Littlefoot Triathlon – Race Recap

Oh man.

This summer I planned to do no races, to enjoy my summer, and to go to more happy hours. And I have! I have spent a lot of time drinking beers on patios, sitting on the couch, working, and very little time working out. As a result I’m slightly squishier but a lot less stressed out than I was this time last summer.

But a few weeks ago Chris and I went for a bike ride and then I hopped off and did a short run. Just to see. Just to see how bad a brick might feel. But it was fine! I was hot and tired, but really, it was fine.

So on a whim, with no training, yesterday afternoon I signed up for the Littlefoot Triathlon, a tiny sprint tri that was this morning. (There were only about 150 racers.) I had done two random 5ks this summer, not really trained, and PR’d both! Maybe 2013 was one long taper I’d benefited from immensely.

Ha. Hahahaha. Oh, Past Mel. How did you get so dumb?

I actually had a lot of fun today, but I totally face-planted in the race. The very short version with random crappy iPhone pictures…

The approach:

Most of my gear came together pretty quickly last night except for 10 tense minutes spent looking for a stray cycling glove. (I have super crappy wrists, I need them even for a short ride.) My alarm didn’t go off (I set it for PM instead of AM) but Chris’s alarm woke me up and I got out the door on time. On the way there, I hit a bump on the freeway and in the rear view mirror watched my bike bounce out of its fastenings on the bike rack and slide dangerously close to flying off. Pulled over, adjusted, drove verrrry carefully the rest of the way.

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The swim:

Always my favorite leg, and I love the part before we start where everyone’s in the water chatting. I haven’t swam (in a pool or in a lake) in a year so I was impressed that I could swim a half mile with no breaks. It wasn’t fast, but I swam pretty straight and was able to pass some folks.

The bike:

Bleh. I think I have realized I do not enjoy cycling, especially on my crappy Target bike. The course wasn’t as hilly as I thought, but it was really curvy, so you had zero momentum going into the uphills. Also, my heart rate was like “WHY DID YOU JUST SWIM SO HARD FOR SO LONG? IS SOMETHING CHASING YOU?” and my heart rate would. Not. Come. Down. Not when I slowed down, not when I had water, not when I took it easy on the uphills.

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The run:

I got off the bike and my legs felt okay-ish, but again my heart rate was like “THIS IS NOT DRINKING BEER. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING??” And by this time it was really hot, and when I tried to run my heart rate exploded and I felt a little dizzy. So since I had no goals, and I was just here for fun, I decided to just walk the 5k. I could have kept up a run/walk situation but…meh. Meh. I say.

I smiled at other racers, chatted with volunteers, and drank a lot of water. It was hot. Then there were fewer people on the course and I got bored. I kind of wished I’d spent my $85 on a new dress.

The finish:

I realized at some point that I was the last finisher, and I felt badly because I think people really like to cheer for last finishers who look like they’re overcoming some hardship but trying really hard. People like it when the last finisher is really old or overweight but doing their best to sprint to the finish! I was just a healthy lady who was not trained at all and being kind of lazy.

When I got to the finish line I tried to nonchalantly saunter across, but the announcer stopped the raffle/awards to call me out, and I waved to the crowd. “Hi! Sorry. Don’t mind me. Are there any vegetarian sandwiches left?” (There weren’t!)

Maybe 15 seconds after I finished, I was slinking off to collect my stuff when the announcer called out my name for first place! Well, only place. In the sadly neglected Athena division. (That means I weigh more than 150 pounds.) I collected my award and marveled at the math that allowed me to be both first and last. Ah, well.

So there’s that. Ninth triathlon in the books. Kind of made an idiot of myself, but I had fun.

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Three footnotes if I could remember how to actually code footnotes:

One, I think I actually came in last place, which is kind of funny. It’s that thing people dread but it’s fine. No one points and laughs at you, you still get the same t-shirt. I’m kind of happy to fall on this sword if it means someone else who would mind doesn’t have to. But, I was also in the last wave, so maybe someone who started 20 minutes ahead of me actually took more time than I did. Who knows.

Two, I wish the Athena division was really a thing. I always sign up for it if it’s an option because seriously, regardless of how in shape you are, it’s just harder to propel 150 pounds around a course than it is 120 pounds, and I’m a big person! I’d like to compete against other big people. I’m tall and broad and the only time in my life I’ve weighed less than 150 pounds was a brief period after college when I engaged in some somewhat disordered habits. Other than that, I’ve fit into the same jeans since high school.

And there were definitely women in that weight range who beat me today who decided to compete in their age group instead. They should have this cool plaque, not me! I mean, to each her own. Thanks for the first place/last place finish, ladies!

Three, race directors: you always run out of the vegetarian sandwiches or burritos! You should have more. I was starving and made a beeline for a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich when I left the park.

That was awful

I just came so close to getting hit by a car that I’m considering giving up bicycle commuting.

I am one of the safest cyclists I know. I wear bright colors. I ride with traffic. I signal. I always have my lights on. I wear a helmet. I respect traffic lights and signs. Even my commute is pretty safe, residential and then downtown. Lots of stop signs and stop lights, no stretches where anyone can really pick up much speed.

On my way home, just now, just 15 minutes ago, I approached an intersection with a two way stop. I had a stop sign, the driver across from me had a stop sign, and cross traffic didn’t have to stop. I checked for oncoming traffic from either direction, then proceeded to cross.

The driver, in a silver honda, looked left, looked right, and pulled out a little into the intersection. I stared into the windshield trying to make eye contact to make sure I was seen.

I watched the driver look left and right and left again, inching out the way you do in these residential neighborhoods when it’s a little hard to see past parked cars. But while looking right and left, the driver never looked straight ahead to see me, not fifteen feet from the front bumper.

I saw that moment of decision, that instance when you go from creeping out into the intersection to when you decide you’re clear to go, and I watched the bumper get closer to me, wondering in that instant if I’d be completely broadsided or if the car would just hit my back wheel. Calculating our speed, I thought to myself this is probably going to hurt a lot, but it’s very unlikely you will actually die.

My finger fumbled for my bell–it’s pretty loud–and in the meantime I let out the shrillest, loudest, longest scream of my life. I shrieked with every effort, I screeched like I was in a horror movie, hoping the driver would hear me and it would trigger a reflex to hit the brakes.

I veered to the right, and finally made eye contact with the driver, who seemed a little startled, and looked quizzically at me, but, having missed hitting me by just a few feet, continued down the road.

I vibrated with adrenaline and my legs felt noodley. I considered walking the few blocks home, but even though my legs were shaky, they still seemed to be able to pedal.

I got home and promptly poured myself a whiskey. Chris isn’t home to tell my story to, so I’m writing a blog post. My throat still hurts from screaming.

That was awful.

Cycling under the influence

Sometimes it’s hard for me to know if something is really a “hot topic” or if it’s just interesting to me and people I know. Like, I was sort of interested in Colorado legalizing marijuana but I didn’t realize this was a national story until we went to Alabama for Thanksgiving and everyone asked us about it.

So, I don’t know if Denver Police enforcing DUI laws for cyclists is actually big news or if I just keep seeing it pop up because I am a Denver cyclist and so it’s something people I know are talking about.

One the one hand, it seems kind of obvious that you shouldn’t drink and bike. I’m always talking about how I have the same rights and responsibilities on my bike as I do in my car. That’s why it drives me crazy when cyclists go the wrong way on a one way street, or on the flip side when a red light won’t ever change for me unless a car pulls up behind me. You shouldn’t drive drunk; you shouldn’t ride your bike drunk.

But on the other hand, would you rather a drunk person get out on the road in a car or on a bike? I’m sure it’s possible to hurt someone while intoxicated on your bike, but my 50 pound cruiser does a lot less damage than my 2,000 pound Civic.

I’ve always felt a little funny about the fact that I will not drive my car with one drop of alcohol in my system, but I’ve definitely ridden my bike home from happy hour. If I had unlimited money, I’d take a cab home. (Actually I’d take an Uber home because I’m obsessed with their car service and it’s the best.)

I’m a stickler and very much a follower of rules, so I suppose it won’t sit well with me to be doing something that is technically illegal, but I probably am not going to start calling a cab to take me less than a mile in my neighborhood if I have my bike.

Also, don’t ever read the comments on any online article about cycling. They will make you hate everyone.

70.3 Training – Scoping out the bike course

So, I haven’t really posted a lot about this, but I am definitely in the thick of training for my 70.3 in September. (If you like reading about the details of other people’s workouts (I do) I post all of mine on dailymile.) It kind of feels like I live at my gym.

Saturday morning we drove out to ride part of the race’s bike course.This was my first time driving on E470 and I really wish someone had videoed Chris and I trying to figure out how the tolls work, because there are little toll booth like things with big signs that say DO NOT STOP, and the lanes are just labeled “Express Pay” and “License Plate Toll.” Totally not helpful. We’re like, So…will we pay these when we register our car next year? Surely they won’t mail us a bill for $1.25, right? I missed the exit…how do you turn around on a toll road? I DON’T KNOW! As a household of bicycle commuters, sometimes we get really mixed up when it comes to cars.

Back to the purpose for our visit, though. I have read about the crazy hills at the beginning and end of this course and I wanted to see what I was dealing with.

Expectations adjusted accordingly. I only rode 14 miles but it took over an hour since I was in my granny gear going up and clutching the breaks for dear life going down. You can kind of see the hills in the back of this photo of me, but yowsers.

This is what I rode yesterday:

This is the profile for the whole course:

For such a flat city, they sure do know how to find hills for races.

The road itself here is a much smoother ride, but to stay out of traffic we were riding mostly on the shoulder with all it’s bumps and debris. I assume I will be able to spend more time in the road during the race, and I hope that will make me feel less like I’m about to fly off my bike and into the air at any moment on the downhills.

The uphills felt okay. I forgot my cycling gloves, and my hands and wrists were killing me, otherwise we’d have ridden further.

I have nine weeks left until the race, and I hope to make it out to this course several more times and ride the entire thing at least twice. I’m starting to get excited. For the race, to get my life back, and for the bragging rights.

Dear Salmon, You Suck!

Even though I get really irritated by cyclists who don’t follow the rules of the road, I don’t, of course, generally make it a habit to tell strangers they are doing something wrong.

“Excuse me, you are in violation of Denver Municipal Code, Section 54-578, because you do not have any lights on your bike and it’s dark.”

“Dude, it’s actually safer  to ride in the street, and it’s the law, so you should really get off the sidewalk.”

Right? No. Not a good idea.

The one area where I make an exception is when people are going the wrong way down a one way street. One, it makes me so incensed I’m moved to shout. Two, it’s the only thing you can kind of play off like, “Hey, maybe you didn’t know…?”

I mean, that’s happened to everyone, right? You’re not in a familiar neighborhood and you turn the wrong way down a one way street. I used to live on a one way street, and I probably saw someone going the wrong way about once a month. It happens, honest mistake.

So I tend to shout, in the nicest way one can shout, “Hey, his is a one way street!” As a helpful tip. Not as a reprimand.

But I shouted this to a dude yesterday who was riding the wrong way down Lawrence, in downtown Denver, in a traffic lane, in the closest thing Denver has to rush hour.

He turned and gave me a look that clearly communicated in one second that he did know he was going down a one way street, and that he did not care. And that he found me stupid for caring. His face was so smug and dismissive…so…facially eye-roll-y, that I very much wish instead I had shouted,

“Hey! This is a one way street, DUMBASS.”

Driving Sucks

I got a flat tire yesterday on my commuter bike.  My first flat ever.  I’ve had tires go low on air, but never popped a tube like that.  With 15 minutes to get to work, my options were grab another bike from the fleet or drive.  Rather than ride my antique tricycle, Chris’s gigantic fixie, or a sorta busted mountain bike, my best option would be my own road bike.  Since it was supposed to snow, though, I didn’t really want to ride a bike that is prone to make me feel wobbly.  So I drove.

I literally don’t remember the last time I drove to work.  (Humble brag.  I know.  Sorry.  Usually I ride my bike or if it’s really nasty out I ride the bus or very rarely walk.)   I think it was a year and some change ago, when we were dogsitting a dog who needed to be let out during the day but was too big to fit through our dog door. 

I didn’t even really know how to do it.  Like, I didn’t know the best route via car, didn’t know where to park.  (I had to pay $7!)  And on my bike, I ride right up to our building.  In my car I had to park a block away, then pay the machine, then put the ticket on my car, then walk to my office.  I had a hard time in the traffic on my way home, and at one point I could not get into the lane I needed to be in to save my life.

Anyways.  This is all to say, I love you Ginnie the Schwinnie.  Thanks for being my favorite bike.

Winter commuting

It snowed again!  And I biked again.  But this time I remembered to put on a frigging scarf.  And to tuck in my hair.  It was a lot slushier on the road, and I wobbled once or twice, but I went slowly and I made it safely to work.  You know what wakes you up better than coffee? Nineteen degrees plus almost crashing your bike once or twice.

I only saw one other cyclist on my ride, and I offered him a fist-pump-of-solidarity.  I may wimp out tomorrow, though, because all this meltyness is going to refreeze tonight.  Snow I can do, no problem.  Ice?  Whole ‘nother story.

Gratuitous picture of yourself Wednesday! Icicle Edition.

This was me when I got to work a few minutes ago.

It’s snowing!  Which I enjoy.  And when I said that the other day, someone asked me something like, “Oh, because you like to ski or…?” And I had to sort of sheepishly say, “Oh, um. No. Because it’s pretty. And it’s Christmas. And Mittens.” Hrrrm.  I’m a child of Southern California, and even after a few years in Denver it just seems cool, and I get excited.

I was not, however, excited that my riding-to-work-in-the-snow skills are a bit rusty.  A scarf would have been good.  The snow was stinging my face.  And duh, tuck your hair into your jacket, Mel.  Or at least don’t waste time blow drying your hair if you’re just going to let it get icy and wet anyhow.

Gratuitous Photo of Yourself Wednesday: Riding a bike in Fort Collins Edition!

Not totally gratuitous because it is related to something that was on my mind yesterday, and that’s that I never see other cyclists who look like me:

  • A lady
  • Dressed reasonably nicely for work
  • With a helmet
  • And using lights

This doesn’t seem like a huge list of criteria, but I never see it.  One, because 80% of people I see on bikes are dudes.  But even taking gender out of it, I don’t see people like me.  Usually, if someone is rocking lights and a helmet, they’re also wearing spandex, a jersey, or some other serious cyclist gear, or sometimes just jeans or more casual clothes.  If I see someone dressed like me, in a dress or work pants, they’re almost never wearing a helmet and rarely do they have lights.  Why is that?  I commute downtown.  There should be a ton of me’s.

It makes me feel like a lonely weirdo cyclist.

she was disarming: An open letter to my fellow cyclists

I get it. I really do. I yell at cyclists going the wrong way down one way streets. I signal. I typically rock at least three bike lights. I announce my pass. But I still run red lights on my bike. I slow down, and I look, and if it’s clear, then I go. Because I am not heavy enough to trip the sensors to make the light turn, for one thing.Two, because Denver does all-way pedestrian crossings, and I go to work early enough that I come to intersections like this when there is maybe one or two pedestrians, usually none, and I can safely proceed. And three, honestly, because I have a 1.6 mile commute with a a total of fourteen stoplights. Mostly ones where I face no cross traffic. Stopping at every traffic light could literally double my commute time. It’s just silly.Even this blogger’s long rant about following the rules concedes that stop signs should be treated like yields. The message being, “The rules I choose to break are okay. The rules everyone else chooses to break means they are danger-craving maniacs.”


[Note: Most people who read this will already be aware of these things. I’ll probably be preaching to the choir. But I had to get it out anyway. And I don’t care if it sounds like a lecture. You know how it is.]This morning was like any other. I sat stopped at a red light while cyclist after…