Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Amateur Tri Girl Learns to Mountain Bike

I've always loved triathlon because it forces me to continue trying new things. New things are scary! Change is uncomfortable. That is why I make myself embrace it; it keeps me young. I'm not an "adrenaline junkie" by any means; I just love that point when you become comfortable enough in a new sport/hobby/profession (insert favorite new thing here) to shift from "Oh my God, I'm going to die!" to "Oh my God, this is so fun!"

I've owned a mountain bike for a few years now (read: owned, not used). It sat for a long time in the previous owner's basement. After procuring my Trek (aptly named "Rocky"), she then continued to sit, this time in my garage. I continued finding excuses not to ride her. "I'm tapering," I don't want to get injured before my A race," "I don't know how," "I don't have anyone to go with," and then, "I don't have anyone to go with who isn't going to take me over some cliff and kill me." True, I took her out for a few measly spins on simple, flat pedals, jumping off and walking more times than riding. In the end, I preferred to hit the trails in my running shoes rather than on wheels.

I'm still in the steep learning curve part of mountain biking but I get a little better each time I go out. It's getting more and more fun as I gain confidence. Here's what I've learned so far:

1. It's a lot more technical than road biking. You shift your position around. A lot. Weight forward, back, side-to-side; all depending on the terrain.
2. Objects look bigger than they actually are. Usually, I freak myself out and either jump off or hesitate, resulting in a fall (normally without injuries). When I can actually relax and go over the rocks (or other obstacles), they're usually not nearly as big as I've built them up to be in my head. Hmmm. A perfect analogy to life here? 'nuff said.
3. You fall a lot. But unlike in road biking, most falls are at slow speeds and on softer terrain. Usually, I just pick myself and keep riding (unlike on the road where you end up in the hospital or worse).
4. You go a lot slower than in road biking but still get a great workout. I like to gauge my workouts by time out on the trail, rather than mileage. I still am gasping for breath and dripping with sweat at the end. It's great for building power, short bursts of speed, and anaerobic endurance.
5. Your cadence is much slower than in road biking and you rarely get out of the saddle to climb. (Instead, shift your weight forward and bend from the hips so your chest is almost touching the top bar. For downhill, shift weight back behind the saddle).
6. Relaxation is key. When I'm tense, every shock bounces me around, threatening to unseat me. When I'm relaxed, the shock is absorbed by the bike and not me. I can get out of the saddle and let my the vibrations transfer to my feet instead of my core. Then, my head is looking up and forward, where I want to go, instead of down, bug-eyed in widened fear at the huge rock I'm about to bounce over.

--proudly displaying my injuries after taking a tumble.

--bruises from my death-grip on the frame the day after mountain biking. Rookie mistake.

There's a great instructional video on mountain biking by Ned Overand (http://www.amazon.com/Performance-Mountain-Biking-Ned-Overend/dp/B0002J8PME).

Other great sites for beginners:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life's Whirlwind of Craziness

My life has been crazy; I know I always say this but it's been crazier than usual. I have a ton of posts to catch up on (mountain biking, Tour de Big Bear, training plan, etc.) but today's post is just a life update.

I've been going through a career change (read: unemployed). No, seriously though. After some soul searching, I decided to pursue a career in teaching. The goal? High school biology. I have been furiously trying to get teaching experience any way I can. Summer has been slow but I've managed to work for a tutoring company and have signed up to coach for Girls on the Run again this fall. This time, I get to be head coach for the Carlsbad group! Yippee!!! Meanwhile, I'm working on my teaching credential. I passed the CBEST, got fingerprinted for a substitute teaching permit, and am taking prerequisite classes to get into the program at SDSU. Now, I just need to land some sub teaching jobs!

Then, I got the notice that the house I was renting was being put on the market and that I had to move...STAT. Within 2 weeks, I had moved to a very cute apartment in Carlsbad. The landlord let me keep my dog and aquarium! It's been very hectic; I hate moving. I'm 99% in, including shopping at Target and hanging paintings (the fun part). The bunny, dog, frogs and aquarium are settling in well. I lost a fish and urchin due to the stress of moving but the aquarium is settling in well. Very soon, I hope to resume normal training.

I've also been crazily trying to market my animal art biz (www.rachelsanimalart.blogspot.com). Summer is in full swing so I've been manning a booth at several dog and art shows on the weekends. This weekend, I will be at the Cardiff Dog Days of Summer street fair on Saturday from 10-3 (off the 101). Be sure to stop by if you're in the hood! http://www.cardiffdogdaysofsummer.com
Finally, I've been volunteering at Hoofs 'n Woofs, a non-profit animal rescue organization in Valley Center that focuses on rehabilitating horses. I've been riding again! My "project" horse is Tonka, a recalcitrant Appaloosa, who needs a more experienced rider that knows when to push and when to back off. (Appy's are the Indian ponies with all the spots, known for being very hardy, tough and stubborn). Tonka and I are quickly bonding and having tons of fun on crazy trail rides.