Monday Musings: Has Anybody Seen My Hamstrings?

Some assorted thoughts to start the week:

Wind and water
Those were the dual themes of this weekend. After five straight days of rain, I expected Saturday’s long ride to be the fail, but somehow the storm blew over and the roads dried out and we got the all-systems-go message right as I was hopping out of the pool, so I managed to complete my first swim-bike-run brick (more-or-less) as planned.

Sunday, though? I made it to my corner, where a flag on a building was whipping disconcertingly in figure-eights, and thought about quitting then and there. But that seemed wimpy, so I put my head down and started riding. The wind got worse every block, though, and by the time I reached the second segment in the Panhandle — and felt like the wind had stopped Penelope at the red light without me needing to brake — I flipped around, rode home, and finished out my ride on a spin bike at the gym.

I’m not super-proud of this — what if there’s wind on race day, I know, I know — but I also know it was the right call, because Saturday’s ride was good but Sunday’s would have been awful and would have snapped me right back into this weird, bipolar pattern of GREAT ride, TERRIBLE ride, and I don’t think I have the emotional stamina for that. Fifty-odd more blocks of that wind sounded miserable, and I’m trying to keep the misery out of my biking for the moment.

And, it turns out, I’m capable of giving myself a pretty good spin class. And and and I managed the clip situation quite well on the two city-traffic-y miles I did ride, thankyouverymuch, including the hill that I hate stopping on even in sneakers.

No, but seriously, where are my hamstrings?
So about Saturday’s ride: We were supposed to ride 25 miles, but a couple of the more-experienced riders planned to lead us on two trips around an 8-ish-mile, hilly loop — 16 or so miles that they figured would be the rough equivalent of 20-25 miles anywhere else, without ever leaving us too far from our cars in case it started pouring.

That didn’t exactly happen, for a variety of reasons (a late start, a flat, me classily bringing up the rear on a hill repeat), but we got in one loop and then I rode another several miles on flat but crowded paths around Crissy Field, practicing riding positions and clipping/unclipping and daring to dream that I might someday drink out of my water bottle while riding. (It remains a dream.)

I continue to manage the clips well, but I’m also not getting the full benefit out of them. I know I’m supposed to be using my hamstrings to “pull” rather than my quads to push, but so far my body is only giving me two options: hammer away with my quads or yank myself along with my calves. My hamstrings aren’t exactly reporting for duty.

I’m getting lots of tips — think about pulling up, never point your toe down, your ankle is a hinge, knees to the sky — and I can tell that something is happening because my legs don’t feel quite as torched when I run off the bike. But I’m starting to think this is another symptom of a bigger problem. I’ve had issues with my hamstrings and glutes not engaging when I run, and I recently flashed back to being 12 and in ballet and not ever understanding how to lift my legs with my hamstrings instead of “gripping” with my quads. (That is why I could never stretch my leg up by my ear and leave it there like all the kids on Dance Moms do.)

My current working theory is that I just don’t have hamstrings. But um, that’s probably not it, is it?

After four weeks of training with a group, Sunday’s workouts were solo. I got to leave at my own time, and ride and run at my own paces, and not worry about where that put me in the group or where my carpool partner was or if I was making all the right turns on the route or if it would be rude to put in my headphones.

There are great things about having the group, especially when it comes time to celebrate/commiserate/drink after a workout. But deep down, I’m a control freak, and sometimes I just want to do my own thing…even if that thing involves fleeing the wind and bailing on a ride and somehow ending up 45 minutes behind my own schedule. It’s weird. In theory, I want to train with friends. In actuality, I think I’m a jerk who likes being alone.

I think the whole “running is so easy! You get dressed, put on your shoes, and run!” thing is overplayed — I mean, I can easily spend two hours eating breakfast, planning a route, updating my Shuffle, charging my watch, locating satellites, debating between long sleeves and no sleeves, etc. But triathlon training — especially with a group — is such a different beast. There’s so much stuff to consider, and everything requires a million steps.

Leaving the house for Saturday’s bike ride = wrangle the bike rack out of the closet, walk to the car (parked within 3 blocks of my apartment, if I’m lucky), attach the rack to the car, walk back to the house, grab my backpack (ideally pre-packed with gear) and bike, walk back to the car, get the bike on the rack, throw the rest of the stuff in the car, drive 15 minutes up a giant hill to the other end of town to our meeting point, park car, un-rack bike, un-rack rack, put rack in car on the assumption that nobody is going to break my window to get a bike rack, switch shoes, ride. Getting home = reverse that. Dailymile says I spent less than 3 hours actually working out during Saturday’s swim-bike-run brick, but I left the house at 8 a.m. and got back after 1:30 p.m. The efficiency nerd in me is dying right now.


3 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Has Anybody Seen My Hamstrings?

  1. Seriously, MAD respect for anyone who even attempts triathlons. I can barely handle everything associated with running! (Not that I couldn’t be more efficient if I really put some effort into it…)

  2. Kelly says:

    oy! That is exactly what stops me from thinking about doing a tri. I like swimming, but the biking just seems so complicated! So many things to think about and plan. I definitely like the simplicity of throwing on running shoes and going. Nice job getting your workouts done!

  3. Kristina says:

    With more time in the saddle and going from one to the other, you’ll definitely begin to feel more comfortable. But, yeah, it is definitely a gear-heavy endeavor and quite time-consuming.
    As for the group-mentality, I am inching my way, little by little, to be more of a part of a tri group. However, I know, deep down, that I am a loner when it comes to training and experiencing the events. When I do race (it’s been a long time!), I like to be there early and zone out in my own little world, and as soon as I’m done, I leave. I’ve even “age-group placed” (whatever that means), which I find out the day after or so.
    Oh, and one of my favorite biking gear stories – at one point, my husband and I decided to drive an hour or so to go for a great ride. We are about 45 minutes into the drive and I realize that we forgot the helmets. Morons. Yeah, lots to remember.

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