    But with the bike UGH! It hurts. My quads and lungs burn and I'm scared of traffic. And then to add insult to injury, there are grandmas on little upright bikes with shopping baskets who can go faster than I can. Its embarrassing!

    But we all must work on out weakest link right! And one day, they assure me, the breakthrough will come.

    (Please let it be soon)

  21. I’m jealous of those ‘real’ cyclists that do all their crap with no hands on the handlebars. I can barely get my water bottle without crashing.

  22. I'm sorry. Rant, rant all you want. We all need that some days. I wish I could do your bike, and you could do my run!!

  23. Anonymous9:58 PM

    Your whole post was EXACTLY how I am with my bike. I swear, I curse, I cry. My husband cruises up a hill while I am weaving all over the road, legs burning, lungs about to explode!

    I get sore "bits".Have been to the Doctors for anti biotics due to "sores", and it doesn't seem to matter what I do, I am still scared of cycling (or should that really be crashing), and I'm not going any faster than the day I started this triathlon lark about 4 years ago! In fact, I may almost be slower.

    Funny though, when I did Ironman, I had a great ride - maybe it's just the training that sux!

    It's a beeyotch!


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