Random questions, and questions about food

Jamie tagged me in his latest blog post over at Swim Bike Run Live, and I feel honored. This dude is legit! His answers made me giggle. So, here are mine!

1. If you could eat anything without any health repercussions or guilt, what would your meal be?

Ice cream. Mint chocolate chip? Yes please. Moose tracks, french vanilla, Zanzibar- its all awesome. Although I used to love chocolate chip cookie dough and was sad when I had to give it up after going gluten free, but now I don’t miss it. But I still probably wouldn’t say no to a double dipped CCCD in a waffle cone.

2. If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be and why?

Bill Clinton. He’s a pretty smart dude who (I’d imagine) could carry on an intellectual conversation.

3. Why did you start blogging and what did you expect when you started?

I started blogging about two years ago to keep my family updated with my happenings, and so I didn’t really expect too much in terms of traffic and readership.

4. What is the one book you could read over and over again?

Like Jamie, I’m also not big on books. However, I do really like The Book Thief and could probably read that again. And Life of Pi. Mind you, these are middle-school-reading-level kinds of books.

5. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?

The Himalayas. I love the mountains. Studying abroad in New Zealand was awesome and I’d totally go back for another semi-permanent vacation.

6. If you could have a TV show on the Food Network, what would it be?

Probably something where I could eat the food that someone else cooks. I’d be one of those full-time judges on Iron Chef or something. Baberaham is the master chef in our household. I can master protein shakes, salads, and noodles with butter. Or, if I really had to have my own show where I cooked, it would be a show where I cook gluten-free stuff that actually tastes good.

7. What was the best meal you ever had?

The best meal I have ever had would probably one of the last gluten-full meals I remember. Not just because it was gluten-full, but because it was perfect. I brought back fresh halibut and Deadlift Imperial IPA from a race in Seattle and Baberaham made beer-battered fish and chips with it. It was the most amazing, buttery, awesomeness that I have ever had. I only wish that IPAs were gluten free. C’mon beerologists, dooo it…

8. Who has been the greatest influence on your love for food and learning to cook?

B- for sure. My skills at cooking pale in comparison of this kid. He’s not afraid to experiment, add spices, mix things up. It is adventurous. He also encouraged me to try the gluten free diet because of my stomach woes, and for that he’s definitely influenced my way of cooking. He’s helped me learn to love food, not just because it nourishes our bodies but also because it can nourish our soul. Food isn’t just for eating, its for enjoying.

So I’m tagging:

Aimee and Shannon – my new blogger friends and foodies

Jess, Bre, and e410– some sweet grad school athletes

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Recap: 2010 “Sophomore” Season

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my 2010 season is wrapped up.  I’ve even had two weeks of my post-season do-whatever-I-want awesomeness, [which really hasn’t been that awesome].

Racing this year has been a blast! In my second season as a triathlete, I raced more and improved from last year. And, I felt strong in the run of practically every race, which made me happy. I set some lofty goals at the beginning of the season, and although I didn’t make them all, I’m happy with the level I’ve risen.

Anyway, it’s time to reflect on what racing in 2010 brought me:

  • Two more marathons are checked off my 50×50 list (Utah and Michigan)- I BQ’d in both of these, too. Although I didn’t reach one of my goals (another marathon PR), I am still incredibly satisfied with where my run has made it. In fact, although I didn’t PR in the open marathon, I broke my marathon PR in the 140.6 distance by over 30 minutes. And, I also shaved off a minute from my previous best time in the 10-mile.
  • I ran the farthest I’ve ever run before, in a training run no-less. Although I was registered for my first ultra, I bailed because of sub-optimal health/stress levels. The ultra world is still there, and I’m striving to make it a to-do for 2011.
  • I broke 11hrs in the long course tri at Rev3 Cedar Point! This was one of my more major, loftier goals, one I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to accomplish. But, dare I say? I crushed it! I even got lost on the bike, which added a good 2 miles to my bike leg, and still cruised to a sub 3:40 marathon. And had fun!
  • I raced more in 2010 than I did in ’09, and I traveled a lot more for races, too. I even flew to a triathlon, which was something I had never done before. Special thanks to The Bike Shop and Bicycle Works for helping me out at Quassy!
  • I directed a half-iron distance triathlon, the Kuparisaari Tri, and got to meet some incredible people along the way. It was a lot of work (that’s an understatement), and the race could not have happened without the help of the KCRA, Bear Belly Bar and Grill (and the Lac La Belle Lodge), the volunteers, and the LLB community! I hope the race will continue, especially so that some day, I can race it!

So, what does that mean for 2011?

There are lots of things I want to do. There are lots of things that I don’t know if I can do. But I won’t know unless I push the boundaries of what I am capable of doing.

For me, 2011 is going to include more focused sessions, aiming to improve my swim, bike, and run. My specific goals are:

  • Faster swim!    I’d like to hit 32-34min in the 1.2mi distance, and 1:10 in the 2.4mi distance… or faster!
  • Stronger bike! In 2011, I want to get on the bike and enjoy the ride the whole time. I know that’s impractical, because some days just suck. But, this season, I struggled a little in races and training. I just didn’t have the fun that I thought I should be having. I did, however, get a little out of my comfort zone in the second half of the season, and hope to bring that back in 2011. One thing I plan to do in 2011 is use benchmarks to track my cycling progress.
  • Blazin’ run! I am a runner. I have it in me. And I love it, all the time. So I am going to work on my running strengths in 2011 to get me there. I think that the longer runs in the early season really boosted my endurance for the rest of the year, so I plan to build a solid base of long runs. And, I want to race a half marathon! I’ve never finished an open road half marathon!
  • Keep peeling off time and running down places in the HIM distance races. It was blatently obvious to me this year that you really can’t compare race to race. To put it in writing that I want to go 4:45 at Quassy is insane. Plus, courses can change year to year and its hard to have  standard. So, I’d like to just keep pushing to get better in this length, because its so fun!
  • Race a (legit) Oly. Last year, I did my one and only Olympic race at Rev3 Knoxville. This race was seriously legit; the only problem was, I wasn’t. And I didn’t race another Oly all season. I’d like to race at least two this year, and race them to the best of my ability. I’m really interested in what I will be able to do in this distance, especially when my run will be faster than that it is in the HIM.

Although I haven’t completely figured out my 2011 schedule, I am planning on doing the following races:

  • Ragnar Relay Florida Keys – all-women ultra team (Jan)
  • Rev3 Knoxville Olympic – May
  • Rev3 Quassy Half – June

My favorite fall running gear

The temperatures are dropping and the November winds are gusting. Yes, it’s not yet November. But it’s the U.P. And that means, gusts of up to 50mph.

Oh yes, I will miss this place when I move. But until then, I am really excited about doing some serious trail running. I absolutely love the sound of leaves crunching under my feet. I love the smell of the dirt, the clear, cool air, the everything that comes with a late October run in northern Michigan.

But, of course, autumn running means I can no longer run in just a sports bra and shorts, unless I am confined to the treadmill. And although that can be fun, I’m just not ready for that yet. Where I live, there is really no shot in heck that the weather is going to deliver any sort of Indian Summer-like awesomeness. And that’s ok. I’m ready for the cold.

Of course, my excitement has something to do with some new additions to my wardrobe and gear stack.

For starters, I am getting by (both running and every-day) with my new favorite long-sleeve top: the lucy Distance 1/2 zip. The bright color matches the awesome Northern sky, and it brightens up my day now that all the leaves have fallen from the trees. Not only that, but the shirt comes equipped with so many cool features, it’s hard not to notice. For example, the sleeves have thumbholes, which I’ve come to the conclusion make for awesome cool-weather tops. The fit is perfect; it is the longest top that I own for running, but its not baggy whatsoever. The Distance Zip has the classic lucy fit, which for me is like a glove. This top also has a stash pocket and venting, so my temperature stays pretty well regulated. It even has a hood, something “bonus” that I’m digging after coming off my previous fave, the Propel jacket. All in all, this is another hit for lucy activewear.

lucy Distance 1/2 Zip

While I’m on the subject, I’ll point out my love for layering, too. My favorite base layers are the Icebreaker GT Dash crew and the lucy seamless Motion top. Not to mention, I’m proud of my friends in Team Mega Tough for rockin’ their Icebreaker tops in their ultras this season. The Dash crew has yet to get stinky, and it is washed a lot less than anything else I own. In fact, I think the last time it was washed was in August, and that was at least four long runs ago. And yes, at this exact moment, it is sitting in the bottom of my locker…

The Icebreaker Dash Crew makes 50miles look gooooood

Another new fave of mine are the Saucony Kinvaras. Yes, they are hunter orange. Yes, this was a strategic color choice. I love running on the ORV trails around the Keweenaw, but unfortunately these trails are often used by hunters. So, I went with the obvious choice: Hunter’s orange. Actually, Saucony dubs this ViZi-PRO, which is good for road running, too- keeps the cars alert of your whereabouts. I’m looking forward to owning a pair of the ViZi-PRO Elite arm warmers, just in time for rifle season, of course. Anyway, the shoes are rad; lightweight, minimalist shoe, but I don’t feel like I’m barefooting it whatsoever. My feet feel happy and comfortable, and I can rock these shoes without socks (and without blisters!). I use them mostly for shorter runs and intervals, since my body likes a more stable shoe for the long haul; but I have taken them out on a few long runs to see how they fly (and boy, do they fly). I’m tempted to try them in a marathon next year… they’ll at least make a debut on my feet for a half marathon sometime in 2011.

Saucony Kinvara... in hunter's orange

And lastly, I am digging my new Nathan handheld, the Sprint. This little darling is perfect for longer races. For long training runs, I’m going to stick with my Nathan Quickdraw Elite and Nathan Storm waist pack, but the Sprint is my go-to race gear. I had some issues earlier this summer with lugging around my number belt, my Trail Mix belt, and having stuff in my jersey pockets… so I simplified things for Rev3 FullRev in Cedar Point to now only carrying a handheld. For fall running, it’s going to be great, because I’m building back up with a lot of 1-2hr runs where I don’t always use all the hydration that can be carried with  my waist belt.

So that’s that. What are some of your favorite things to use while fall running?

Detroit Free Press Marathon Race Report

Thank you everyone for the kind words about my grandpa.

Getting back into the groove of training is going to be a little daunting, with this imposing 300pg document screaming in my face. After Detroit, I decided to take an entire week off, mainly because I had a lot of traveling/family-ing on my plate, but also because I was sore. Really sore. I couldn’t walk well the day after the race, and my feet ached. In fact, my quads screamed for the longest post-race duration I’ve ever experienced, and I was still feeling the marathon on Thursday. Which, of course, I think is odd considering it was “only” a marathon, and not a super fast one to boot. Some days you have it, some days you don’t.

So, how was the Detroit Free Press Marathon, you ask?

In one word: Awesome.

I have to start with the disclaimer that I love Detroit. Sure, it has a bad rap. I admit, I used to make fun of it. It was kind of dingy. I used to call it names, maybe even show embarrassment whenever someone would ask where I was from. And, to be honest, there’s really nothing that cool about car arson or five-story apartment buildings without any windows. But things are starting to change in that town. Detroit has shown me what it takes to be resilient, to persevere. To turn the other cheek, to ignore the naysayers. I’ve been shown that those from Detroit are proud, yet they aren’t afraid to lend a hand to a neighbor in need. They have every right to be proud; it was this city, after all, that brought everyone in the US their own vehicle. Detroit has helped make driving a right, not just a luxury. Whether or not we like it, without Detroit and the Big Three, the US wouldn’t be what it is today. Yet we are quick to judge this city and its people, throwing them to the wolves. Many Americans point their fingers at the Big Three and Detroit for the downfall of the economy.  They have used Detroit as the scapegoat for their financial strives, and that is quite unfortunate. I’m looking forward to the day when the phoenix rises up from the ashes…

But, off my soapbox, let’s just say that Detroit has a special place in my heart. There’s awesome music (and no, I’m not talking about Kid Rock… he’s not even from Detroit!). Awesome food. Great parks. It’s a blue-collar town.

So, without further adieu, here’s my Detroit Free Press Marathon report!

Expectations:

Going into this race, I was hoping to cruise to a fast marathon time with my post-FullRev fitness. Unfortunately, my post-FullRev diet and activities included a lot of junk. I did a lot of sitting at my desk, I did a lot of eating candy and not hydrating well, and I did a lot of nothing. I ran ~3-4times a week, didn’t swim more than twice, and only bike once. It was pathetic. But, for whatever reason, I thought I’d be ok. I even thought I’d have a chance to snag a PR. I was delusional.

Expo:

The expo was extraordinary. This is probably the best expo I’ve been to. Race wear was for sale, and they had some seriously cool designs. Had I not been in a penny-pinching-gonna-move-to-another-state-soon financial situation, I’d have definitely bought plenty of Christmas gifts. We went to pick up our packets on Saturday afternoon and it was not too crowded, the flow was great. We were able to get our bibs and swag quickly. There were plenty of last-minute things if I needed anything, but fortunately I didn’t.

Pre-race:

Fortunately, Big Daddy Baberaham gave Babe and I a ride to the race start on Sunday morning, so we didn’t have to fuss with parking or People-Movering. Not that the People-Mover is bad; it’s actually quite awesome. But, easing pre-race stress is always key. It was dark, and it stayed plenty dark until the race started.

The only qualm I had about the whole race was the gear drop. It was a little chilly but Baberaham decided to ditch his pre-race clothes with his dad in case we couldn’t find the gear drop. Luckily, there was a gear drop, so I didn’t lose my layers. I ended up giving him my jacket though, since he was shivering and I felt fine. Not only did that give him a little bit of warmth, but it also encouraged other athletes to think he was a pro marathoner, and a few people approached him with questions about the race start because “he looked like he knew what he was doing.” That was funny. Anyway, back to bag drop– We found it about fifteen minutes before the race start, which apparently wasn’t enough time because the queue was quite long… and not moving. Eventually, it was 8min to race start, I had to pee, and we were still in line. About five minutes to the start of the race, we were able to make it to the front of the line and I got into line to pee… then ran to the start. I found my friend and college buddy, Kaoru, who helped me jump the fence and start with the B wave.

The waves started 2 minutes apart, and I was bummed because in my run from porta john to start line I lost Baberaham. I wanted to run with him for the first few miles, but that was a lost cause (there were nearly 20,000 people). So, I started with Kaoru. The rope held us in the gate until our wave was to take off, and I didn’t feel the jitters that a pre-race PR-seeking gal might.

The course:

The marathon course was excellent. Since I was in wave B, it was pitch black when I started. I didn’t see the first mile, which was ok, but I figured that when I got to 8minutes I had passed it. It was probably the best that it was dark at the start because the first mile or two are the ugliest of the course. Around mile 3, we headed up and over the Ambassador Bridge and into Canada. The bridge was a little slower than I wanted, because the Trolls thought it was a hill, or something. After we got off the bridge, it was a few miles of flat shoreline running in Winsor. I loved it, the spectators were great and the views were amazing. We headed into the tunnel to get back to the US and it was a hot mile underground. My arm warmers came off and I cruised through the halfway.

Right around 13miles, my legs started to fight me. I could feel feet clomping on the ground, and my joints ached. It was a strange sensation, telling me to slow down. But I was on pace for a 3:15, which would be a PR, so I pushed through. Then I saw my friends, D&T, and thought “wouldn’t it be more fun to stop and cheer the other athletes on?” But I’ve never DNF’d a marathon, and I wasn’t about to start in my home state.

We headed down Lafayette, and my legs got more and more tight. Maybe I should have stopped, I thought. The pain in my legs didn’t go away. It just got worse. But now I was the farthest from the finish line I’d be all day, and if I stopped I’d have a long walk back. My quad muscles started to get shooting pains through them.

The course headed onward into Indian Village, and the spectators were phenomenal. I took in as much as I could of what was going on around me. The tree lined streets and the beautiful, old houses… the leaves crunching under my feet, the colors. It was just awesome. I was a little disappointed to run past, or get passed, by athletes wearing headphones. I wanted to chat with them, I wanted to take it all in.

I slowed a little, but that didn’t help the pain in my legs. I stopped and stretched out, but that didn’t help. My run turned to a shuffle, and I walked through the aid stations. I physically could not force myself to run any faster. The course headed over the River Walk bridge to Belle Isle, a place in Detroit where I had never been. It was an awesome 2mile loop around the island. I wanted to enjoy it more, and I felt like I had so much in the tank to burn. But the legs just wouldn’t wake up. It was as if I had left everything at the halfway mark. I walked a bit, I’d walk backward to see if Baberaham was catching up. I’d scan every person passing by and every person approaching, to see if they were wearing a blue shirt and hat, to see if it was Babe. But then I thought, if he does catch me, I won’t be able to run with him. So I would start running again, only to stop about two miles later to stretch or walk. It was mile-by-mile of sufferfest. And it was only a marathon.

Eventually, I heard a huff and puff come from behind me and a “Finally I see you at mile 24!” Babe caught up, and was going to run with me, but I encouraged him to catch the girl in the pink skirt that ran by a few seconds before. At first he resisted, but he saw I was hurting, so he took off. Two more miles, anyone can run two more miles. Or walk. I shuffled my way to the finish line, thinking to myself what a poor attempt at a marathon that was.

But I really can’t be that upset. For blowing up completely, I still hung on to a 3:30 marathon. And I was actually quite happy when I finished. Not because of my time, I didn’t really care. I was happy because I didn’t quit. Because I experienced a part of Detroit I’d never experienced. Because I had a good time, even though I had a painful time. There was no “woe-is-me” for me afterward, I was just glad to be done. Baberaham got a PR by over 15minutes, and my friend Jess PR’d in the half. I was so glad to be done to hear their stories and congratulate them.

That’s one of the few times I’ve raced where that thought has crossed my mind. Glad-to-be-done. The finish line volunteers put the medal around my neck, and I smiled. It was worth every step.

It’s amazing how the same things can feel so different on different days. Some days you feel cold when its 70 degrees outside. I think running a marathon fits in this category. Sure, I wasn’t prepared for a PR. I admit that, hands down. But its amazing to me how hard a marathon can feel, like how hard it felt on Sunday. And yet, on other days, marathons can feel like a breeze, even after you’ve biked 112 miles and swam 2.4. I guess some days you have it, and some days you don’t.

So even though it was a crappy race for me, even though I felt sore and slow, I still had an awesome time. I enjoyed seeing parts of Detroit that I’ve never seen, even though its where I grew up. It’s amazing what a marathon can show you; it’s amazing what we don’t see unless someone else shows us. Thank you, Detroit.

It gets quiet

There are times when things get quiet. It’s a time to reflect… on things that are important, on those that help shape who we are.

I could be writing about my Michigan marathon, the Detroit Free Press Marathon, that I raced on Sunday. This is a running blog, after all. I could tell you all about the course, the aid stations, the people, how I felt from start to finish. I could give you mile by mile breakdowns of the race as it unfolded. I think in time that report will come, but right now, its not what’s important.

My grandfather had a stroke on Friday. I had just arrived to town the night before, to prepare for Sunday’s race. I spent Friday afternoon in the hospital in Monroe, holding his hand, talking to him and feeding him butterscotch pudding. His right hand was so strong, remarkably strong, and he clenched mine like he didn’t ever want to let go. It was as if he thought that if he let go, he’d fall- to where, I didn’t know. He told me stories in a slurred voice, yet the stories were clear and precise. They were stories of the Golden Gate Bridge, of watching me race in track meets, of visiting all sorts of different places. I told him I’d be running to Canada on Sunday, and he told me about the people he heard of that jumped off the Ambassador Bridge. He asked how my running friends were doing, and he was excited to hear they’d be running with me on Sunday. I left Monroe knowing, but not knowing, what was going to come next.

I raced on Sunday but something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t that I didn’t sleep well, or eat well. I didn’t feel sick or sore. My legs just didn’t want to move the way I thought they would. I considered stopping and cheering on the other athletes but I kept on. I walked a bit, I turned around to see if Adam was catching up, and I struggled through a few miles where all I wanted to do was sit on the grass and watch the other athletes go by. Adam passed me and I couldn’t go with him. I’ve never felt so tired in a race. I finished, though…

But I didn’t care about my race. I didn’t care what my time was, where I finished. The first thing I thought of when they put the medal around my neck was my grandpa. The ribbon was red-white-and-blue, something he’d have got a kick out of. I was excited to tell him about it, to put the medal in his right hand so he could feel its weight.

My grandpa didn’t get to hear about my race, though. He passed away before I started. He lived an amazing life, eighty-five years of adventures and stories. I know that no one can live forever, but I know that he’ll continue to live on in the hearts of his family and friends. I know that I am going to keep asking questions, just like he always did; I’m going to keep learning and helping and sharing, just like he always would. And sometimes, it will get quiet, and that’s ok. That’s when it is time to sit, think, and formulate new questions. Remember good stories. And reflect on the lives that have gripped our hearts.

Rest in peace, Robert Lee Rauch. 1925-2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month- Get involved!

Last October, my friend and teammie, Sonja, went all-in and shaved her head to honor a friend that was diagnosed with breast cancer. I know the importance of raising breast cancer awareness, because both my grandmother and great grandmother were diagnosed. It is a sneaky, scary disease, that even mammograms cannot always detect (in fact, screening mammograms can miss up to 20% of breast cancer tumors!). The younger you are, the more at risk of false negative detection. So, knowing the facts of breast health and raising awareness of the disease, even its risk toward younger women, is important.

Check out how some folks are helping to raise breast cancer awareness:

In February, 26.2 with Donna is held in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a marathon, half marathon, and relay dubbed The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. I’ve been wanting to do this particular marathon, so hopefully 2011 will be the year! Who wants to join me?

I LOVE the Don’t Slack- Check Your Rack shirt that my buddy John wears to work. The SWE group at Michigan Tech used to sell “I Heart Boobs” shirts too, as a fundraiser for breast cancer research and awareness. Now if that doesn’t get your attention…

lucy: A women’s activewear brand, lucy® supports the belief that fitness is an essential part of the fight against breast cancer. Exercise can enhance well-being and improve quality of life for young women with breast cancer. They recently got on board with Young Survivor’s Coalition’s Tour de Pink, a charity cycling event to honor survivors, raise awareness, and support programs for young women with the disease. For the month of October, lucy is raising awareness by  offering the “Kick It” and “Pink Race” graphic tees encouraging women to spread awareness in their own communities.

Sarah Stanley Inspired is giving away Moving Comfort’s Support Your Girls shirts on her site. Even cooler? Moving Comfort is donating $5 from every SYG shirt sold to Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Top that off with a little more coolness- I found out that there is a Bright Pink chapter in the city I’m movin’ to in just a few weeks!

Race for the Cure isn’t just raising breast cancer awareness in the month of October, but rather- all year ’round!  If you don’t race, you can still walk or jog a 5K! The majority of the proceeds for the race stay in the community where the races are held, and a good chunk of the money goes toward funding grants for breast cancer research.

What other ways help raise breast cancer awareness?

Rev it up in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Rev3 just announced the newest edition to their series: Rev3 South Carolina!

I love the Blue Ridge Mountains. This race is the perfect location for triathletes east of the Mississippi- it’s only a 2hr drive from Atlanta. The first thing I did when I found out was google-map the distance from my soon-to-be home to the race locale: For me, it’ll be about a quick 11hr drive. Luckily, flying will be much cheaper when I move, too, so maybe I will fly!?

Any guesses as to where I’m movin’?

Beginner Triathletes: How to pick the best bike for you

My Facebook News Feed is full of friends talking about how they’re setting up transition/pumping their tires/putting on their wetsuit for the last time of 2010. The end of the racing season is upon us, and although I have one more race left on my calendar this year, I’m pretty much ready to put my feet up (with a glass of scotch in hand) and relax for a while.

One of my friends is particularly interested in the end-of-the-season deals that she can get from her local bike shop. See, she doesn’t have a bike, but she’s been itching for one for a while. Right now is probably the best time to buy a new bike, because of course, bike shops are looking to dump their extra stock of 2010 bikes so that when spring rolls around they have a full room of flashy 2011 models. And dump they will. My LBS is having a sale this weekend, and all their bikes are on sale for one amazing discount or another.

Anyway, her questions about what bike is best for her got me thinking about how I got into cycling, why I chose the bike(s) I did, and why it was important (for good and bad reasons). So, I thought I’d put together a little help list of different things to consider when purchasing a new bike:

What different kinds of bikes are there?

I’m going to first establish four different categories of bikes, but I’m definitely aware that there are bikes that overlap some of these categories. For simplicity sake, we have:

Road
Mountain
Triathlon
Cruiser

For the sake of focusing on an athlete interested in racing road triathlons (not XTerra, off-road triathlons), I’m going to focus on Road and Triathlon specific bikes.

Which one should I get?

Road bikes are great if you want to go for long fitness rides with friends, rally for a fast pace lines, and ride for a long time. Triathlon bikes are great for people who like to (obviously) race triathlons in races where drafting is illegal, and for those that like to ride their bike for a long time (say, 100 miles?) by themselves.

Ok, but really, which one should I get?

Really, it depends on what you want to do. Want to do century rides with your friends? I’d recommend a road bike. Want to race an Ironman? You might want to invest in a triathlon bike.

Ok, so I want to get into triathlons, but I don’t have a bike. Which kind of bike should I get?

This is an easy question to ask, with a complicated answer.

Point 1: Bike companies make triathlon bikes for a reason. Technically, many of the fancy schmancy bikes you see pro athletes riding are time trial (TT) bikes. The TT geometry is different than the regular road bike geometry- the angle of the seat post on a TT bike is steeper, the weight of the rider is more forward, and the control is a little different. The TT bike allows the cyclist to apply more consistent power over a longer distance. The farther forward you are, the more power you can generate (in general; there are “extremes” to every example). Reduced frontal area, from using the aerobars, promotes better aerodynamics (o rly? nooo way!). Integrated aerobars are going to make a bike faster than if it had the clip-on kind, but essentially, reducing that frontal area can help take up to 4minutes of a 40km time trial (or more?).

Counterpoint 1: Just because there are TT bikes, does not mean you have to have one in order to race triathlon. In fact, it may not be practical to have a TT bike in many of the shorter triathlons. If the triathlon is draft-legal (ITU races usually are), then having a TT bike is pointless. Plus, if the course is hilly, (depending on your riding style and comfort on the bike), a road bike might give you a faster split. The forward geometry of a TT bike makes climbing more difficult than the upright position of a road bike.

Point 2: Having a TT bike can make training on your own a bit easier. If you don’t have anyone’s wheel to hang on to for a long ride, then a TT bike can help make it less painful and make the ride go by faster because you will likely be going faster. On a TT bike, you’re aerodynamic, you’re more forward, and you are (likely) not a huge sail for the wind to grab.

Counterpoint 2: If you do have people to train with, then having a TT bike when you first start out is often a terribly stressful experience, for you and the people you ride with. Not only are TT bikes more difficult to control than road bikes, they can also be quite intimidating. If you ride with others in a paceline, having TT bike can be absolute disaster if you ride in aero position. And, if you are going to ride on the pursuit bars the whole time, why even have a TT bike? Even if you don’t have anyone to train with, the first several rides can be full of anxiety on a TT bike; remember, its not the Huffy you learned on.

Point 3: TT bikes look really bad ass. I mean, seriously, look at this photo:

Amanda Lovato's new Kestrel 4000LTD

Seriously. Bad. Ass.

Counterpoint 3: Ok, do you really have $6,000 to drop on your first bike? Maybe. But probably not. And to be fair, you could spend the same amount of money on a road bike as you do on a TT bike. And, you can find cheap TT bikes out there, but you can usually find cheap(er) road bikes.

Point 4: The forward position of a TT bike makes for an easier transition to the run in triathlon, partly because it encourages your hips to open up more than if you were in a similar position on your road bike. If you were to try the same position on a road bike, that has a less-steep seat tube angle, you might end up hitting your knees to your chest or pinching off the blood supply to your legs.

Counterpoint 4: Riding with other people, on road bikes, can help to improve bike handling skills. Playing the green sign game* is more fun when you are not alone, and a road bike is more suitable for such a game. Road bikes typically offer more get-up-and-go mobility, making it easier to start a dead-sprint than if you were on a TT bike. Road bikes are also more responsive in cornering and braking, making them a bit safer for the beginner than the TT bike.

So, when it comes to getting a TT bike or a road bike, it really depends on what you’re looking to do- what you are hoping to get out of the bike (and the sport).  Is there anything wrong with riding a road bike in an Ironman? Absolutely not. I got passed at IMoo by a dude on a road bike. Are you going to win the Tour de France with only a TT bike? Have fun on Alpe d’Huez with that one.

If you are a beginner and have rarely ridden a road bike before (or have only ever had limited amounts of rides on a friend’s bike), then it is in your best interest to start with a road bike. Not only will it help make you more comfortable on the roads, it will also be beneficial to have in the long run. Most elite triathletes will tell you that having only one bike is nonsense. Plus, having a road bike can encourage you to try more daring things that you might be more hesitant to try if you only had a TT bike (like, say, climb up and over a mountain pass!).

If you are looking to get a faster bike, you could upgrade to either a race-geometry road bike or a TT bike. If you don’t want to invest a lot of money in a brand-new setup, upgrade components. Move your saddle forward, add some clip-ons, get lighter/stiffer parts (crankset, deraillers). If you find that you are riding all the time in your clip-ons, then you might as well…

Go all in. Get a TT bike. Just don’t live up to the triathlete stereotype: work on your bike handling skills!

No matter who you are, though, you should:

  • Have your bike professionally fitted (not just “adjusted” by the shop you bought it from; really, technically, professionally fitted by a FIST certified professional).
  • Learn basic bike maintenance (like how to lube your chain, for example, or fix a flat)
  • Have fun!

from Pinkbike: something you really shouldn't do with a road or TT bike

*The green sign game is my least favorite cycling game, where the first person to see a green road sign springs ahead and then everyone else has to chase them; first person to pass the sign “wins”- what, exactly, i am not sure – and then you do it all over again the next time you see a green sign.