Category Archives: Running

more on bicycling

I tried Saddle #4 today.

Saddle #1 = Saddle that came with my bike, Riva Sport Plus, 155 mm

Saddle #2 = Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow, 131 mm

You can see this saddle looks visibly different from the one above.  I bought it because of the large gap, but what I didn’t realize was how much narrower it was.

Saddle #3 = Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow, 152 mm

I hoped this one would be a compromise between the hard, racing saddle with the large channel, and the more cushioned saddle that came with my bike.  However, it felt just like the one that came with my bike (not comfortable.)

Saddle #4 = Specialized Power saddle, 155 mm

There are a bunch of different versions of this saddle, and I bought the cheapest, the Power Comp.  The more expensive versions are lighter and in some cases less padded.  I’m definitely not in a situation where ounces matter, and less padding doesn’t seem ideal.  The version I got was not particularly well padded.  The version I got wasn’t very padded, so I can only imagine how hard the unpadded version is.

Anyway, I’ve now done about 40 mi on the Specialized Power, and it’s definitely the best option so far.  It’s a marked improvement over the saddle that came with my bike.  With my original saddle, I really started experiencing serious discomfort by around 30 mi, and felt I just couldn’t go much more than about 40 mi with it.  I’m cautiously optimistic that a better saddle for me will allow me to cycle longer distances.  I do have one more to try, and then I’ll make a decision and sell or return the rejects.

Today’s 30 mi ride featured more than 2000 feet of elevation gain.  It’s definitely the hilliest ride I’ve done this year, and it featured two particularly difficult hills.  I don’t mind a long, gradual hill, even if it climbs a substantial amount of elevation.  However, the very steep sections, just kill me, even if they’re relatively short.   The first hill was only about 130 ft, per Strava, but was about half 11% grade or more.  The second hill was 250 ft and also included a large section at 11% or more.  I did manage to get to the top, but only just.

 

 

 

saddle woes and the revelation that I have a big butt

My comfort while riding the bike has improved since I started thanks to Chamois Buttr and high-end bib shorts.  Still, at the end of a typical ride, my butt hurts more than my legs, and this just seems wrong to me.  Shouldn’t my legs be the limiting factor?  I decided to try upgrading my seat might help me, and without getting too explicit, I thought a seat with a channel down the middle could be the ticket.  I ended up getting this seat:

This is a Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow saddle.  I found it massively on discount from the list price of $200 from some sketchy internet site, 60% off or so, and ordered it.  (Coincidentally, or not, I had $6000 in charges on my credit card rung out a few days later and had to cancel it.)  It came in two sizes, small and large, and I decided to go for small.  I mean, I don’t have a bit butt, right?  I decided to test drive it on my planned 44 mile cycle this weekend.  What could possibly go wrong, I ask you?

About 10 miles in, I noticed the soft tissue discomfort I have been dealing with for the last year or so was completely absent.  No discomfort, pain, nothing.  Perfection!  Unfortunately, this had been replaced by increasing levels of discomfort on my sit bones.  At 18 miles, I texted H and told him he might have to come and pick me up.  At 28 miles, I told him I was still surviving but only just.  Basically, it was torture, and it was just got more and more painful.  After a certain point, I just couldn’t handle the pressure on my sit bones anymore, and was sliding forward and back on the saddle, bearing pressure on other places just not really meant to bear pressure, and I got some nasty chafing.  I’m still in a significant amount of discomfort today.  I guess I am stubborn, because I refused to stop, and finished out the whole ride, with only a small “short cut” that cut a couple miles off at the end.  Said shortcut is a route that I normally avoid like the plague because it features a massive hill.  I’d in fact never ridden up it before, but I was in so much pain, i said screw it, and 40 miles in, up I went: only 0.4 miles, but 8% average grade, peak grade 17%.  At one point, I was going back and forth like it was a ski slope, trying to reduce the effective grade.  It was BRUTAL.  But worth it.

Anyway, I’m not really sure where to go with the bike seat thing at this point.  I measured the location of my sit bones.  (I really could have lived my entire life without measuring this.)  Turns out, I have an above average size rear for a female (and women are wider-arsed than men.  Who knew?  I always thought I had a small butt, but I guess not.  In some ways it makes sense.  My labors probably wouldn’t have been as “easy” if I were truly narrow-hipped.  Anyway, I’ve re-ordered the saddle from the sketchy website in the large size, and I’m waiting to see if this new credit card will be ripped as well.   I also ordered a couple of other saddles.  I’ll sell or return all but one, and hopefully I can find one that will work for me.

This weekend’s ride:

42 miles, 2100 feet of elevation gain.  It’s definitely my hardest ride since last summer.  I went slower thanks to the saddle issue, but I still think I got a good workout.  Now let’s hope I can get this sorted and be back on the bike next weekend.   I had been hoping to do 45+ next weekend, but now I’m thinking I’ll repeat this ride.  I still have to spend a lot of time consulting directions on this route.

 

Saturday cycle

Another Saturday, another cycle.  I took my bike into the bike shop for a tune-up after my issues last weekend, and everything was much better today.  I feel a little guilty shelling out $200 for things I could definitely do myself, but I am earning more thanks to working more, and I have less time, and I don’t really want to take up bike maintenance as a hobby.  (I could have brought it in and just had the specific issue addressed, but I had a full tune-up.)  Today’s cycle was almost identical to last weekend’s in terms of distance and elevation gain.  I went a little slower, which I mostly attribute to the fact that I’ve never ridden this route before and had to stop and check directions and ride slower in places trying to figure out which way I was going.  However, I felt MUCH better at the end.  I rode the last road prior to the big hill back to my house faster than I ever have, per Strava, and I ride that road a lot, so that’s significant.  Equally important, the last hill up to my neighborhood wasn’t so bad.  I was partially fueled by road-rage, though, as a car honked at me, in my opinion 100% completely without justification, just before I cycled up the hill.  I feel like there is a subset of drivers – a small subset – that really have it in for cyclists.

I crossed the new 520 bridge for the first time, and it has a wonderful cycling lane.  On the other cross-lake highway, you practically feel like you’re on the highway with the cars, but the new bridge has a wide cycling and walking lane, and once I’d figured out how to get on it, I really enjoyed cycling across it.

Many major tours are doing away with podium girls, including the Tour de France.  Female models used to present the winners with their awards and pose for photos with them.  To me, this is a great example of a meaningless symbolic gesture that makes people feel warm and fuzzy about being feminist without doing something real.  What would be real, you might ask?  How about having a Tour de France for women?  How about televising women’s performances in any tour, including their most significant race – the Tour de Rosa?  (Currently, the only television coverage for women is in the world championships.  If any women’s tours are televised, the major provider for cycling in the US, NBC, does not cover them.)  It doesn’t really bother me at all if attractive women give stage winners a teddy bear.  The absence of anything remotely resembling equal opportunity in cycling for women, on the other hand, bothers me a great deal.  This, on the other hand, is encouraging.

cyling – 2018

I’m back on the bike.  My cycling enthusiasm seriously waned over the winter.  It’s just hard to get excited about cycling when it’s cold and rainy outside.  With the sun, though, the enthusiasm is definitely back.  I’ve cycled 170 miles in 2108, and a significant percentage of those miles have been over the last couple of weekends.

Week 1:

Cycle 1 was a 30 mile ride around the bottom of Lake Washington.  One thing that is super nice is that I have finally memorized some routes.  When I first started cycling, I was constantly getting lost.  While that still happens, it’s getting a lot less frequent, and I have this route totally memorized.  Or nearly.  30 miles, 1500 feet elevation gain – and it wiped.me.out.  I was pretty much cooked for the rest of the day.

Isn’t Seattle beautiful?

Week 2:

I decided to add some miles the second week and did a very similar ride, except that I added 8 miles or so and biked around the bottom of Mercer Island.  This also added a little bit of elevation gain.  Anyway, this ride turned out to be more eventful.  My chain came off the chain ring a few miles in, and then it happened again, and I had trouble getting on the lower front chain ring, and yeah.  Not good.  However, it mostly worked, and I tried not to switch chain rings at the front very often and just rely on the gears at the back.  Then, when I was halfway across the bridge between Mercer Island and Bellevue, probably 3 miles from the nearest place I could get picked up by car and with traffic zooming by at 70 mph (separated by a barrier thankfully), the chain came off for at least the third time, but this time it was jammed between the derailleur and the gears.  I turned my hands solid black trying to get it back on and after a lot of cursing and a little bit of panic finally succeeded.  This is the second time I’ve had a problem on that bridge, and it really is just not a good place to have an issue.  I got going again and was really nervous about my bike and in probably the most remote section of the whole ride with nowhere to go ran into this homeless man semi-blocking the path.  I was quite nervous to try and go by / around him, but fortunately, he left me alone.  Then, a few miles from home on a VERY quiet street, I rolled through a stop sign in front of a guy who apparently thought he should have gone first, and he yelled at me and called me a dumb bitch.  I probably shouldn’t roll through stop signs, but I really feel that level of nastiness is unnecessary.

Note elevation for both my rides: downhill, flat, then uphill. I really wish I could reverse that.  The uphill at the end is just killer.

After my ride, I was once again totally wrecked.  My question now is whether I can actually build cycling fitness by cycling just once a week, or whether I need to cycle at least twice a week.  I don’t want to subject myself to a weekly torture-fest, and I really do want to go farther and faster, but cycling midweek is no picnic.  Commuting by bike is just difficult and arguably dangerous.  I have a hilly 10-mile loop I do that takes about an hour, but I have mostly 8 am meetings these days, so doing that loop would require a 6 am start.  Definitely doable.  Is the motivation there?  I’m not sure.  I’m toying with the idea of attempting a century this summer, but for now, I’m thinking of a goal of a 50 mile cycle by the end of June.

 

 

running or cycling?

Why running is better:

1.) While uphills are tough on foot, they are BRUTAL on the bike.

2.) A light to moderate rain is irritating when running but can be dressed for, but a ride in a cold rain is miserable AND hazardous.

3.) Speaking of hazardous, I’ve been running most of my life, and I’ve never really hurt myself.  It’s quite safe.  Bike riding, however, is quite hazardous.  Death is a realistic possibility, and road rash is downright probable.

4.) Ye Gods, the equipment.  I feel like I’m getting ready to scale Everest when I prepare for a bike ride – bike, helmet, bum bag, spare tub and flat kit, special pedals and matching shoes, padded shorts, gloves, helmet, sunglasses, shoe covers if it’s cold, and on and on.  It’s nuts.  To run, I need shoes, a sports bra, shorts, and a T-shirt.  Add rain jacket or long-sleeve shirt if it’s cold.  NBD.

5.) You can really lose yourself if your thoughts when you’re running.  I zone out to the point that I sometimes get lost.  Just one foot in front of the other.  Easy.

6.) Since you cover much shorter distances, getting lost is much less of a problem.  I’m constantly getting lost on the bike.

7.) No mechanical knowledge necessary.  No need to pump up tires, learn how to change a flat, or deal with chain problems.  No maintenance.

8.) Less chafing when running.  Enough said.

9.) Running is cheaper.

10.) Running is more social.  I admit this one is debatable, but I just do not enjoy trying to converse with someone when cycling.  I’m trying not to crash, and riding side by side just feels hazardous on the roads, and it’s hard to hear someone talking in front of you.  Running, on the other hand, is a great time to chat.

11.) Running is way more efficient.  There is pretty much no reason to train for more than 3 hours at a stretch, ever, unless you’re training for an ultramarathon.  (And why would anyone want to do that?)  Cyclists, on the other hand, habitually head out for 6 hour rides.

Why cycling is better:

1.) You can cover much longer distances and see the world around you.  I’ve cycled all over Seattle and the Eastside and seen so many parts of the city I’d never wandered through before.

2.) Coasting.

3.) Downhills on a bike are thrilling and require zero effort.  Running down a hill is easier than running up, but you’re still pounding.

4.) Running is harder on your body, in my opinion.  That pounding is tough.  There are a lot of overuse injuries in running.

5.) There’s really no such thing as an “easy run.”  An easy running pace is . . . walking.  In cycling, though, you can go slowly and still be cycling.  Cycling on flats is relatively easy and painless if you take your time.  The same cannot necessarily be said for running.

The “why running is better” list far eclipses the cycling list, but still, I’m excited to get back into cycling this summer.  It’s just fun, and all the drawbacks don’t seem to matter.  If I had to give up one or the other, I’d give up cycling in a second, but fortunately, I don’t, and cycling is great cross-training.

Tenacious 10

I ran the Tenacious 10 yesterday in North Seattle.  It’s a 10-mile and a 10K race sponsored by Oiselle.  Oiselle is a running clothes company based in Seattle founded and run primarily by women, including famous former elite runners Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher.  I own a few Oiselle articles of clothing, but to be honest I haven’t loved it as much as the Sugoi and Nike stuff I own.  Nevertheless, I like what they stand for and always wish them well.   I’d been thinking about running this race, but there are a lot of race options in late April and early May, so I’d been on the fence.  After not actually finishing the 5K last weekend, however, I decided to sign up, and I’m glad I did.

The race started at 8 am in Gas Works Park, so it was a solid 30 minute drive from my house.  I nearly missed the start of the race last weekend, and I was worried about parking, so I got up at 5:30 and arrived at the race about about 6:55, and I got a rock-awesome parking spot near the start.  As I was leaving the parking lot, Kara Goucher walked by me.  I though, was that Kara Goucher?  She works for Oiselle, right?  Then I thought, no, you’re just dreaming it.  But no, I saw her later, and it was DEFINITELY Kara Goucher.  So cool!  I picked up my number (no line) and jogged a mile warmup, and hit the portapotties (no line).  Then I met up with a couple friends who were also running the race, before going out for another half mile or so of jogging.

At the start line, there were four pace groups, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 9:40 mpm.  (9:40 works out to a sub-60 10K.)  I had been thinking I’d start out at 7:45 and then speed up, but I couldn’t resist going out with the 7:30 pace group, led by Ali.soune Lee.  Initially, there was a large group following the pacer, but by the end of the first mile, the group had thinned dramatically, and I’d say by the end of the second mile, we were down to 4 or 5 people.  The pace felt hard to me fairly quickly, but I told myself to stick with it anyway.  I resisted looking at my watch and just stuck to the pacer’s back.  I find this approach works really well for me.  I knew the second mile would be the hilliest section, and there was in fact an incline at the end of the first mile, but I powered up it.  (The one disadvantage of a pace group is they tend to go faster up hills and slower down hills than you would naturally.)  From the hill on, I was definitely significantly uncomfortable, and at times it felt really hard to stay with the pacer.  Still, I just stuck with it, and the second mile mark came surprisingly quicker.

  • 7:24
  • 7:28

One thing I loved about this race was how many fast women were participating.  Lauren Fleshman (NCAA champion 5K and former professional runner) led the 7 mpm pace group.  Kara Goucher won the 10 mile.  During the race itself, 90% of the participants were women, and in the early miles, as far as I could see there were women booking it in front of me, women in my pace group, and of course, lots of women behind me.  Normally in races I find myself surrounded by mostly men.  It was inspiring to participate in an event with so many fast women runners, and women runners in general.

Miles three and four passed in a blur of discomfort but not pain.  At the third mile mark, I noted that the pace was a little hot; we were actually going faster than 7:30 pace, more like 7:20.  I tried not to panic that I was going too fast and reminded myself that all things considered, I was feeling pretty good.  I worried that the endurance lost of the last month of slacking would come back to bite me in the last mile or so, but so far so good.  In fact, halfway through, I felt better than I did during the first mile.  Mile four came, and I now was pretty committed to hanging on as long as I possibly could.

  • 7:14
  • 7:22

At mile 5, the 10-mile (as opposed to 10K) runners split off and I thanked my lucky stars that I was running 10K.  We had to run up a short hill, but the pacer told me it would be downhill from there.  At this point, there were only three of us running together, me, the pacer, and another woman.  We’d caught up with the other woman, and I was the only one left of the original pace group, other than the pacer herself.  She started trying to chat to me, and I basically just did not have the air to speak.  -Where are you from? Gasp, puff, new – puff – castle  She talked a bit about the weather and the scenery, and I just really could not respond.  She also was really encouraging and letting me know what the course looked like, and I greatly appreciated it.  I honestly, in retrospect, feel like I could have gone a bit faster that last mile, but maybe not.  I was checking my watch every couple tenths of a mile, and the smallest upward incline felt like a mountain.  The woman we’d caught up with pulled away again, we headed back into the park, and I upped the pace a fraction across the line.

  • 7:20
  • 7:16
  • 7:06 (0.15)

My watch measured 6.15, short of 0.2, and the course isn’t USATF certified, so I’m going with that distance, though many other runners did clock 6.2 or more on Strava.  6.15 miles / 45:11 / 6:20 mpm.  Honestly, I’m thrilled.  After my half, I’d wondered if I could break 45, but after two colds, some kind of flu bug, and a pulled calf muscle over the last 6 weeks, I’m delighted with how fast I was able to go.  Going in, I really had no confidence I could even hold 7:30.  Of course, I kind of wish I could have gone just a fraction faster and dipped under 45, but that’s a goal for next time.  I actually have a 10K planned for a couple weeks from now, and now I know what to aim for.

After the race, I picked up a doughnut, and I stood and cheered for people until my friend came in 15 minutes later at about 60 minutes.  I usually am too tired to cheer after a race, but I wanted to catch my friend and wasn’t exactly sure how fast she was going, and I actually really enjoyed standing on the line cheering for people.  People cheering me on really helps me, so it was fun to do some cheering for once.  I also saw Kara Goucher charge through and win the 10-miler.

All in all, it was a great race and worth the steep last-minute entry fee ($75!).  I’ll do it again next year if I possibly can.

plans

It’s been about a month since my half marathon, and I’ve now been sick three times.  First, I caught a cold from L.  NBD.  Then, she got the flu, and I came down with something way more mild but similar – low grade fever, body aches, and chills.  What was it?  Who knows.  But it was something.  And then, last week, I had sore throat, low grade fever and chills for a couple days, with a bit of lingering congestion and malaise.

On top of this, Monday night I sprained / pulled a muscle in my calf while Irish dancing with the kids.  Yup, I’m definitely getting old.  I can’t help but wonder if the stretching I’ve been doing has weakened my muscles at all.  Or maybe I was just a bit weakened from my half marathon.

I had been planning to make a real go at a 10K at the beginning of May.  At this point, though, I’ve only run sporadically for four weeks.  I’ll still run it, but I feel my chances of doing well are mostly shot.  Still, since I’ve never raced a 10K before, it’s a guaranteed PR.  I’d hoped I could do well, as it’s a women’s race and not super competitive, but I guess I’ll just try and have fun.  I had also planned to run a 5K next weekend, and I guess I’ll probably go ahead and do that since it’s very close to my house.  I definitely need to keep my expectations low, though.

In the more distant future, I’m contemplating running in the Vancouver Marathon.  It takes place in early May, so I’d basically have a year to prepare.  I think training for a marathon would take my half marathon to the next level.  Maybe.  (Maybe I’m too old.)  Running a marathon has long been a bucket list item for me, and I’ve just never really wanted to commit.  However, I know that running and training brings me a lot of happiness, and I think i wouldn’t have to do THAT much more to successfully finish a marathon.  I’d want to train so I could have a decent run with no death march at the end, but I wouldn’t be trying to run to my full capability as I think that would require more miles than I care to train.

The training plan I’m looking at maxes out at a 20 mile long run.  I ran up to 14 training for my half marathon, so it’s not that much farther.  The midweek runs are longer as well, and that would actually probably be the tough part.  It’s very doable to set aside time to slog through a tough run on the weekend.  It’s a lot harder to get up at the crack of dawn and run 10+ miles, often in the dark or the rain.

According to Hanson’s race equivalency calculator, a 1:43:04 half marathon is equivalent to a 3:34:53 marathon, or 8:12 minutes per mile.  If I threw 30 seconds per mile on that and targeted 8:42 minutes per mile, that works out to a 3:48 marathon.  That seems achievable to me and a good time to pace to aim for, assuming excellent conditions.

Anyway, this is just a percolating idea right now.  If I keep getting sick, I might have to take up basket weaving.  (Or, you know, one of my other hobbies that I’ve been neglecting like knitting or quilting.)