Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I love my bike. LOVE it. I saved up for it, was over the moon when I finally got it in April, have gone out of my way to baby it. But from the beginning, I've had trouble shifting her. Honestly, I thought it was just me not knowing how to deal with my first "real" bike, and that I would get used to it. But it never got any easier - in fact, it got harder and harder. So when I took it back to the bike shop for the initial tune-up in May, I mentioned the shifting problem.

They tuned it up, and when I asked if they fixed the shifting, the guy returning my bike said he didn't know what they'd done but he'd check it out for me. He took it for a (rather long, so I assumed thorough) test ride, and just like when your car won't make a bad noise for the mechanic, he came back saying it was shifting beautifully and all was well.

But it wasn't, and the very next day when I went for a ride it was giving me hell again. I literally couldn't use the bottom three gears (for most of the summer, actually). The chain just refused to engage them.

It might clarify things to interject that the original bike shop is a 60 mile, heavy traffic, 90-minute-on-a-good-day trip. So, as the story progresses and you're asking yourself 'why didn't this twit just take it back there?'... well, that's why.

So. In June a mechanically inclined friend adjusted things for me. It was better for a little while. (i.e. I could sometimes get into those gears, and it lasted just long enough to get through my first race)

I made it through the 2nd tri with it mostly working, but it was getting worse.

I went for what was supposed to be a 20-30 mile ride shortly after my 2nd tri, but had to cut it way short because the shifting was flat out not functional. Added to this was a new and disturbing angry chain noise mixed with periods of loose, chain-free spinning. I drove straight to my LBS.

The bike shop guy fiddled with it for 5 minutes, spouted some stuff about how whoever fixed it before hadn't done something right with some screw, and pronounced it fixed. It worked better for a little while. But I never did make it back to do another long ride because in the meantime I hurt my wrist, plus I wasn't too keen on another long-distance battle with my shifters. I was starting to think maybe I should upgrade them or something. To my horror, riding my beloved new bike had gone from something to which I looked forward to something I dreaded. I was also questioning my decision to blow four figures on a bike I was starting to believe I didn't know how to handle.

Today I took it back to the original bike shop to get my freebie winter tune-up. I made the trip largely because there's a running store two blocks down I was keen to visit (more on this equipment snafu in my next post). When I went to pick it up, the guy tells me they're keeping my bike because the shifter is defective and they have to send it back to the factory.

They couldn't figure that out 6 months ago?!?!?!

He said something along the lines of I should have noticed it was defective, and I told him that it had given me a lot of trouble and I'd had it worked on several times. I asked him how a first-time owner was supposed to recognize a defective part when the mechanics hadn't. He then had the nerve to ask me why I hadn't brought it to them... if he'd looked at the service record on the counter in front of him he'd have seen that I DID.

I'm glad that it's not just me, and that the darn thing is finally getting fixed. I'm just irritated I spent the better part of this year thinking I was an idiot who couldn't figure out how to shift my own damn bike.

BUT... I did find a silver lining in this frustrating little mess.

Even with all the technical problems, I was beyond happy with how much my cycling improved this year. I can't wait to see how much my bike splits improve next year, when my gears actually work!

Gaining Weight

Had my weight lifting class today. I was so very tempted to skip because I had a migraine last night and was still a little woozy - it's a 75 minute advanced class with a trainer who (we're convinced) has a sadistic streak (but we love her anyway). But during this off-season lazy spell, this has devolved into the only resistance training I get in each week (down from 3x) so I hate to blow it off.

It took me a long time to work up the courage to join the class - for many months I did my own little 30 minute lifting sessions prescribed by the trainer, and that was enough for me. I was intimidated by the clearly athletic folks in the group (they range in size from 4-8, 3 of them are personal trainers), but once I reached a certain stage the trainer kept encouraging me and eventually I gave it a shot.

Of course I loved them all, and they were really sweet to me, and it was fine even though I felt like a huge wimp because they were using weights I couldn't lift for stuff I was using single digit dumbbells on.

Today, everything changed. I've been in the darn class for something like six months and hadn't really noticed any big improvements in what I could handle (what I get for only doing it once a week). Today, when I went to do the things we usually do, I kept checking the numbers on the dumbbells because they felt way too light. I was going through sets that used to kill me without batting an eye. I mentioned it to my partner for today (Susan #2), and she just laughed at me. She said that she remembers when Susan #3 (an awesome lady who lost 140 lbs) went through the same thing and she acted exactly like I was - surprised and confused, like there was something wrong with the weights. She had also needed someone to point out to her that she was ready to move up.

So, yeah, I'm a dork. But on the bright side, today I moved up from 5s and 8s to 10s and 12s and even one set at 15. It's not much, but it's progress, and that's always something to be happy about.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Did run intervals today. Was not feeling it, barely made it through, but that's par for the course of late. Nothing to talk about there.

After my workout - which included warm-up, cool-down and before-and-after stretching (injury paranoia trumps laziness) - I was feeling pretty good. Not 'great workout' good, but 'at least I worked out on this crappy day' good. And I was happy to be ooooh-so warm and toasty. I layered up and headed home.

When I stepped outside I got hit with an icy blast of wind, and the strangest thing happened. It felt like my quads actually froze - I could almost hear the superhero cartoon sound effect (zzzhhhttt!) when it happened.

Made me walk funny - I could feel the muscles very clearly with every step to the car, reminded me of the pseudo-pliability of half-thawed chicken breasts. A couple hours later, it still feels funky to climb the stairs.

This just can't be a good thing.

Monday, November 28, 2005


After months of being a tri-geek alliance groupie, I finally caved to the inevitable and joined the party. Guess I was jealous the other guys were having all the fun.

By way of introduction...

I'm a thirty-something professional writer living with my husband and six pets in the greater Chicagoland area. I was born and raised a country kid in central Illinois, and my family still works the farm in southern Illinois. I was a math team, speech team, scholastic bowl, drama club, marching band, yearbook, NHS tomboy geek who had her own motorcycle from the age of 5. I did manage to outgrow the tomboy thing. I knew in my heart at 14 that I was going to U of I, and I did just that. That's roughly when my health problems started, so everyone kind of thought it was the rigors of college life taking a toll on me.

I spent about a decade with my health in gradual decline and my weight on an exponential increase due to an undiagnosed thyroid condition. By the time I got a doctor to listen, I'd gained 153 pounds. From a size 6 to a size 24. I could barely get out of bed, I had constant migraines, chronic fatigue, was constantly cold, constantly sick, my hair was coming out, and on and on. After a battery of tests I was diagnosed as hypothyroid (among other things) and finally started getting the treatment I needed.

After a couple of years I had to accept that the medication would not be magically taking the weight off. I'm ashamed to admit I took a temporary detour down the route of wallowing in self-pity, and being bitter and angry at the unfairness of it all. I ate pretty well, was fairly active - generally did the things people do to lose weight - but just kept gaining. By the time I got medicated I was so unfit I could barely carry a laundry basket up the stairs. Hell, I could barely get myself up the stairs without a breather. I hated myself and missed my old body. When I looked in the mirror I didn't even recognize me.

After a lot of soul-searching, I accepted the obvious - that it was going to take a lot more to restore my old self than eating right and getting on the elliptical during Oprah. I had to take control and make some big changes. I basically gave up (gasp) TV and replaced it with exercise.

About six months into my adventure I was introduced to the idea of triathlon and it appealed to me in a way nothing else has. I decided right away that I would do a sprint race the next summer. I couldn't run a step, could only swim in an 'at least I won't drown' kind of way, and generally didn't bike more than 3-5 miles.

It took me 13 months to train for my first race, in June 2005, and I still had to walk the run leg. But to my own huge surprise I was irrevocably hooked. The biggest surprise of all is that my situation has inspired several other women who realize if I can do it, there's nothing to stop them. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd ever be guiding women through their first triathlons... but I'm thrilled about it. I'd rather walk across the finish line to support someone in their first race than set a PR. The really funny thing is that, once they get going, every last one of them is going to pass me by.

So, even though I'm not a "typical" triathlete, here I am. I'm training, I'm planning races, I'm lusting after bikes and pondering equipment purchases - just like anyone else. I was thrilled to find the tri-geek community, and am ever so grateful at how nice y'all have been to this back of the packer.