I just ran a triathlon

It may have been a short triathlon, taking place in North Miami Beach, but it was the maximum length allowed to be called a sprint and it was a good stepping stone for me in trying out this new sport. The race was the 25.75 North Miami Triathlon and it felt great to get out there and even better to finish!

First.  What is a Triathlon?

A triathlon is three sports; swimming, cycling and running.  The three sports are always in that order, it’s pretty logical when you think about it.  In this race, the swim was 750 (.46mi) beautiful meters of open water swimming in Miami’s Biscayne Bay followed by a 20k (12.4mi) bike ride and a 5k (3.1mi) run.  My job was very simply to do those three events, in that order, as quickly as possible.

 miamitriathlon I just ran a triathlon

But Wait, What about those Adventure Races you used to run?

So yes, the adventure races are far more involved, take a lot longer, and involve lots of alligators.  This was NOT that.  My best hope for wildlife was a manatee or two but we didn’t see any of those.  Last year Jill did an Xterra Triathlon in the same waters and other swimmers did report a manatee in the water, but I digress. In an adventure race, the racer uses a map and compass to navigate the wilderness, sometimes on bike and sometimes on foot or in a boat, in whatever direction he or she chooses.  I view adventure races as a more difficult undertaking than a triathlon, simply because of how long it lasts and the mental anguish of poor decision making.  But, the events are very different and require a different type of fitness and mental fortitude.  An adventure race can last for 6 hours to 6 days, this triathlon took me just over 90 minutes while the longest available – the Iron Man – will take the winner just over 8 hours.  Because it is shorter, the triathlon requires a different sort of athleticism and a lot more hustle and no real opportunity to sit down and breathe.  Added benefit of the triathlon: finishing in time for brunch!

As I mentioned, I finished in just over 90 minutes, which is fantastic considering my [much too easy] goal was 2 hours.  My swim time was tremendously quicker than I had expected, I’d been working on that, while my run, which I did in normal shoes, and bike were right about as good as I could have hoped.  Here are my stats:

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The setting for the race was absolutely beautiful.  Miami’s Biscayne Bay and cycling through Oleta River State Park was a treat as well.  What wasn’t a treat was being passed on the bike by more racers than I could count.  Basically, if do an image search for the word triathlete, you’ll see what one looks like and the kind of bicycle they have.  Sometimes those bikes cost as much as $5,000.  My bike, which I use to commute, cost a measly $300 and well, I don’t think I much look like a triathlete.  Still, I enjoyed a great morning and have something to build off of.  Besides, I had the best looking cheerleaders of the entire race!

miamitriathlonkids I just ran a triathlon

IF YOU want to do a triathlon as well the 2575 race series is a great way to start.  The races are short, yet still long enough to be a very meaningful distance.  Also, the locations are simply phenomenal.  Using these races to travel all around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean wouldn’t be such a bad plan.

I love le tour

The most grueling endurance event I know of, the Tour de France simply has no equal.  Lasting nearly the whole monht of July, the Tour requires the best out of every cyclist almost every day for a whole month, over mountains, across fields and time trials.  If you don’t know how the Tour works, better read last year’s post before going on.

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Before telling out about this year’s race, first another brief primer.  Every day, every rider sets out and tries to do the best they can.  Most race in a pack, with racers from all teams clumped together, because being together reduces drag and makes pedaling easier.  When a handful of riders break ahead the idea is to stick together and share the time ‘at the front’ doing the hard work. There is a racer who gets to the finish-line first and every day the winning racer is crowned that stage’s winner.  In addition to an individual stage winner, there is also the yellow jersey which goes to the rider with the best overall time.  Sometimes that jersey hardly changes hands, sometimes it changes nearly every day.

When you ride that close, you’re bound to bump elbows.

This year a TV car caused a crash when it tried to avoid a tree.  At one point in stage 7 (we’ve had 9 so far) there was a crash that involved some 80 riders.  Last year’s winner and this years race favorite has crashed at least four times this year.  He now sits over 4 minutes out of first place.  But crashes alone aren’t why I follow the Tour, I follow it because it is the best television I’ve ever seen.

Every day these men set out to ride a bike as hard and as fast as they can, around 5 hours each day, for over three weeks straight.  They work as team to ‘share’ the work and support their lead riders while chasing and forcing their adversaries to work harder.

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Ever since Team Garmin was created I’ve been rooting for them.  The reason:  they take drug testing very seriously and go far beyond what is required of them to prove they are clean.  In the second stage, the team time trial, Garmin won its first ever stage.  They also propelled one of their riders into the overall first place spot, which he managed to keep for the week.  Thor (yes, the Thunder God) lost that lead over this past weekend but he isn’t out yet.  Will he be able to rebound or won’t he? It’ll take two full weeks of riding to find that out.

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Right now though, none of the riders expected to win are leading.  The ‘expected’ rider doing the best is in 5th and is over 2 minutes out of first.  Last year’s race was decided by well under 60 seconds.   In the meantime, one rider is on a pace to set the record for most individual stage wins EVER.  He has 17 so far, and needs 22 to set that record.

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Competition, drama, teams, what isn’t there to love?

Strange Bikes

It’s the end of Bike to Work week in the U.S. and I thought we’d end with a few bicycles you may never have seen before.  Frankly, I’ve only seen one of these on the road before.

 Strange Bikes

The pedal bike bar. A genius idea or a really stupid one?  I can’t tell, but the idea of this bike is that 16 people pedal while someone serves food and drink from the middle of the bike.  We saw this in Cologne, Germany.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but honestly, I’m not sure if I’m that coordianted.

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Mountain Bike Backpack.  Forgive me, but I just don’t see hiking with a mountain bike on my back.  I’m not lazy, but admittedly I’m not that extreme.  Folding bikes however, are cool…

folding bike Strange Bikes

Folding Bike.  I actually think this is kind of cool, especially if you commute in the city and don’t want pieces of your bike stolen during the day.  I saw seat posts, pedals and all sorts of difficult to lock and yet essential bike components stolen in DC.  This is small enough to take up to your office or cube.

 cbiked1 Strange Bikes

Walking Bike.  I said strange.  This almost looks like a joke, I had my doubts as to whether this actually worked.  Apparently it does:


Thanks to velomobiling.com, lowriderbikespicture.com, blog.tradetan.com, toxel.com for the incredible bike pictures!

Great Places to Rent a Bike

Even if you aren’t an avid cyclist, there are times when it’s just nicer to be on bike than in a car or bus.  The ability to ‘stop and smell the roses’ so to speak and go at your own pace is an aspect of travel that can’t be ignored.  Here are a few places we were glad to rent a bike:

ITC small Great Places to Rent a Bike

1. Florence, Italy. I lived in Florence in 2004 and when it came time for high tourist season the downtown area was packed!  Unfortunately that’s also when we had our visitors so we had to think of something different and fun to do that would give our visitors a sense of Italy.  Fortunately we found this great Italian-American guy who was just starting bike tours.  He took my roommate, her mom, aunt and I on an unforgettable journey through the Tuscan countryside through Fiesole and into Arezzo.  We went through historic villages and stopped at a delicious little restaurant for lunch.  Admittedly there was plenty of wine at lunch, but thankfully the road back to Florence was downhill.

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2. Cappadocia, Turkey. Although we got a little lost, cycling through Cappadocia was amazing.  We were able to stop and explore all the different formations, fairy chimneys and caves, and despite the fact the area is so touristy, we were alone all afternoon!  We rode through farmers vegetable plots and nearly ran into a horse on a cart.  It was a lovely afternoon, even though we ended up hiking a lot!

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3. Berlin, Germany. We didn’t have to rent a bike in Berlin, our CS hosts had extras, but boy were we glad.  It was incredibly easy to zip around the city on bike and having our own transportation meant we could hit more museums and sites in a day.  We found the city really bike friendly, and no one looked at us twice when we walked into a shop holding our helmets.

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4. Vang Vieng, Laos. Admittedly Vang Vieng is renown for other things besides biking, but the area has a lot more on offer than ‘Happy Menus’ and reruns of ‘Friends’.  Renting a bike in Vang Vieng meant we could see the Limestone caves on our own, meaning we could go to the ones that the tour groups didn’t go to!  We made it to the Blue Lagoon very late in the afternoon, just before closing.  It was a special experience to be inside the cave at dusk, with light just touching the reclining Buddha statue inside.  Unfortunately we also got a flat and Danny ended up riding into town on the back of a tractor.

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5. Mendoza, Argentina. There had to be at least one wine region on our list didn’t there?  We got off the bus in wine country and bike tour touts approached us, the first and only time that ever happened.  Although we rented independent of a tour, we did get a map.  Had we made it to the area earlier in the day I would have enjoyed going to some of the further away wineries where there was more of a country feel.  Ultimately we ended up passing hours at a winery at the furthest end of the wine region.  A good bottle of wine, a picnic lunch and our bikes, nothing could be better!

Taking the Bike to Work

I love cycling to work. I avoid road rage and replace it with my daily exercise.  Overall it saves me tons of time and makes me a happier person all at once.  Add to those wonderful things that I also save money and it’s really a no-brainer for me.  Every time I share with someone that I bike to work I’m greeted with shock and dismay.  How do you do that; aren’t you smelly at work?  Isn’t it dangerous?  For many, seeing a different way to do things (like taking two years off in your 20’s to travel) is scary and therefore they’re unwilling to give it a try.  For the rest of you, keep on reading.

By the way, this week is bike to work week in the USA.  Go ahead, give it a try, now is the time.

There are a few things you need to be sure of before hopping into the saddle:

1. Endurance. Make sure you can bike that far in one go, and that you’ll still have energy at the end of the day for the return trip.  I find that my energy levels are higher when I exercise but I still have to take my mileage into account.  My current ride is about 7.5 miles each way.  At one point in DC that one-way distance was closer to 12.  It might take time to work up to doing a round-trip multiple times in a week so be sure to try just one day first, or even a practice ride over the weekend.

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I thought it was a left at the interstate…?

2.  Scout a route. For me, I prefer sidewalks because there aren’t cars.  Still though, I usually try to ride on the right hand side of the road so that cars trying to enter the roadway are looking my direction.  The route you drive might not be the best route to take on a bike.  Seek roads with less traffic or wider sidewalks, many areas even offer bike trails.  You may find that your bike route is shorter on the miles.

3. A person is smart, people are stupid. Same rules apply to drivers.  You can never be sure what they are thinking or doing or whether they see you or not.  Be careful. Check out the League of American Bicyclists five steps to riding better.

4. Know what you need. Invest in yourself and your gear, but first figure out what it is you actually need.  If you bike a couple of days with a backpack you’ll soon feel the need for a rack system to put over your rear tire.  Don’t just go out and buy all the stuff first, instead get to know what you have and buy it for yourself as a reward.  You’ll be more likely to ‘use it in good health’ rather than to regret all the cash you threw down.  (Just for the record, you don’t need a $1500 bike and a lot of spandex.  My bike cost me just $100 on Craigslist, I’ve been using it for years, and a normal wicking t-shirt does me just fine.)

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These kids are starting early with spandex.

5. Shower before work. Many office buildings have showers, you just need to ask around and you’ll eventually find them.  If not, try to find a gym nearby…some even offer ‘shower’ memberships to cyclists.  Don’t be that gross guy in the office.

6. Enjoy! A few of my favorite things: the morning mist on the ranch I pass at the start of my morning ride.  The kids waiting for the school bus.  People walking dogs.  Time yourself and make the ride into a race, try to beat your speed from the day before.  Whatever it is, just make sure you enjoy the ride.

Biking really is a nice way to start and end a day.  My 7.5 mile commute, in traffic, takes about 20 minutes and will take about $3 in gas each day.  My bike ride takes about 25 minutes (I tend to ‘avoid’ traffic signals) and costs nothing.  I love it, and you will too!