a German on Team USA

Murphy’s Law for Triathlon?

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Murphy’s Law for Triathlon?

June 30, 2013 – Lake Waconia Triathlon, Waconia, MN
July 13, 2013 – Lifetime Triathlon Minneapolis, Lake Nokomis, MN

Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.

Becida Rd Loop

Becida Rd Loop

This story begins on Friday June 28, 2013, I was on the last training ride before the Lake Waconia Triathlon.  I had a 1 1/2 hour ride scheduled and decided to ride the “Becida Rd. Loop”.  About 4 miles into the ride, my chain jumped of the front ring while shifting on an incline.  I tried to get the chain on again while riding, but to no avail.  In the last moment I could clip out before falling sideways.  As I checked my bike, I saw to my dismay that my rear derailleur was totally bent out of shape and my rear wheel did not move.  What now?  I was about 2.5 miles from The Bike Guy (but I did not have their phone number) and about 1 mile from the closest business (to look up his number).  So, I shouldered my bike and started walking.  Luckily those carbon bikes are pretty light, yet walking on bike shoes is not very comfortable.  Fortunately for me, a young man, whose twin brothers I knew from BSU, stopped with his truck and gave me and my bike a ride to the bike shop.

The news was bad, not only had I killed my rear derailleur, I also had broken my rear derailleur hanger.  What made it even worse, the hanger is integrated into the frame.  This means the bike has to be sent to a carbon shop to get it repaired, I would be without a bike for at least four weeks.  At that moment I felt like crying.  I was scheduled to race in two days, Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Minneapolis was coming up in two more weeks.  How was I supposed to prepare for Nationals in August without a bike?  I was starting to panic.  I need a bike!!!

The broken hanger (left) and the piece Kirby modified for a temporary fix (right).

The broken hanger (left) and the piece Kirby modified for a temporary fix (right).

I frantically called around trying to figure out what to do.  I even put a bike on hold at a store.  Kirby from The Bike Guy made my day when he sent me a message to tell me that he found a temporary fix for my bike, so I could race on Sunday.  I should have taken a picture of his handy work that was admired by everybody who saw it – He was THE MAN!  This gave me the chance to race at Lake Waconia Tri on Sunday, go to my scheduled bike fitting on Monday, and figure out from there what to do.

Lake Waconia Triathlon

On Saturday morning I went for a short easy run with some striders and short sprints to open up my legs like I always do the day before a race.  I also went on a short ride with the fixed bike to check if there are any differences in how it handled.  Everything seemed to work just fine.  Around lunch time I packed up the car, stopped at Caribou Coffee for a quick mocha, and headed south towards Waconia, MN.  In St. Cloud I had an early dinner at Noodles & Co, one of my favorite places to eat the day before a race.  In Waconia, I picked up my race packet and checked out the race course for any changes from last year, before heading to my hotel for the night.

Race Day

Short Version:

Terrible swim! OK bike! Good run!

Long Version:

Sunday morning was a typical race morning: getting up at 4:45 a.m., eating my standard breakfast, packing up my stuff, heading to the race site, setting up my transition area, chatting with other athletes (familiar and unfamiliar), getting body marked, warming up, …, just the standard stuff.  The last two years I had raced Waconia in the elite wave; this year I had decided to race in the age group wave.  After all, it was a training race and I did not want to overemphasis the importance of this race.  Time trial start and off we went.  I did not anticipate the water to be so choppy, boy, I think I never swallowed as much water as during this swim – except maybe last year at Nationals in Burlington, VT.  I did not really feel bad on the swim, but my time was terrible.  Maybe I did not push hard enough?  OK, everybody’s time seemed to be slow, but every time I swim as slow as a certain friend of mine, I have a bad swim 😛

T1 and the bike leg went OK.  It was somewhat windy on the course, but the wind was in our backs on the last 5 miles, the hilliest part of the course.  My temporarily fixed bike held up wonderfully.  People later asked me if the fix affected my riding.  Well, I do not think that I pushed less hard, but I know that I shifted differently not wanting the same thing to happen again.  I shifted into smaller gears earlier, as a consequence I was riding with higher cadences, something I generally do not like.  I am not a high cadence rider.  So, did it affect me?  Yes, it did.  Did it affect my time?  I do not know.

I was a little slow in putting on my running shoes in T2, but otherwise it went well.  I picked up one women that had passed me toward the end of the bike in T2 and the second at the beginning of the run.  I felt good on the run.  This does not mean that it was easy.  For those who do not know the Lake Waconia running route, it is not an easy run.  You have an elevation gain of about 150 ft within 0.5 miles at about 1/3 of a mile into the run.  After that it is a constant up and down until the turn around point.  On the way back I felt like throwing up while going up some of the inclines, but I pushed through it and ended up with my best ever running time at Lake Waconia.

Lake Waconia Triathlon - Run Elevation Profile

Lake Waconia Triathlon – Run Elevation Profile

20130630 Lake Waconia Tri 001End result:
A beer mug for Craig and me, without the beer.

Bike Fitting

I stayed with Craig and Lisa over night and ventured to see the Bicycle Fit Guru, Chris Balser, the next day.  By the way, whenever I stay with Craig and Lisa, we have to go and eat ice cream at least once, especially after a race.  This time we visited “Sebastian Joe’s“.  The ice cream was really good, but I think I prefer “Izzy’s“.

Back to the bike fitting.  As soon as I walked into the place, Chris asked “Let’s see what they have done.”  And then said, “Exactly what I would have done.  Great craftsmanship!”  This is to you, Kirby!  The fitting itself was quite interesting.  Chris found that overall my position on the bike was not bad, but that there were some minor things to fix, like my knees moving in and out, my arms being a little bit to stretched out, my hip angle being a bit too small, the power differential between my left and right leg, and the fact that the max power is generated too late in the pedal cycle.  He moved the saddle forward, added a thin shim between the shoe and the cleat on the left side, he exchanged the 80 mm 7 deg stem with a 60 mm 7 deg stem, he raised my cockpit by about 5 mm.  He also figured out that my left pedal had too much play due to usage (yes, it was the pedal not the cleat).  Luckily, I had a second set of pedals from an previous bike with me and we could just exchange them.  He also tried different supporting insoles for my shoes, but non of them would work with my shoes – they were all too thick.  So, he gave me some suggestions on insoles I could purchase that should work.

With all this done, he proceeded on taking the geometry of my set up using his Retul system.  Once the bike was scanned into the system, he could give me a very detailed print out of my set up, but he also could use the Retul frame finder to determine what other frames would be good fits for my set up.

The bike fit does not end with this appointment, I will have at least two more follow up appointments, to tweak the set up.  Two days after the bike fit, I was pushing on the average 20 Watts more during 5 min tempo rides than before, using my fixed bike, without any additional perceived effort.  I am not sure this increase is all due to the adjusted riding position, but I would assume that it certainly contributed.

New Rides

Equipped with the information from the bike fit, I also went out to look for a new bike.  Not an easy task, turns out the bike I was looking at was on back order until December 2013 😦   Luckily, I finally found what I was looking for at a bike store in the Cities.  But, how do you purchase a bike if you are in Bemidji, the store is in the Cities, their online purchasing system does not accept German credit cards, and they are not accepting credit card numbers over the phone?  Luckily, really, really good friends came to the rescue (they know who they are), purchased the bike for me, and brought it up to Bemidji.  I owe you, guys!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is a really sweet ride!  But first things first, I brought the bike to The Bike Guy to get the compact crankset exchanged with my standard crankset, and to  get the bike set up according to the fit specifications.  Unfortunately, the stem was too long and no shorter stem was available in the Bemidji area.  An email to Chris Balser, the Bicycle Fit Guru, later, I had another short term appointment with him the Thursday before Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Minneapolis.

A new bike was not my only new ride this week.  I finally broke down and exchanged my old, rusty Corolla with a new car.  I loved my Corolla and it treated me well for over 15 years, but, it was time to let go of it.  I now have a spanking new Rav4 and it should last for at least another 15 years.

Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Minneapolis

I felt pretty good the week leading up to Lifetime Fitness Tri MSP, the runs went well, the bike time trial went well, …

I left for the Cities on Thursday, went to eat Greek with Lisa and Craig, but unfortunately had to rush through the meal to make my evening appointment with Chris Balser.  He adjusted my cockpit, including changing the stem from an 80 mm 6 deg to an 60 mm 7 deg, lowering it, and adjusting the arm pads.  There are so many ways to adjust the fitting of a bike, there is no reason why anybody should feel stiffness, or aches and pains from the position on the bike.  IF YOUR BIKE DOES NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE, GO AND GET IT PROPERLY FITTED!  Now I was ready for LTF Tri MSP, or so I thought.

Saturday brought my regular pre-race routine, only this time I ran around Lake Nokomis instead of in my own backyard.  Craig and I also went to the expo to pick up our race packets.  The directive for the rest of the day was simple: give your legs a rest, and get to bed early to be ready to get up again at 3 a.m.!

Race Day

Land under water!

Land under water!

Sunday morning greeted us with thunder storms.  The radar indicated a big orange line west of the Cities, that seemed to be moving eastward at an excruciating slow pace.  The storm seemed to get worse and worse as I got ready and drove to the transition area.  There everybody just seemed to be sitting in their car and waiting out the storm.  With all the metal racks and bleachers, the transition area was not a save place to be, and organizers kept it closed.  In the meantime, it rained like crazy, water was standing and flowing everywhere.  Flash floods were popping up along the course.  The organizers had to totally rethink the race, especially since the international distance bike course was flooded and could not be cleared.  In the end, the race started with a 2h delay.  Everybody (except the professional) was racing the short course race with a 0.25+ mile swim, a 16.8 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run.  And time trial starts were done with two athletes starting at a time.  I have to say, considering with all the adversities they had to deal with, the organizers, officials, and volunteers did an amazing job, and the athletes that showed up and stayed had a great race.

Swim Start

LTF Tri MSP – Swim Start

I was the last of the Master Elite wave going into the water.  It was only a 0.25+ mile swim, so I tired to swim it hard.  This worked OK for the first half of the course, but once around the turn buoy the waves really started to play with me.  At the turn buoy, Julia who had started with me was still right next to me and then suddenly she was gone and left be in the wake.  I am really struggling with my swims this year.

LTF Tri MSP - Bike Leg

LTF Tri MSP – Bike Leg

I jumped on my bike, got up to speed and was about to close my shoes when I realized that the Velcro closure on my right shoe had slipped out of its loop.  I tried to fiddle with it while riding but couldn’t get it back in.  Darn!  No sense in riding the whole 16+ miles with an open shoe, so I stopped, repaired it and went on.  But what does Murphy’s law say?  “If anything can go wrong it will go wrong”?  Something was wrong with my cockpit.  It started tilting downward.  What the …?  I pulled on it and it came up again.  Not good!  Luckily it wasn’t so loose that it slipped all over the place, but every 3-4 miles I had to pull it up again.  Still, I was in time trial mode – I had prepared for a 25 mi ride, this was only a little bit more than half the distance, so go for it!  After about 10 miles it caught up with me and my legs started feeling heavy.  I had forgotten that the Nevis TT are only about 9 mi long!  I still managed to average about 21.8 mph on a quite technical course.  Not too bad.

LTF Tri MSP - Crossing Finish Line

LTF Tri MSP – Crossing Finish Line

The concluding 3.1 mile run felt hard, I felt very slow, especially when some of the better runners in my waves seemed to run by me and leave me behind like I was a turtle and they the hare.  So, that is how Chris Lieto must feel during Kona when he leads the pack on the bike and then everybody leaves him in the dust on the run.

It is not easy to switch on short notice from an Olympic distance mind set to a short distance mind set.  I got into time trial mode and pushed too hard too early.  The bike issues did not help.  I also should practice bike handling skills.  I still had fun.  It was the first time that friends raced the Lifetime Fitness Tri Minneapolis with me.  I ended up 4th in the Female Master’s Elite division, but we still took home some metal.  My friends both placed: Craig ended up 3rd in his division and Neil WON his division.  Congratulations to both of them!

And … at the end of the day Lisa, Craig, and I, obviously, had to end up at Izzy’s!  I had a ‘Swedish Garden Party’ single with a ‘Dark Chocolate Zin’ Izzy in a sugar cone.  Yum!



Author: seecktri

an Exercise Science professor at Bemidji State University who spends most of her time working, swimming, cycling, and running; a German on Team USA Triathlon who nevertheless cheers for Team Germany for anything sport

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