Recipe for making long training rides enjoyable

This past weekend I went on my first metric century bike ride of Ironman training. As it turns out, I didn’t realize I had reached this milestone until my riding buddies mentioned it. The previous night I made the last minute decision of joining my friends on this ride, so it was their choice of route and distance (I just had to train in the ballpark of 60 miles). I learned that the following are ingredients for a great ride:

  1. The company of friends, and even better, making new friends;
  2. A scenic rural route with limited car traffic to worry about;
  3. A well-deserved post-ride meal with friends and visiting new places.

IMG_3039The ride started from Davidsonville, MD, with route directions courtesy of the Annapolis Bike Club. Navigation was a breeze thanks to my friend’s GPS directions. We quickly found ourselves in quiet and winding country roads, with rolling hills. Halfway through the route, we arrived at Chesapeake Beach, where we stopped to take in the views of the Chesapeake Bay. The second half of the ride seemed a little harder on my body, as I had not pushed myself this far in Ironman bike training yet. We rode about 3h 40mins, but with our occasional stops it was about a 4.5hr ride.

I had planned on going home upon finishing, but instead my friends had the brilliant idea of going to Annapolis for lunch. Given how hungry I was and the great weather, I quickly changed my plans! We had a great recovery meal outdoors by the waterfront, and I found Annapolis to be really beautiful (though I bit touristy). I enjoyed the southern brick architecture, which reminded me of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Downtown’s charm, from its boutiques, churches, and cobblestone streets, also made it resemble European settings.

Thanks Adam and Mark for a great ride!



Worry-free while Ironman training

Ironman training is a great way to combat stress and feel worry free (at least temporarily). While I have known for most of my life that exercise is good for the body and mind, I have been especially conscientious of this over the past few weeks. This is because I have been particularly stressed and concerned about various things lately, which has made me value my training sessions greatly. I have approached my training sessions as moments of time that I cherish, that my body needs, and that temporarily ease all the concerns going through my mind.

When I run, swim, or bike, I like to focus my attention on my technique and form. For the most part, maintaining this focus prevents any other thoughts from crossing my mind. I concentrate on making my technique in the water, on the bike, and on the run as energy efficient as possible. For example, when I am swimming I like to think about my hand entry into the water, reaching forward by elongating my lat and hip flexor muscles, and driving the stroke from rotation of the hips. Since all this coordination happens in about one second and is followed by a replication of the movement on the opposite side of the body, and then over and over again, there is little space for any other thoughts to enter the mind.  It occurred to me that paying attention to my technique and form is to my workouts what focusing on the breath is to meditation.

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 10.16.07 PMA little over a week ago I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler following a week-long illness that kept me from exercising. Hitting the pavement on race day felt exhilarating and liberating! At 5:30am on race day I felt exhausted and I was dragging my feet getting ready. A few hours later, waiting in my corral wave with thousands of others, I began to feel energized and excited. By the end of the race, I felt fantastic! I particularly enjoyed the sights of DC, the energy of the runners and spectators, and having my family follow me from a distance. My parents and my sister in Europe were tracking my progress and saw me cross the finish line through the live video feed on the race website. I even waved at the camera and they immediately sent me a text message telling me they could see me. How cool!

photo(50)The weekend after Cherry Blossom I ran another 10 miler, the George Washington Parkway Classic. Once again, by concentrating on my form during the race, I freed myself from any concerns I had during the week or even the day before. As a bonus, I was able to improve my time by six minutes compared to the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. I continued to enjoy myself after crossing the finish line, by cheering for Gabi and others as they finished their race, and then relaxing at the post-race festival with live music, sunshine and a well-deserved cold beer.